It’s a matter of time before we bounce back with a lot more vigour: M V Shreyams Kumar
As part of ‘Go Dakshin’ series, M V Shreyams Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP & Mathrubhumi Group MD, spoke to Nawal Ahuja, Co-founder, exchange4media Group, about expectations from Onam & more
As a window to South India, exchange4media Group is curating a series of webinars called ‘Go Dakshin’ where we focus on the media players and brands south of the Vindhyas. exchange4media hosted a special session with M V Shreyams Kumar, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha and Managing Director, Mathrubhumi Group, in which he engaged in a conversation with Nawal Ahuja, Co-founder, exchange4media Group.
‘Decoding Kerala’, Kumar spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the state, especially during Onam and how different sectors of economy are performing amidst the health crisis. He also highlighted the opportunities the state was offering brands and to the people.
According to Kumar, the Onam season hasn’t been great but it hasn't been too bad either. He also highlighted that Kerala has always come together in times of crisis. “A lot of people are going shopping and because of restrictions most of them are not able to move so freely but the government is saying that the shops can be open till 9 at night during the Onam period. So that’s a relief, there’s a larger window for people to shop. Hopefully, things here will soon pick up but Kerala is always being a resilient society, we have faced two floods and a lot of crises. People of Kerala are of a different lot. I’m pretty confident that it’s only a matter of time before we move on.”
Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on different economic sectors and their performance during the testing time, Kumar said, “Almost every sector is impacted except some digital businesses. Manufacturing was affected badly because people are not able to come back to work, the service industry seems slightly better as they can work around. So, by and large it has affected all the industries. Some industries are thriving like the online delivery business. I must say that in Kerala, if you look at the smallish crowds, they were doing good business because earlier people were going to the big supermarkets. So there’s another side to it. A lot of small businesses are doing well, especially the local ones.
Sharing further on the scenario of the media industry and how Mathrubhumi has sustained the challenges compared to other markets, he said, “Media has also been affected very badly because from April onwards the ad revenues were practically zero but fortunately the distribution was intact in Kerala. In fact, even after the spread of coronavirus to this level, the number of copies we lost was less, compared to other markets because the distribution system is very good here. Hopefully, all sectors will start reviving, it can’t remain like this forever. It’s only a matter of time before we bounce back with a lot more vigour and action. Though this year the GDP is supposed to see negative growth but I’m sure next year, it will grow at a much higher rate.”
Kumar said he strongly believes that employees are the biggest assets and revealed that Mathrubhumi has neither opted for salary cuts nor fired a single employee. “People are our biggest assets and having good people is a long-term growth of any organisation. The first thing companies do is, cut salaries or send people off but we are trying our best not to do it. As long as it is possible, we won’t do it. So currently, we have a human phase, some may say it is not a right thing to do. We even declared a token bonus for Onam. As a company, when we declared a dividend we ensured that every employee also got the benefits from it,” he shared.
“When you look at the social infrastructure of Kerala, the number of schools, hospitals and other public utilities are very high, so there's a lot of employment available here. This also helps people in a way here. Of course, there is also unemployment and mental stress here, especially among certain sectors like Farmers. They are facing a very tough time across the country, not just Kerala for many reasons,” he added.
Highlighting the state of tourism sector in Kerala, he remarked, “Tourism in Kerala has taken a big hit because people aren't able to travel. No tourists are coming here. There is a slight movement in terms of local people travelling within the state but that’s not enough, it’s a completely bad situation. Hopefully in the next two-three months we will be in a better position for tourism.
Explaining further about remittances and the inflow of people from gulf countries to Kerala, Kumar said, “There is a bit of a problem with remittance as most of the countries, especially the Gulf, the economy has not picked up. In other parts of the world, remittances are coming, it’s not an extremely bad situation but it’s not like before. One thing is that now people have stopped coming back. Things are better in most of the Gulf regions. The inflow of people working in the Gulf has slowed down considerably. We hope that the flow will start improving and come back to normal soon.”
On winning the Rajya Sabha seat held by his late father, MP Veerendra Kumar and sharing his plans for going forward, he said, “The government has come up with quite a few schemes but I don't think this has helped the economy too much. There are real problems which I would like to discuss as a Member of Parliament. I would like to make some positive changes in protecting the environment and to promote sustainable development. It's easy to say but would require a lot of hard work.”
Concluding the discussion, he also shared Mathrubhumi’s current objective and why the organization is not keen on investing in the television business right now. He shared, “A lot of thinking is going on, even if I have to start a GEC, we have to think if it’s going to be a GEC typical to others or competing on the same grounds or am I going to do something else. You want to be a ‘me too’ or you want to change the game, that’s what we are looking at. This is not the time to start new businesses. I’m trying to focus on transforming and ensuring that people are safe, the business is going well and giving confidence to our advertisers and our consumers.”
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