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Essay

Published on: Dec. 28, 2021, 5:06 p.m.
Hope and optimism
  • Many companies did shine during the pandemic

By Daksesh Parikh. Executive Editor, Business India

The end of the year means different things to different people. Some are just happy to see a year consigned to history and revel in ushering in the new year. Some just view it as a mini-vacation, time to replenish one’s energies and get set for the onslaught of the new year. Very few, except companies who follow the calendar year as their fiscal year, look at the year minutely, check their performance during the year and get on the drawing board to see how they can improve in the new year. Rarely do people ponder over the year, do some introspection and see how and what went wrong/right during the period.

If a dip stick poll were to be conducted amongst different segments of people, there would be a broad consensus that 2021 was a recovery year. The disastrous pandemic year of 2020 was marked by frequent lockdowns, mass migration of labourers and poor showing by the corporate sector. Demand was muted for the better part of the year. Production was low and fear ruled the roost. Against this gloomy scenario 2021 held better chances of recovery. The midcourse correction due to the swift rise of the pandemic again (second wave) did dampen sentiments.

The floods in various parts around the globe, the forest fires, and cyclones only sought to strengthen this belief about the frailty of human beings against the might of nature. Globally, more than 3.3 million deaths were recorded in 2021 due to the prevalence of Covid-19. One can throw statistics to show one country was better insofar as the deaths as a percentage of the total population in that country were a few basis point lower and there were a few more recoveries. However, such arguments sound hollow as value cannot be placed on life itself; it is priceless. 

Indian companies did shine in the pandemic as many leading houses and even smaller listed or unlisted companies did their mite in helping the government to mitigate some of the bigger challenges. Their actions, be they helping to build hospitals or ferrying people by ambulance, providing food and medicines and diverting industrial oxygen to meet the paucity of oxygen supplies in hospitals, were proof that India Inc has its heart in the right place.

While the sentiments amongst the people of India were subdued, the sharp rebound seen in the recovery of various sectors was amazing. Particularly, in the second half of the calendar year. Aided by the China plus 1 policy, lower interest rates and abundant liquidity sloshing across the globe, many companies were able to benefit from heightened demand and the elevated prices of several commodities particularly metals like steel, aluminium, copper, zinc and even non-metals like cement and coal. 

The only blotch on the economy was witnessed on the agriculture front with mass agitations greeting the government’s announcement to usher in reforms in the sector. Banking and Non-Banking Finance which were reeling under NPAs, used the pandemic year of 2020 and 2021 to write off a part of the NPA and bring in better practices for evaluating risks.

The ever-optimistic markets, which relish in looking even further than the politician and even the promoters in many cases, were oozing optimism. Things will change and the Indian economy will recover faster than one thinks was the opinion of many investors.

Business India, which had more than its fair share of struggle, as did several media houses, in its final edition of the year takes a look at some of the events, memorable or otherwise that shaped 2021. As a chronicler of events, good, bad or ugly, the team has put across challenges and solutions provided by various sectors be they agriculture, automobiles, steel, cement, telecom, or fintech companies which finally came into their own in 2021. Several experts in their respective fields have also contributed their thoughts.

But not everyone likes to look at the dreary past and in keeping with tradition Business India has also looked ahead and tried to look at the events which are likely to unfold in the coming months.  How will relations with its neighbour shape up and how will various sectors perform? What seems certain is that the India that has emerged after the previous two waves of the epidemic is a better place and is all set to emerge triumphant in the coming year.

The sheer grit and tenacity of the corporate sector in facing the challenges of the pandemic has provided it the necessary springboard for operating in 2022. Profits, both in absolute terms as also percentage gains over the corresponding period are expected to be much better.

Like always, standing at the junction between kicking out the old and ushering in the new, optimism does tend to eclipse reality. Even so, discounting for this natural exuberance, one feels 2022 will be much better, Omicron or no Omicron. 

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