The Covid-19 pandemic was unique and has swept across the world impacting every country, every economy and almost at a similar time. It had a severe impact on society and has interfered with our normal lives. The epidemic has created many challenges and has forced us to reexamine and have a relook at our mobility needs.
This novel Coronavirus undoubtedly has redefined the abc of the transportation needs. I have tried to pen down a few fundamental changes in the thought process of human beings and the ecosystem in which we all live.
Let’s rewind and let me move you to pre-Covid times. Let’s see what was happening during those times. We were going to our offices, we were going out for shopping, we were going out for fun & eating, we were going out for cinemas, we were going out for dropping our children to school and many more.
We were using either a personal mobility carrier may be a four-wheeler or two-wheeler or may be public transport like metro or bus or shared mobility service like OLA or Uber. So, what is common among all above activities is that we were going to places and goods rather than places and goods coming to us.
Now with the pandemic in new normal, it’s a must to maintain social distancing and must to avoid crowds, so no consumer had the option but to restrain their movements. Now as the business must run, the economy must move, people must sustain their jobs so everybody in the ecosystem is now trying to take goods and places to the person.
For example, vegetables have been coming to the home, schools have become virtual and children are attending schools from the home, customer traffic has increased on all websites for buying new or old cars, brick and mortar shops have been converted and given thrust to e-commerce business.
Now also during lockdowns, we saw businesses innovate themselves and found a new set of customers. For example, a coaching center in Patna teaching drawing or music classes to even primary wing students sitting in Delhi. Similarly, all consumer offers and purchasing details on OEM websites, usage of WhatsApp video calls by dealer executives to close the deal to sell a car or any other consumer durable have increased. Similarly, in the travel industry we have been seeing the virtual trips to animal safari and some tourist destinations or religious places have led to turnaround how business was running.
Let’s dig further into mobility industry data and have a look at the graphics below. We can clearly see how people have moved away from shared mobility and public transportation. The graphs clearly show that searches for shared mobility providers Uber and Ola which was emerging as a key mode of transport especially in metros has reduced considerably among the consumers during Covid times.
Similarly, the searches for the other mobility mediums Delhi Metro and trains have also reduced considerably relative to pre-Covid times. I think here also scientifically the graph clearly shows that fear due to Covid coupled with less mobility needs have changed the pattern of movement of all of us.
However, if we look at two big auto companies Hero MotoCorp and Maruti Suzuki, we are seeing that searches have gone up considerably which is in sync to the fact that sales of both these companies is skyrocketing. Average is even before what was during pre-Covid times. This reflects that more people are looking for economy cars and two-wheelers. This is because they need a transport to maintain their livelihood today and in future.
Now as we move forward in midterm, most of us may like to get back to our old routines as change is not easy. However, it’s possible that some people may stick and prefer homes than before for a few activities. Many of them may only enjoy the meals at home and work from home. This pandemic has changed a lot, it may be mindset, or it may be way of working or the way how we think.
This is also impacting our forecasting models as miles travelled by all transportation is expected to reduce in personal segments. This means the need to replace the car, the need to get the car service may take longer than before. However, in the commercial segment there may be an increase in miles travelled by business and thus the ecommerce and logistics industry may grow by leaps and bounds than before.
In the longer term, this structural shift on one hand may impact the sales of vehicles but on other hand, there would be change in sales of the segment of vehicles which will be in demand. Though we still need to monitor and evaluate but let’s hope the new year brings new ways to tackle this unparalleled challenging time. I hope, in the new year we adopt the innovative and creative practices in our daily lives and business thus making them flourish more.
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(Puneet Gupta is the Associate Director, Automotive Sales Forecasting, South Asia Region at IHS Markit. He has been associated with Renault India, Maruti Suzuki and Yamaha.)
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