Industry Impact and Business Disruption Due to COVID-19

Since the country went into a mandatory lockdown, a lot has changed in the way users interact with businesses across various verticals. Some industries like Health & Wellness and entertainment have seen a surge in user activity, while the online marketplaces have recorded substantial declines. In our attempt to better understand the business disruptions & industry impact caused by COVID-19, we have brought together a panel of experts.


Since the country went into a mandatory lockdown, a lot has changed in the way users interact with businesses across various verticals. Some industries like Health & Wellness and entertainment have seen a surge in user activity, while the online marketplaces have recorded substantial declines. In our attempt to better understand the business disruptions & industry impact caused by COVID-19, we have brought together a panel of experts.

  • Sunu Nair, VP Marketing & Products, Indiabulls
  • Rahul Mishra, Head of Marketing, Shemaroo
  • Sapna Arora, CMO, OLX
  • Anjan Bhojaraj, Vice President, Growth and Head of Product, HealthifyMe
  • Ketan Patel, CEO, CASHe
  • Karthik Raghupathy, VP, Strategy & Business Development, PhonePe

This panel included marketing and product leaders from India’s most popular brands across OTT, online marketplace, health & Wellness, e-commerce payment systems, credit lending, and finance verticals. Here are the key highlights and takeaways from our session on Business Disruption & Industry Impact Of COVID-19.

???? Coronavirus Business Impact: Data-driven insights for brands during COVID-19 – [Download Report]

Impact on industries and change in user behavior

The subscription-led entertainment industry is growing
  •, the OTT offering of Indian content powerhouse Shemaroo, has seen a massive surge in content consumption. Some categories have seen as much as 170% growth now.
  • With Ramayana and Mahabharata becoming the most-watched shows in the country, the consumption patterns have been better than ever
  • Bollywood movies and classics, in particular, has seen an increase in consumption across all generations and age demographics.
  • With increased demand and less supply, the brand is figuring out ways to deal with the shortage of new content
  • Shemaroo is also assessing user retention strategies to stay relevant once things return to normalcy.
Buying and selling online marketplace records substantial decline in traffic
  • OLX, the global online marketplace for buying and selling pre-owned goods, has seen a significant drop in usage.
  • This expected dip was due to the non-essential nature of the service.
  • The brand is currently recommending users to declutter and clean up once normalcy returns
  • OLX has extended the listings and is allowing users to wishlist during this downtime
  • With the crisis affecting user’s disposable income, OLX is expecting increased adoption of pre-owned products once business resumes
Credit lenders notice an uptick in loan applications
  • Leading credit lending platform, CASHe has recorded upswing in the number of loan applications of Rs 50,000 and upwards.
  • The increased demand can be explained as a result of the economic uncertainty and subsequent stockpiling of capital.
  • CASHe has seen an increase in the volume of prime customers in the absence of bigger lenders approving loans
  • The disbursements have dropped to 10%, according to CASHe
  • Micro-lenders like CASHe are now approving loans only for medical emergencies
Micro-loans are at a higher demand than personal loans
  • Personal Loan providers like Indiabulls have noticed an increase in women applicants now compared to predominantly male applicants
  • The assumption is while men of the household are borrowing elsewhere, the women are applying to spread the ownership of lending
  • Indiabulls noticed a drastic decrease in the acquisition, saving as much as 2.5X of their previous acquisition costs
  • The change is attributed to decreased competition and desperation among users to borrow money
  • The same line of reasoning holds for the renewed popularity of micro-loans over personal loans
UPI Payments and digital transaction platform gains 50% new users
  • PhonePe has noticed increased DoD, WoW, and MoM numbers hitting a 50% increase in the number of new users
  • This increase is on top of the 20 million DAUs which hasn’t changed pre and post COVID-19
  • With users doing recharge for themselves and their families, DTH recharge & bill payments are recording all-time highs
  • Brand new users who were paying bills and doing recharge offline are now coming into the digital fold
  • PhonePe is recording a spike in order value and volume for essential categories like pharmacy and grocery
  • The platform is now enjoying doubled average transaction values
  • There is however a decline in offline stores not selling essentials and online stores like e-commerce and food delivery

Health & wellness platform grows by 30% with a 20% increase in session duration

  • HealthifyMe has seen a 30% increase in organic growth & a 20% increase in session duration and number of sessions/user
  • The brand has identified users as frequent gym-goers and those who want to eat and stay healthy
  • HealthifyMe is providing home workout routines, diet planning, immunity tracker and hand sanitizer tracker to help users
  • It was done without thinking about business impact, more of a knee jerk reaction to help the users
  • The brand has noticed acquisition costs lowered due to lessened competition
  • HealthifyMe is now focusing on efforts to add value and stay relevant post COVID-19

The tone of Marketing communication during the current scenario

Start meaningful and positive conversations with the user
  • It is more essential to communicate now than ever before.
  • Look out for valid reasons to initiate meaningful conversations
  • The communication should be positive and focus on how to use the downtime
  • Many apps are hosting exercises & games that aren’t related to their vertical but help engage with the user
  • OLX was cautious in communicating initially and started off by communicating about social distancing norms
  • The communication gradually turned towards staying positive while at home and how decluttering can reduce stress
Change your communication strategy to be more humane; serve don't sell
  • CASHe changed their communication strategy from asking for loan repayments to caring about the user and educating him/her
  • They communicated about the wellbeing of the users, teaching about social distancing, and assuring them of CASHe’s support
  • As a result, 40% of people prepaid their EMIs compared to an average of 30% during previous months
  • Communicate with users without touching the pain areas viz. Money in this case
Focus on essentials and simplify the user journey
  • PhonePe reoriented the app home page to focus on essential services viz. recharge, DTH, grocery
  • They pushed rewards & offers down to make the platform more relevant to users right now
  • PhonePe started donation campaigns to PM Cares fund with over 15 Lakh people donating 40+ crores
  • Added a dedicated COVID-19 section consolidating information like stats, how to stay healthy, the location of testing centers, etc.
  • Launched COVID-19 health insurance in association with Bajaj Alliance by foregoing on all premium
  • Implemented filters on the Stores tab to display operational Kirana stores and those providing home delivery
  • Made buying gold easier as they noticed an organic increase in gold purchase*
  • The increase in the gold purchase is largely due to people moving their money from equities to safe assets like gold
Provide value adds through product offerings
  • HealthifyMe focused on helping users stay healthy by building immunity
  • Their in-house panel of doctors conducted extensive research to build sleep tracker, provide balanced diet recommendations and home workouts
  • All of these research-backed features are now provided for free under the immunity tab
  • As a result, there’s much user-generated content on social media
  • The brand has also made workout routines which were previously part of a paid subscription free of cost
  • HealthifyMe leveraged habit formation and built a ‘handwash tracker,’ which reminds users to sanitize/wash hands according to pre-set durations.
  • The app provides AI-backed insights on how often you’re washing your hands
  • The brand has changed its messaging from ‘weight loss’ to immunity building’ through free resources
  • HealthifyMe improved their reminder system to ensure no user is disturbed while working or spending time with family
  • Depending upon how often users want to workout, HealthifyMe prioritizes notifications
Dissect user behavior and solve user pain-points
  • Observing the reception of their content, Shemaroo is making more and more available for free
  • As a brand, they are communicating more and leveraging user-generated content like memes made from their movie collection
  • Shemaroo is spreading awareness by distributing memes and short videos from Bollywood movies as a means to educate the user
  • The brand recently launched ‘rumor nahi humor failega’ campaign by including a good section of comedy films on the platform
  • Shemaroo created a ‘work from home’ tray in response to the increase in family viewing communicating the same to users
  • The company went international with their content and made the library free for two weeks.
  • The message sent out through the Indian high commission
  • Shemaroo has noticed a surge in their email communication with an uptick in their click-through numbers
  • The brand’s social media handles have seen the high engagement of late with activities like virtual dumb charades being hugely successful

Adapting marketing strategy and changing marketing mix

  • Brands like OLX aren’t changing their marketing mix or strategy, rather gearing by being energetic in communication.
  • Their aim is to reenergize the consumers ensuring they start using the platform as before
  • Similarly, there isn’t any change in marketing communication or strategy for the credit-lending app, CASHe. The brand is using the downtime to improve processes and be ready once normalcy returns
  • For UPI payments platform PhonePe, the renewed focus is on driving adoption among the 250 million users still transacting offline. Their channels of communication remain unchanged (high volume ATL/BTL, performance marketing) with messaging varying according to use cases.
  • If lockdown gets extended beyond 2-3 months, HealthifyMe will change the pricing strategy to make the product more affordable. The focus will shift on looking towards the global market and other geographies to stay relevant. They will also look at what products need to be launched and how to go about that.
  • If lockdown ends within 2 months, the marketing costs will inevitably go up and HealthifyMe is wary of the spending. They’re currently building processes to bring efficiency to the system once regular business resumes
  • For Indiabulls, the focus is on getting the modules up and running, so they’re ready to be used by next quarter

Utilizing the downtime to build processes and to improve efficiency

  • Perfect time to brainstorm reimagine processes without having to chase quick wins
  • At HealthifyMe, teams are split into two: new initiative team working at a fast pace and second team to look at the long term goals and build efficiencies
  • For CASHe, there’s no change in productivity as the brand provided WFH provisions already. The brand is using this downtime to ensure all training is done. In fact, CASHe conducted appraisals and provided hikes to assure employees.
  • At Shemaroo, learning and upskilling is promoted along with engaging activities like virtual dress-up parties. The brand is also focusing on creating a cut off time post which no work communication is to be entertained.
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