Shreyas Kulkarni
Anonymous Angst

“If you’re living alone, it’s a nightmare…”

How are the young, 20-something foot soldiers of the ad-media space coping? Our series 'Anonymous Angst' explores the underbelly...

This is the view of a 28-year old with eight years of experience in the digital marketing industry. He presently works as a digital team leader overseeing multiple work requirements at a Mumbai-based, mid-sized, homegrown, full-service digital marketing agency.

How has the ongoing health and financial crisis affected your work?

"Work is definitely affected." We had yearly strategies in place that no longer serve any purpose. Agencies have to come up with new approaches and since most companies have budget cuts, agencies are suffering.

Citing what most industry folks may be thinking, "IPL was a huge money earner for pretty much every agency and industry but with it being postponed and most probably cancelled, it’s potential money gone." Those looking after revenue are stressed out, they’re working longer hours which leads to their team working long hours too, and if you’re living alone, it’s a nightmare.

"From a productivity point of view, this is scary. Those who are still young in the industry will experience a pause in their ‘career learning’. But, a very long pause can rot your work." You cannot expect work to go back to normal and at a pace like before. This has left a hole behind and it needs to be filled first before you rebuild the entire building.

For the ones living alone, it’s worse: "You wake up at 9 am, eat two-day-old bread and then sit in front of a computer for hours; you’re ruining your health and immunity." Add to that the isolation which brings down your mental health and all those calls one attends to can be tiring - it makes many unhappy, which decreases productivity and leads to mediocre work.

"For creative folk, it’s trying to not drown in deep waters."

Continuous mediocre work will lead to angry clients and if they leave, it will lead to less revenue which again creates work stress.

Usually, big agencies and companies hire copywriters and graphic designers on a freelance basis but once cost-cutting starts, they will be the first to face the brunt and these freelancers will be forced to take up full-time jobs - something they didn’t want in the first place.

Even small agencies will shut shop and thanks to the mass unemployment, people will quote smaller salaries, which will mean longer working hours for less money – something that once again leads to mediocre work.

"And I don’t see people jumping ship after appraisals (if they happen) at all. Till June 2021, the mass job switches which the industry is so used to seeing may not happen," he pointed out.

What worries/scares you most?

It’s a pure survival fear. "Basically ‘mere saath kya hoga’ and hope my loved ones and friends and their parents don’t get infected," he says.

I spoke to a vendor (outsourced partner) whose uncle died of the virus. He was in his 40s and seemed healthy. Reading about the virus or even hearing such stuff is highly stressful and quite often, news can make you go further into the dark, instead of informing you and giving you the right facts.

Soon, people will be laid off but how do you address that? Someone works their butt off day in and out and when they’re in line for a bonus or appraisal, they are told about a salary cut or given the pink slip.

How do you tell them “…it’s for reasons out of your control…”? In such situations when they don’t know where the next job is and when they’ll get it - it is scary.

Tech and media have it easier compared to sales or hospitality where many have been sent off on forced leave – just look at what happened with the CEO of Marriott (he will not take any salary for the rest of the year).

A question rose in his mind during the conversation, "Those from well-to-do families may ride out the storm but what about people living alone or single bread earners?" It will turn their lives upside down. With everyone working from home, finding a new job is rough and it will mean thinking about food and household work which will add to their mental anguish.

And big cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore are expensive; how will young workers manage to survive if they’re laid off or told to work for less money? Many of them don’t have proper investments and often live salary to salary… the burden can destroy them.

"I see people withdrawing as much money as they can from ATMs which reminds me of apocalyptic movies - it’s bad."

"Also, due to the virus and recession, I am worried about how India’s start-up scene will suffer. Our standards of living will decrease, debts and loans will increase and so will the distance between the rich and the poor," he summed up the conversation.