The National Health Policy note has the potential to change current healthcare perspectives for the better and help us envision a roadmap for providing comprehensive health tools, especially to underprivileged sections of the society. The policy note should hence comprehensively address the social, environmental and policy determinants of health.
Healthcare is often confused with medical care. Medical care is only a part of healthcare and comes into play whenever there is deviation from health. The holistic term ‘healthcare’ is about treating the underlying cause, not merely the symptomatic effect in the form of an illness or disorder. I firmly believe that a healthy society should have fewer illnesses and lesser hospitals and our overarching goal should be to ensure a healthy society. Healthcare initiatives should focus as much on addressing the social determinants of health as on providing medical care.
Notwithstanding the fact that we have, over the years, improved on key health indices like life expectancy and maternal and infant mortality rates, we do not yet have a credible and established healthcare system, unlike the developed countries which comprise only 20 percent of the world’s 200 countries. Most nations on the planet are too poor and too disorganized to provide mass medical care. The outcome of that is obvious: the rich get medical care, while the poor stay sick or die.
In India, general government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure on health is only 18%; the remaining 82% is private expenditure. Moreover, most private spending is out-of-pocket at the point of service use, clearly an inefficient way to finance healthcare that perpetually leaves people highly vulnerable. In the World Health Report 2000, India had been ranked 112 out of 191 countries in terms of the quality of healthcare systems, much lower than our neighbours Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
To strengthen our existing healthcare systems and build a healthier country, I suggest a ten-point strategy which I believe will help us swiftly and efficiently turn things around.
1. We must devise our own set of arrangements for meeting three basic goals of a healthcare system: keeping people healthy, promptly treating the sick, and protecting families against financial ruin emanating from mounting medical bills. The out-of-pocket model practiced in India is a big burden on the citizens of this country, unlike the efficient healthcare models practised in industrialized nations, such as the Beveridge model in the UK, the Bismarck model in France, or the National Health Insurance in Canada. These universal insurance programs are less expensive and entail lower administrative costs, as compared to the American-style for-profit insurance plans or India’s out-of-pocket model. It is estimated that more than three crore people fall below the poverty line each year due to out-of-pocket healthcare payments.
2. We must change the outlook of healthcare to emphasize on preventive health aspects. We must focus on minimizing diseases rather than increasing the number of doctors.
a) The present-day challenges posed by non-communicable diseases are largely an offshoot of poor lifestyles and habits such as rampant tobacco use which can be more effectively addressed through a preventive healthcare policy. The recent ban on gutka is a case in point. While we believe that a substance ban is not necessarily synonymous with eradication, it is no doubt an effective control measure. In addition, as recommended by the ICMR, it would be useful to declare cancer as a modifiable disease following the footsteps of more than 50 countries worldwide.
b) Communicable diseases can be tackled effectively through hygiene and sanitation measures. Tangible goals could be achieved towards these two broad aspects of health by working towards the effective implementation of hand wash awareness programs and making toilets available for each family (such as ECO sans toilets recommended in UNICEF projects which are not dependent on water supply).
3. Health is profoundly, and often adversely, affected by policies made in non-health sectors. These policies may arise from the decisions of various government ministries or from the workings of the international systems that govern trade, business relations and financial markets.
a) Prevention requires population-wide interventions that are largely outside the scope of health ministries and hence merits a ‘Health in all policies’ approach. For instance, public policies dealing with water and sanitation, education, social services, built and natural environments, agricultural and industrial production, trade, regulation, revenue collection and allocation of public resources have important ramifications for population health and health equity.
b) The strict enforcement of our national law on tobacco control, Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), across the state is a good reflection of ‘Health in all policies’, wherein the assembly committee, a high powered committee under the Chief Secretary of State anti-tobacco cell collectively involved concerned departments to implement the law. This is a great example of a multi-sectoral approach towards law enforcement.
4. A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) must evaluate the health impacts of policies, plans and projects in diverse economic sectors using quantitative, qualitative, and participatory techniques. For instance, transport is a key factor in traffic injuries, air and noise pollution which could be reduced through “healthy transport policies” or control of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture to reduce the chemical exposure of foods. Thus, impact assessment can help decision-makers make prudent choices among alternatives, and also bring about key improvements towards preventing disease/injury and actively promoting health.
5. We need to strengthen Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) by addressing the shortage of qualified and competent professionals in the healthcare delivery system, especially in rural India. This could be done by:
a) Taking a constructive view of the course on rural healthcare open to non-MBBS graduates and by countering various challenges dissuading MBBS doctors from working in the rural healthcare system.
b) Focusing on building a strong midwifery and nursing workforce to move away from a heavily doctor-centric system, thereby directly impacting maternal and child mortality rates. This initiative could be boosted by introducing short, tailored courses for these groups.
6. Strengthen the regulation and stewardship of the overall health system, especially the private sector that has been largely kept outside the purview of planning/regulation. An exclusive institute responsible for healthcare quality can be incepted under the Quality Council of India to ensure adherence to safe medical practices and seamless coordination across government agencies (municipal health bodies, state directorate, ESIS, Central Government agencies).
7. A significant portion (more than 70-75%) of out-of-pocket payments for healthcare is spent on medication. Promotion of the usage of generic drugs is an urgent task (not merely making them available but working with the government and, more importantly, the private sector, to ensure a positive approach by the doctor community towards the use of generics). At the same time, generic drug manufacturers must be made to strictly comply with good manufacturing practice guidelines.
8. The Department of AYUSH offers a wide range of preventive, promotive and curative treatments that are both cost effective and efficacious. Unfortunately, AYUSH avails of a mere 2% of the country’s total health budget, while 98% is incurred on western medicine.
a) At least one physician from the AYUSH system should be available in every Primary Health Centre, and vacancies caused by non-availability of allopathic personnel should be filled by inducting AYUSH physicians.
b) Specialist AYUSH treatment centres or wings should be introduced in rural hospitals, and a special AYUSH wing should be created in existing state and district level government hospitals to extend the benefits of these systems to the public.
c) Make AYUSH drugs available at all PHCs and district hospitals to improve the outreach of this modality of treatment. Special funding or incentives must be extended to the AYUSH drug industry to help it realize its potential and scope while strictly regulating quality measures.
d) Expenses on treatment taken in AYUSH hospitals should be recognized for reimbursement for government employees and insurance companies.
e) Measures to regulate the quality of education delivery in AYUSH medical colleges must be addressed on an immediate basis. These merit the inception of a stronger statutory regulatory body to exercise stringent quality control measures for infrastructure, academics, and research.
f) Integrate the various systems of medicine with AYUSH and complementary medicine to develop holistic and integrated schools of medicine. Medical curriculum should include a brief note on other systems of medicine and their potential to help them develop mutual respect and enhance the science and art of healing.
9. Promoting innovations with a “Create in India” mission such as BIRAC model which looks beyond imports from China and assembly thereof. This all-encompassing mission would call for integrating the health (doctors, paramedics) and non-health (engineering, designers, administrators and the like) ecosystems into a woven synergy, much earlier in the education pyramid.
10) Africa and Asia are home to nearly 90% of the world’s rural population. India has the largest rural population (893 million), followed by China (578 million). Given this backdrop, there is an acute need to revisit a number of government-initiated health insurance schemes exploring their integration, contents, and administration in an orderly manner. The best system is the one that covers healthcare for all individuals across the length and breadth of the country, from cradle to grave. Such a system will make preventive care attractive to healthcare providers from an investment perspective, thereby driving down costs and improving community health in the long term.
The GDP is a highly inadequate measure of societal well-being. Governments have long used these deficient yardsticks as a justification for policies. Consequently, many alternative indicators of welfare measurement have sprung up, with the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), Happy Planet Index, Human Development Index (HDI), Gross National Happiness Index, and the Index of Social Progress among the most widely known indices. The GPI, a credible measure of societal well-being factoring in as many as 26 components – including citizen health, environment, inequality, and quality of employment – makes a startling revelation: that despite a steady rise in GDP, India’s welfare has actually decreased since 1978.
The 8th World Happiness Report released in 2020 ranked India at the 144th position in a list of 150 countries, marking India’s rather embarrassing inclusion in the Bottom Ten group. Our glaring and steady decline in life evaluation scores since 2015 means that our annual score in 2019 is now 1.2 points lower than in 2015. The six parameters studied in this report were GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and absence of corruption.
Last, but not the least, a word on the transformative power of technology and disruptive innovation. We are fast approaching an epoch-making era where machines will assist, accelerate, and augment human healing. Whether we like it or not, they are here to stay. How we use them will decide the future of technology.
While we strengthen the ‘groundshot’ towards achieving accessible health, we must also pursue the ‘moonshot’ towards scaling new highs in precision and personalized medicine. We must synergise medicine with disruptive technologies like Big Data and AI as an integral part of our health goals, without replacing natural stupidity which is critical to our emotional wellbeing, happiness, and contentment.
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CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMING BUSINESSES
Several fintech businesses have outmanoeuvred their rivals by embracing the SaaS model.
The groundbreaking SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) idea has the potential to disrupt many industries, including banking. SaaS, being a cloud-based technology, may assist both fintech startups and banks, particularly in satisfying regulatory requirements and providing security to their consumers. Without a doubt, SaaS is gaining popularity among financial services organizations due to its promises of more business flexibility, faster deployment, and support for an open ecosystem.
Symbiotic relationship between SaaS platforms and Fintech growth
The Fintech approach, which makes use of the resourceful SaaS foundation, allows businesses to access and utilise cloud-based applications rather than purchasing or building their own software. Financial firms may reap advantages such as end-to-end cost reductions, data security, scalability, and agility from the fintech industry. PwC, a well-known rating agency, predicts that more fintech businesses will utilise SaaS to address concerns generated by the post-Covid environment.
Understanding the significance of the SaaS model is not rocket science. According to Financesonline.com, the SaaS market capitalization will reach $623 billion by 2023. The use of the SaaS model in the fintech industry may foster innovation and creativity while also improving efficiency and profitability. Fintech companies can also save huge amounts of operational capital every year because of SaaS. This is not possible with the traditional model, in which companies hire experts.
SaaS solutions are extremely scalable, allowing a financial institution to digitally alter its operations while boosting security and enhancing compliance. It is also feasible to minimise physical footprints and increase efficiency via automation. By embracing the SaaS model for online transactions, several fintech businesses have outmanoeuvred their rivals and the banking and finance industry at large. FinTech lenders, for example, might accept business loan applications online, process them in minutes, and send the money to qualified customers a day or two later.
What makes SaaS a magic sauce for Fintech growth
SaaS platforms have shown the power of open platforms in the open-platform vs. patented technology argument over the last several decades. This has given SaaS a long-term viability and scalability that was previously unheard of, particularly in the financial services sector. For a fraction of the price, fintech companies have started bringing in the bulk of the capabilities that sophisticated legacy systems had inside mega banks.
There was a chance to develop an ecosystem with the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow banks to interact with these fintech partners, who could bring in novel processes and products at a relatively low cost and with relatively low usage of resources. It is also critical to incorporate outside innovation into an internal environment dominated by legacy technologies in financial organizations. The necessity to start small, to be nimble, and to expand with the market’s and customers’ ever-changing needs is obvious.
The maturation of SaaS models has aided the rise of APIs in the financial services sector, while laws such as the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) are driving banks to establish and promote open platforms. While API-based SaaS platforms have opened up a wide market and empowered the developer community, they have also contributed to the abolition of faceless goods that dominated conventional industries. It has also aided in the extraction of enormous value from data and innovative system integrations, which is now shared across a bigger and more powerful ecosystem.
The triple-edged efficiency of SaaS
Scalability, sustainability, and convenience are the three pillars furnished by SaaS to the Fintech ecosystem. The compulsions in the financial sector are being addressed by the three pillars of a SaaS delivery model. Scalability and the need to quickly add new products to existing systems, as well as a high level of data and platform security and the ability to better control costs, are all reasons why SaaS models are the delivery method of choice for banks around the world, both big and small. It is also the best strategy for working with banks, development communities, incubator programs, and data suppliers in the ever-expanding fintech ecosystem. All of this is wrapped up in a customer experience layer that is easy to use and lets business users, with only a little technical knowledge, launch products in a way that is good for business.
This transformation of SaaS-based delivery models into revenue-generating and customer-driven ones is beneficial to all parties involved. Some issues persist, but the overall contribution of proprietary and open businesses built on the SaaS cloud to the financial services sector has been spectacular. If the total cost of ownership data for the manufacturing sector is any indication, the collaborative delivery models that have recently been brought to the market will almost certainly have an almost immediate effect on banks’ total expenses.
Rahul Meena is the founder and CEO of Treflo.
Utricularia Furcellata: Rare plant species that feeds on insects
Since our childhood, we have grown up studying the ecology of plants and memorising the process of photosynthesis, which is a process by which plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to create oxygen. But, what if someone told you that there are certain types of plant species that feed on insects, mosquito larvae, and even young tadpoles?
Although the thought of plants feeding on insects sounds bizarre, it is true. The Uttarakhand Forest department has discovered a rare carnivorous plant species named Utricularia Furcellata in western Himalayan region of India.
The rare discovery, which has been published in The Journal of Japanese Botany, was made by a team of the Research Wing of the Uttarakhand forest department, consisting of Range officer Harish Negi and Junior Research Fellow (JRF) Manoj Singh in the Mandal valley in September 2021.
“This is the first such recording/sighting of this rare carnivorous plant not only in Uttarakhand but in the entire western Himalayan region of India. In fact, after 1986, this species could not be collected from any part of India,” said Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Chief Conservator of Forest (Research).
Mostly found in freshwater and wet soil, this rare species of plant belongs to a genus, commonly known as bladderwort. It uses one of the most sophisticated and developed plant structures for trap and targets protozoa, insects, mosquito larvae and even the young tadpoles.
At this point, you might be wondering how these plants manage to do that? Well, these plants do this by simply creating a vacuum or negative pressure area to draw prey inside the trap door.
Although this discovery has extended its range of distribution westward, the rare species face the threat of extinction due to heavy biotic pressure because of being at a tourist spot.
While carnivorous plants have caught the attention of the scientific community across the world, this was the first such comprehensive study in the state of Uttarakhand in India. The discovery was a part of a project on the study of insectivorous plants in Uttarakhand approved by the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) in 2019.
So far, the researchers have found around 20 plant species belonging to the genus Drosera, Utricularia and Pinguicula. Prior to this, the researchers were in search of a rare orchid species Liparis Pygmaean, which was reported in the French Journal Richardiana in September 2020.
The discovery of Utricularia Furcellata adds to the long list of rare plant species found in Indian forests, which are rich in flora and fauna.
Globally, carnivorous plants have been receiving increasing attention due to their distinct manner of arranging food and nutrition through the intelligent trap mechanisms. These rare plant species also have potential medicinal benefits, which is yet to be explored and shared with the world at large.
OBSESSION WITH ONLINE GAMES LEADS TO LOSS OF SELF-REGULATION
Children fail to think beyond the animated world and at times, it replaces reality for them, resulting in familial disharmony.
Parenting in the current era comes with its own challenges, and the pandemic has made it even tougher. “Staying online” became a necessity for the parents due to their work commitments and for children to enable them to pursue academic activities. However, what started as a necessity for kids did not take time to turn into a habit and in extreme cases, addiction. The thin line between use and misuse became quickly blurred giving birth to a new generation of computer-savvy, socially awkward and internet-addicted kids. The effect this is having on kids has long-term implications. It is taking a toll on kids’ social, mental, and physical well-being. Recently, there was news of a child being so obsessed with video games that to get his way, he shot his mother dead.
There was another case of a child who committed suicide because his mobile phone was taken away from him. Such extreme cases are but the tip of the iceberg! Many problems are very subtle and non-quantifiable. Being glued to the screen day in and day out reduces contact with society and when such kids are faced with people, they are overwhelmed and do not know how to react and respond. When they are with their gadgets, they are in their comfort zone. Due to the new-age parenting, children are not able to cope with the stress when they are out of this zone. Besides, these games are self-absorbing and also provide a lot of gratification in the form of levels and medals, so children keep going back to those again and again. It leads to an obsession with games and self-regulation is lost. Children fail to think beyond the animated world and at times it replaces reality for them resulting in familial disharmony.
The brain is actively developing and processing new information in the first five years of life. At this age, children require a lot of stimulation. This commonly happens when they hear others speaking, listen to stories and songs, engage in free play, imaginative play and have a multitude of sensorial experiences by playing outdoors. If these precious years are spent glued to the screen, brain development is hampered, and children start displaying adverse behaviours like irritability, hyperactivity and at times autistic personality. Prolonged screen time also reduces physical activity and facilitates unhealthy eating habits resulting in health problems like overweight. Childhood obesity is a new pandemic for the present generation largely contributed to lack of physical exercise and screen addiction. Childhood obesity is a forerunner of lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease, and dyslipidemia. In addition, excessive screen viewing results in eyestrain and weak eyesight. It also results in multiple nutrient deficiencies most commonly hypovitaminosis D.
So, what is the solution? There is no single answer for this. There is no magic bullet or a permanent solution. Children need to know their limitations and should learn self-regulation. Screen time should be restricted to 2 hours every day. Playing video games or watching TV should not be the only source of entertainment. They should be engaged in structured and unstructured physical activity daily. They should be encouraged to have friends and interact with them in person. The best way to ensure is by setting good precedence. Parents should restrict their own screen times and should not offer children TV or video games to get their own free time. Parents and children should avoid screen at least 1 hour before bedtime and recreational use of television in the bedroom.
One should be vigilant and identify early signs of screen addiction like loss of interest in other activities, thoughts pre-occupied with virtual subjects, displaying behaviours like lying to watch the screen and familial discordant. It is definitely a difficult task in the current time and age to keep a child away from the screen and requires a lot of determination from the parents, but it is not impossible and is the need of the hour.
Dr Vaidehi Dande is a child specialist and neonatologist at Symbiosis Hospital in Dadar.
For the love of the chair
Back in 1975, the ruling Congress under Indira Gandhi had organised mass protests outside the PM’s house. The so-called “spontaneous rallies” and “people’s rallies” were against a high court ruling, which restrained the PM’s right to vote or draw a salary as a Member of Parliament. The conditional stay had allowed Indira Gandhi to retain the prime minister’s post. Indira Gandhi’s misuse of power had put her in a spot when Allahabad HC accepted a petition filed by Raj Narain, which found her guilty of corrupt practices under Section 123(7) of the Representation of People’s Act during her Lok Sabha campaign in 1971 at Rae Bareli. The mass rallies in support of Indira Gandhi were a desperate attempt to cling to the chair when the moral authority and legal tenability of the government was fast slipping away. Gandhi was in no mood to exit gracefully. To insulate herself from the court verdict, she declared an Emergency on 25 June 1975 on the grounds of internal disturbances.
A similar situation is playing out in Maharashtra as CM Uddhav Thackeray desperately clings to power. In the evening of 20th June 2022 when the political observers, media and politicians in Maharashtra were focused on the Vidhan Parishad vote counting exercise, about 30-40 MLA’s in the assembly quietly made their way out of the state. The surprising BJP victory in the fifth MLC seat proved what the LoP Devendra Fadnavis was saying all along “that inherent ideological contradictions and dissatisfaction within the ranks of MVA will fuel our victory”.
When news about the 40 MLA’s who left the state in rebellion against the MVA government in Maharashtra broke the next morning, CM Uddhav Thackeray found himself in a similar situation to Mrs Gandhi in 1975. The Uddhav Thackeray government has lost moral authority as most of his MLAs have deserted him and the government can no longer claim a majority. Realising this, the CM left the official residence Varsha in order to claim the high moral ground and bring back the MLAs. After emotional appeals failed, he tried to convince, cajole and even threaten the MLAs. He attempted a show of strength on the streets and removed the security of MLAs’ family members. After every attempt failed, he is still clinging to power and repeats what Indira Gandhi did—organising protests in solidarity with him even though he clearly knows that numbers in the Vidhan Sabha don’t favour him.
A graceful exit and the forming of a “natural alliance” with the BJP is what his rebel MLAs have demanded. A “graceful exit” for CM Thackeray is exactly what the NCP under Sharad Pawar wants to prevent, even though the NCP is under no illusion about the future of this government. The NCP is egging the Shiv Sena Chief to fight this losing battle, prolong this humiliation, conduct floor test and face more ignominy. How else can Shiv Sena be thoroughly humiliated than fighting for a lost cause? For two and a half years, the NCP worked in tandem with the MVA government in denying their share of power to Shiv Sena MLAs. Today, the NCP under Sharad Pawar is working on its design to weaken the Shiv Sena further by making them fight a losing battle despite a lack of numbers.
If Indira Gandhi’s experience is any indication, Uddhav Thackeray will face the same fate as Indira Gandhi faced in the 1977 elections immediately post-emergency. The protests on the streets notwithstanding, the Indian electorate has consistently demonstrated a preference for democratic ideals. The excesses and desperation to cling to power of the emergency era had paved way for the first non-Congress government in India. A similar trend will be visible in Maharashtra post the 2019 elections.
In 2019, Shiv Sena had fought elections in alliance with BJP under the leadership of CM Devendra Fadnavis. Uddhav Thackeray abandoned the alliance after elections and formed an unnatural alliance with the NCP-INC combine, thereby insulting the voter’s mandate. The Shiv Sena rebel camp led by Eknath Shinde today is merely calling for the undoing of this insult to the people and a return to the Hindutva fold. If CM Thackeray continues to cling to his chair, the people of Maharashtra will punish his group heavily in every upcoming election, while the “original Shiv Sena” of Eknath Shinde adhering to Balasaheb’s ideals will be rewarded by the voters. The post-emergency era brought non-Congress parties into prominence and led to the eventual decline of Congress. The Love of the chair on the part of CM Thackeray will lead to the same results. CM Thackeray can either choose to respect the mandate of the people and their elected representatives or risk losing his party altogether.
The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation.
ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY IS TRENDING AND CONTAGIOUS
Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant.
If one is asked, “How many times did you order food online in the last six months?” The chances are that one may not even remember the exact number. However, the answer to another question, “How many restaurants have you visited to enjoy food in the last six months?” would be “yes, I can tell.” Millions of Indians have similar answers. Nonetheless, one might be mistaken if they believe that consumers order foods online only because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most Indians had never thought that online food delivery would become so common that too, so fast. But the reality is that it is now part of urban consumers’ food habits, e.g., food purchase and consumption behaviour, in many countries, including India. It is trending and contagious. In the year 2021, more than 282 million Indians ordered food online, and the number is likely to increase to 493 million by the end of 2025.
Was it all because of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns? No, the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of the e-commerce business, including the online food business. The two most important factors that led to the food delivery business transformation are a revolution in internet and digital technologies and fast-changing consumers’ lifestyles and preferences.
Technology has enabled consumers to access their favourite foods from their preferred outlets at their fingertips. Food reaches consumers in the shortest possible time at the place and the time decided by the consumer and all of this without spending much. Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant. It is undoubtedly a fancied choice both for busy and lazy people. Consumers compare price, menu, quality, and outlet and select the best option that provides them with value. This is in addition to the time they save, a precious resource in modern times. With the number of smartphone users expected to increase to about 1133 million by 2025 from 847.7 million by the end of 2021, the future seems brighter.
Consumers, too, are changing faster. Nuclear family, husband-wife working, increased disposable income, family members with varying tastes, not interested in kitchen work, and preference for a faster and easy option of getting food – all these have allured consumers to go online. Further, today’s consumers look for utilisation benefits and seek enjoyment, control, experimental value, and emotional arousal in their day-to-day activities. Ordering food online, fortunately, meets most of the wishes. Consumers today expect food to come to them instead of following, travelling, and waiting for it. With per capita spending on food and beverages expected to increase by more than 30% by 2025, many new consumers are likely to join the bandwagon, and existing customers will increase their online purchases.
There are two different types of online food delivery players in the market. First, the online food delivery system owned and run by established restaurants or food outlets, like Pizza Hut and Domino’s, makes home food delivery after consumers put their orders on their website. Next are food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, which source food from multiple restaurants and outlets and deliver it to consumers. In India, though restaurant-owned online food delivery is more popular and has a consumer penetration of 15.7%, online delivery platforms, with a penetration rate of 6.4%, are catching up very fast.
Online delivery platforms democratise the food market. Platforms provide every consumer with the opportunity to have food from any outlet, making it possible for smaller and not-so-popular food outlets to serve many consumers. In addition, food delivery platforms make local, traditional, and even international cuisine available to all consumers—a win-win situation for everyone.
The online food delivery system has further decentralised and democratised entrepreneurship with concepts like dark kitchens or ghost kitchens. Dark kitchens create opportunities for established industries to extend their kitchen work and for professionals and entrepreneurs to start a new venture, even with a limited budget, by partnering with delivery platforms. Understanding what, how, and when customers order and how to meet those orders in the least amount of time at a lower price is crucial for the business’s success. It seems that online delivery players are mastering these tricks faster.
Delivering food in the proper packaging is more than 50% of food quality, and the industry seems to learn it slowly but steadily. It can be ensured that hot desi samosa and dosa reach the customer with the same crispiness as those served in restaurants. Hyderabadi Biryani, if not served as it appeared on the screen while ordering or with the fragrance that biryani is expected to have, may upset the customers. Restaurant owners have started using innovative packaging, and delivery partners have added specialised carrying boxes and well-planned routes through which foods are reaching faster and safely. Swiggy food survey 2021 indicates that Biryani and Desi Samosa were the most ordered meals and snacks, respectively, indicating that food delivery players in India are doing it briskly.
Food delivery platforms are labour-intensive, and their success is dependent on their partners. Their delivery persons, called “gig workers” in business terminology, are among the most crucial players in their business. Zomato, India’s second food delivery platform after Swiggy, employs more than 1,60,000 gig workers. Though their remuneration, working hours and conditions have come under scrutiny and have become the subject of debate, no one disagrees that the business creates many jobs at the field level.
No doubt, advancing technologies, changing customers and innovations in the delivery business will result in the rapid spread of the industry. However, the food delivery business still has to cover a long distance before stabilising and settling down. Most delivery companies are yet to achieve their break-even and will require working hard to spread their reach and optimise costs. The business remains immensely competitive and reliant on the external business environment.
In 2021, Indians ordered food worth 11782 million US dollars online, 30.4% more than the previous year. If the excitement the recent IPO of Zomato created, the presence of at least one food delivery platform for more than 100 million consumers, and fast-moving bikers with food in every lane are any indication, it establishes that online food delivery has arrived in India, and it will continue to grow and flourish.
Niraj Kumar is a Professor of Rural Management at XIM University, Bhubaneswar.
Unprecedented transformation of the HR industry
HR, as one of the most paper-intensive and technologically resistant industries, has undoubtedly undergone an unprecedented transformation. The HR industry has changed course and jumped on the technology bandwagon, from handing out pay slips and pink slips to building teams and organisations. HR and technology were once two words that were never used in the same sentence, but today they have integrated and taken the business world by storm.
HR has undoubtedly undergone an unprecedented transformation as one of the most paper-intensive and technologically resistant industries. The human resources industry has shifted its focus from issuing pay stubs and pink slips to forming teams and organisations. HR and technology were never used in the same sentence until recently, but they have now integrated and taken the business world by storm.
EVOLUTION OF THE HR FUNCTION
As the pandemic drove nations to lockdowns and businesses to disruption, HR was thrust to the frontline to facilitate this wave of changes. From handholding employees, as they took up remote work to embracing new technologies such as AI and automation themselves, the purview of HR widened overnight. The HR department made possible the overnight pivot to remote work, organisation-wide move to the cloud and years’ worth of digital transformation within months. As organisations’ appetite for technology grows, the demand for HR tech is building up simultaneously to catalyse change.
MASTERING REMOTE WORK MANAGEMENT
Today, an organisation’s workforce is dispersed across different geographies owing to remote work arrangements. To enable employees to carry out diverse tasks remotely, HR teams must provide them with facilitating tools and technologies. At the same time, they require the right tools and technologies to carry out HR tasks remotely. On top of that, HR teams need to maintain the organisation’s culture even when people can no longer see each other in person. Technologies such as cloud computing, unified communication tools, performance management software and video conferencing technologies help HR teams master remote work management.
BRAVING TALENT MARKET CHALLENGES
Remote work mandate meant for the talent market proliferation of job opportunities, wider talent pools and a shift to virtual hiring practices. This resulted in a surge in demand for video interviewing, virtual onboarding and AI-based technologies. In an ever-evolving talent market, a slew of challenges such as the war for talent and the ‘great resignation’ has erupted. As a result, organisations are increasingly investing in automation, AI and data analytics to optimise their hiring processes and enjoy time and cost savings. Additionally, such HR technologies enable recruiters to hire higher-quality candidates faster.
RE-ENVISIONING EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
As the resignation pile mounts up and the stack of resumes becomes less than a handful, HR teams across the globe are racking their brains in the quest for a cure-all. Technology allows HR teams to rethink their employee experience and reinforce their talent retention strategies. From improving the employee onboarding process to supporting greater work-life balance to elevating employee wellbeing, technology is helping HR to reshape the employee experience. Consequently, investments in tools and technologies such as intelligent chatbots, video conferencing, recommended learning and development, etc., that enhance employee experience are continuously rising.
CONTINUOUS RESKILLING AND UPSKILLING
The global pandemic ushered in a period of great reshuffling, which meant new technologies, tools, innovations and even new jobs. As many jobs, skills and practices become obsolete, HR leaders must upskill and reskill their workforce to take on new responsibilities and challenges. Technologies that enable faster learning paths, interactive and engaging journeys and performance tracking saw an uptick in demand. As digital transformation becomes a permanent fixture on CEO agendas, constant reskilling and upskilling are becoming a priority for HR leaders. As a result, giving rise to persistent demand for new learning and development technologies.
Technology is enabling organisations to inch closer to the future of work and evolve with it. The coming together of HR and technology can catalyse this wave of change. By making the most of this window of opportunity, HR can evolve from an auxiliary authority to an enabling force.
Yogita Tulsiani is the MD & Co-founder of iXceed Solutions, which is a global tech-recruiter provider.
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