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B. Surendar, COO and Director, Red FM Network, is an industry veteran with enormous  experience in Radio and Media. In this exclusive piece, Surendar shares how 2020 has reshaped his life personally and professionally. He shares how during the pandemic, RED FM helped  people in need, and why he thinks 2020 would be a turning point for the industry in the years to come. 

After decades of incredible achievements and progress since World War II, just when man thought that there is nothing in this universe that he cannot do or control, came a minuscule virus, towards the end of 2019, which made him introspect and revealed his vulnerabilities.

Even a mere mention of the word COVID  or Corona instantly creates a sense of underlying fear in most of us. Such is the disruption and devastation it has created in our lives that almost every aspect of our life before this virus struck feels rosy in hindsight.

Are the COVID-19 virus inflicted changes in our life and business  transient phenomena that  can be erased without a trace, or has the pandemic altered our regular lives and left some irreversible changes?

This is what I think:

COVID’s impact on my professional and personal life

As a part of the media industry – specifically, FM Radio – which was rightly treated as an essential service during the lockdown, for the first two months, I had the privilege of moving freely around the near-empty city for work, But I just couldn’t help the odd feeling that I was in an apocalyptic movie.

For the first two months, I had the privilege of moving freely around the near-empty city for work, But I just couldn’t help the odd feeling that I was in an apocalyptic movie: B Surendar

We at Red FM network had enormous challenges straightaway. First and foremost being the uninterrupted transmission of our service with the help of  the latest technology, and people who weren’t familiar with the concept of working from home.

Surprisingly, despite negligible time at our disposal to put our act together, we could go beyond the basics and render a variety of services around  awareness creation, apprehension of fears, connecting with patients, health authorities, celebrities, etcetera, and, of course, entertaining all the people who were mostly stuck at home.

There were plenty of emotional, touching, inspiring stories on our radio stations: B Surender 

There were plenty of emotional, touching, inspiring stories on our radio stations, like the one where our RJs could help 82-year-old Mr. Iyer, who was was staying alone,  to get food and medicines through designated sources.

A family of 5 daughters who lost their father to COVID-19 got their fees paid, and the story of the dentist, Dr. Ramya, and her assistant, who helped a 19-year-old pregnant migrant lady deliver a healthy baby despite the language barrier…

When it came to entertainment through FM Radio and our digital platforms, we could access innumerable celebrities across the country from the movie and music industry, in particular, to entertain our audience in the form of interactions, interviews, virtual music concerts, and more.

Consequently, our reach on social media platforms like FB, Instagram, YouTube went up leaps and bounds, with Red FM Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Telugu, and Suryan FM Tamil FB pages figuring in the world top ten radio pages list in terms of interaction.

As far as my personal life was concerned, after a long time in my professional career, I could spend some quality time with my family and achieve a healthier work-life balance, as both my daughters are working/studying from home.

One of the few positives during this period was also the very high quality and calibre of entertainment content we could get to consume through the OTT platforms.

But there were a few mishaps too. Other than infecting my immediate family members and causing much nuisance; the virus did claim an important elder in my close family circle, causing a lot of distress.

Entering the new Hybrid Era

As I mentioned earlier, I strongly believe that COVID has permanently changed certain important aspects of our lives like the way we think/feel/live, do business, behave socially, etcetera.

I would like to define this period as the ‘Hybrid Era’ which is a strong mixture of our way of life before COVID  hit us, and post its impact.

The fast-emerging Hybrid Era will continue to witness the following COVID impact trends triggered by concerns of safety, convenience, and self-realization:

  1. Shift from offline to online mode when it comes to commerce, education, shopping, entertainment, etc.
  2. Preference for private transport instead of public transport.
  3. Work from home or any geographical location instead of work only from the office or the local city.
  4. Phone- or video-call- meetings instead of in-person ones.
  5. Increased bonding with the immediate family, shared domestic chores, and better work-life balance.
  6. Lesser intra- as well as inter-city and – country traveling as compared to the pre-COVID times.
  7. Staying or eating outside the home and holidaying will also come down in comparison to the past.
  8. Demand for physical office space, single-screen cinemas, public meeting places, etc. may come down more permanently than being imagined right now.

So let’s mentally prepare ourselves to live in this new ‘Hybrid era’ reality for a few more years to come.

Your thoughts, please