We were first in the firing line,” says Ajay Bijli, chairman and MD of PVR, on being among the early establishments to be closed after the COVID-19 lockdown. The gloom in the multiplex business is thick. “This is not like a quarter on quarter situation where your occupancies dip by 5-10% and you start wondering what you will do. We are talking of revenue coming down to zero,” he says. The country’s largest multiplex operator had to shut down 845 screens across 22 states.
Yet Bijli feels lucky, as a father. Before the travel ban came into place, his son flew down from the US and his daughter returned from Mumbai. “I was more worried about keeping everyone safe and sound at home,” he says. Bijli is keeping a close watch over the health of his 85-year-old mother who lives in the same house.
“My mind space is not limited to what is happening in the business. That would be myopic or selfish. My first priority was the safety of my family and second, of course, my business and employees,” he says. Heads of businesses — CEOs, MDs or founders — are largely expressing the same sentiment, of keeping their family close. It is an anxious time.
COVID-19, which has put the human race to its biggest test since WWII, is sending the global economy hurtling into recession with growth forecasts getting brutally slashed for major economies, including India (See: Contagion effect). Amid an economic slowdown that has already pushed India’s GDP growth to a 7-year low of 4.7% — despite the revised method of GDP calculation — the national lockdown could now decisively hurt growth in FY21 (See: Collateral damage).
The pandemic, according to the Asian Development Bank, could cost the global economy $4.1 trillion. Volatility has roiled just about every market with the Nifty