Tag Archives: COVID-19

Life as an Indian scholar in London

MA Journalism student Vimal Chander Joshi found studying in London a totally immersive experience, so much so he wrote a book about it. Here, he uncovers his own story and shares perspectives on the differences between the media in the UK and India, with a personal take on the COVID-19 pandemic news coverage. This is his #BBKStory.

Vimal Chander Joshi

In 2020, Vimal published his first book though he refutes any notion of being the main character in the story: “I am not Ajay but our experiences are closely linked and all the places Ajay visits are places I’ve either visited or lived in.”

Gentlemen: Stories from London tells the story of Ajay Vashishth, a young man from Delhi who comes to London and lodges in different parts of London including Bexleyheath, Ilford, Southall and Golders Green. Even with the exclusion of the Bloomsbury location, where Vimal would have spent much of his time while studying at Birkbeck, you’d be forgiven for assuming he and Ajay are one and the same.

However, Vimal insists not and divulges the details of his own upbringing, sharing aspects of life within a middle-class family, having a lawyer for a father and a grandfather hailing from Punjab, with family members keen for him to follow a ‘conventional career path’ in either law or medicine. With gentle resistance and with more creative inclinations, he pursued his undergraduate studies in commerce at the University of Delhi then decided on journalism at postgraduate level.

In 2019, his academic transition took him to Birkbeck and a city he’d never visited before. “It was the first time I’d been to London. I enjoyed the opportunity to visit places. I would see people wearing a coat and tie with office bags and a newspaper in hand.”

He accepts that the pre-pandemic period presented him with his best chances of socialisation saying, “I attended all workshops and events which were either very relevant or marginally relevant. I would go and meet people from other departments and would attend most of the events. I never skipped any classes. I would go out with friends. I went to the library as much as I could, including at Christmas. I even met friends from my country.”

Studying an MA in Journalism was a logical choice. He’d always liked writing and was fascinated by India’s booming television industry and the increasing acceptance of a career in the media. Prior to his studies, Vimal had spent ten years working in the media, primarily in India.

He has noticed subtle differences between the news in the UK and India, “The biggest difference is the way in which newspapers are heavily subsidised in India. I couldn’t imagine spending the two pounds or so on a newspaper in India. Of course, the newspapers in the UK can be found across the world but Indian newspapers are less likely to have that international reach.”

With a pandemic still in effect and with India having faced the brunt of it earlier this year with the Delta variant of the virus, Vimal shares his own personal reflections of how the media has handled the coverage: “I felt really pained watching the Covid-19 news. I was there when Delhi had one of its earliest lockdowns and I watched how the media covered the evolution of the virus and the spread of the variant. The media has an important part to play in exposing the pandemic but there needs to be accountability and the true picture should always be reflected. But we should also balance that because the reality of the situation can also spread panic.”

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Knowledge Intensive Business Services: Post-Pandemic New Normal

In our third collaborative event between Birkbeck’s Department of Management and Essex Business School, we explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Knowledge Intensive Business Services. 

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many organisations to transition to remote working. How has this impacted Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS), which rely on in-person interaction and team working to deliver their services? 

In a joint event hosted by Birkbeck’s Department of Management and Essex Business School, University of Essex, Professors Ian Miles (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester) and David Doloreux (HEC Montréal) outlined their view of the post-pandemic new normal for KIBS. 

As Chair, Dr Muthu De Silva, Director of Research in Birkbeck’s Department of Management, introduced the session, which began with discussion from Professor David Doloreux on KIBS and their key characteristics. KIBS are services which involve economic activities which are intended to result in the creation, accumulation or dissemination of knowledge. The KIBS sector includes establishments whose primary activities depend on human capital, knowledge and skills. This inevitably involves close interaction between KIBS and their clients in order to create and disseminate knowledge. 

Scholars have identified three broad classifications of KIBS: 

  1. Social and professional services (P-KIBS) 
  2. Science and technology (T-KIBS) 
  3. Cultural and creative services (C-KIBS) 

Having conducted a literature review into the key research streams relating to KIBS, Doloreux noted that very few studies prior to the pandemic have dealt with digital services and their capacity for innovation, so webinars like this address an important and under-researched area of the field. 

Regarding how the pandemic has affected the macro- and micro-pictures for KIBS innovation, Professor Doloreux made the following observations: 

  • There will be an evolution of demand on KIBS innovation, with greater opportunities related to big data, analytics and AI. 
  • COVID-19 may result in a widening gap between different types of KIBS: P-KIBS may be able to offer more innovative services that satisfy demands, whereas C-KIBS have suffered from drastically reduced demand due to COVID-19. 
  • We will need to rethink the location of activity of KIBS and where innovation occurs. 

As a geographer, Professor Doloreux also raised the following key questions: 

  • How can we geolocalise innovation in KIBS? 
  • How do KIBS innovate without face-to-face and frequent interactions with clients? 
  • What are the dynamics and implications of hybrid models and more digital service production on KIBS innovation? 
  • What is the geography of this connection? 

Regarding the long-term impact of the pandemic on KIBS, there are three possible scenarios that need to be empirically analysed: 

  1. The Revolution: COVID-19 has radically modified innovation and business models in KIBS. 
  2. Booster: COVID-19 has accelerated processes and practices that were already in place, e.g the hybrid model. 
  3. Weak game changer: changes prompted by COVID-19 have a weak impact on KIBS practice and products. 

The second half of this webinar invited Professor Ian Miles to respond to these observations. Having conducted research into KIBS throughout the pandemic, Professor Miles observed how the pandemic impacted KIBS in real time. He highlighted three elements of the crisis that were shaping business conditions: epidemiology, policy responses and socioeconomic impacts. 

In terms of patterns of demands for KIBS, the picture is very mixed. There was a sudden drop in demand for KIBS in 2019/20, three times that seen in the 2008 recession, in line with the drop in demand across the economy. Conversely, some KIBS sectors have been in increased demand and we have seen new demands related to new business problems. Among these ‘winners’ are some portions of research and development services (including the clinical trials industry) which have had to work under new constraints associated with the pandemic, of Information Technology and computer services (which were often quite capable of shifting to remote working),  and of professional services like accountancy and legal services (where new client problems are arising, but whose ways of working have been challenged). 

Professor Miles also discussed how KIBS have confronted challenges during the pandemic, including in particular restrictions on face-to-face interaction. This impacts on the establishment and maintenance of trust, and on the exchange of tacit knowledge, both in relations with clients, and in internal collaboration and team-building. Much effort is underway to improve videoconferencing systems and practices. 

For Professor Miles, there would likely be a shift between the immediate impact of the pandemic, which has seen the acceleration of digitisation activities and the stalling of long-term digital reengineering projects such as AI and data analytics, and the long-term response, which may see these efforts reinstated as organisations push the limitations of virtual communications. Professor Miles concluded by anticipating an upsurge of innovation in the future, as organisations moved on from the ‘forced rapid innovation’ of the immediate crisis. 

The presentations were followed by discussion from the audience, which featured a diverse mix of policy makers, academics and early career researchers, and a vote of thanks from Professor Suma Athreye, Essex Business School. 

A recording of this event is available to watch on YouTube. We look forward to future collaborations as we continue to explore the impact of the pandemic on innovation, knowledge creation and dissemination.

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Welcoming the year of the Ox

Di Luo, Chair of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Birkbeck, reflects on this year’s virtual Chinese New Year celebration that took place on 15 February and what hopes the group has for the year of the Ox.

An ox hanging with some ornamentsThe year of the Ox began on Friday 12 of February 2021, and this is an especially exciting new year, as people all around the world cannot wait to say goodbye to the year of the Rat in which we have suffered heavily and lost due to the strike of COVID-19. The Ox is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, it represents values of reliability, strength, patience, and trustworthiness. People from all around the world have wished and hoped to see that this new year will start a new chapter in life and will defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday 15 February 2021, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Birkbeck University of London (BBK CSSA) hosted an online gathering event to spread good wishes to everyone and start to recruit its new community members. All students and scholars from all cultures and countries are welcome to join BBK CSSA.

Students and staff who attended the event were invited to share their new year wishes and targets, not surprisingly, after a long lockdown, everyone jointly wished to meet each other and come back to campus again once it is safe to do so. Indeed, since the first lockdown was issued by the UK government on 16 March 2020, the year of the Rat has been a memorable one for all of us. Students cannot attend school, people have to work from home, COVID-19 has physically separated us. However, distance cannot stop our hearts from growing closer and cannot stop our kindness and wishes. This is also one of the small goals that BBK CSSA hoped for its online gathering event on 15 February 2020.

Games and awards were also organised during the online event to bring more joy and fun. One of the games was to guess the correct Chengyu from the emojis. Chengyu is a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expression, most of which consists of four characters. Although they are widely used in Classical Chinese, but still very common in today’s Chinese speaking and writing.

One of the new year’s wishes that the BBK CSSA makes is that everyone can “niuqi chongtian” in the year of Ox. This is one of the most popular new year blessings Chengyu that every Chinese person says to each other. “Niuqi Chongtian” refers to the spirit of the Ox and means that with a strong faith in conquering any difficulties and challenges, life and work will both be awesome. BBK CSSA believes the spirit of the Ox will certainly bring the most blessings for the year of 2021 for us to look forward and move on. All the challenges and difficulties that we have had in 2020 are now in the past, we will not forget those precious things and the loved ones we lost. Our faith in life will not be stopped by this pandemic! Lastly, BBK CSSA wishes everyone in the year of 2021 “Niuqi Chongtian”!

 

 

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