Mitesh L Thakker, is Founder and CEO of MissCallPay, is Innovator and thinker who is working on innovations for global sustainability starting with financial and digital inclusion of the masses the next billion. Mitesh has six patents to his credit and has won several awards for innovation from organization such as Deloitte, Google and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author and not of MissCallPay as business.
The new normal, defined by pandemic has been a challenge to every kind of business to navigate, sustain and grow. And the trial has not been easy—many perished. Those who remained and flourished has realised that the way business used to be done has changed forever. Even if mankind is able to eradicate COVID for good, businesses will need to press the reset button and deepen their sustainability quotient through integration of digital practices and adaption of robotic or artificial intelligence led interface.
The fourth industrial revolution had only implied the tech changes about to happen in every walk of life, but never had it been able to define the speed and veracity of how fast it will be adapted and to what length it will be used. Today, thanks to the new normal, we are in a situation when every suggested business development has new questions written against it: how do we implement this long distance? How do we reach out to customers digitally? How do we give them an experiential feeling without actually meeting them?
Business development entails tasks and processes encompassing finance, HR, marketing and R&D to develop and implement growth opportunities through partnerships. How to develop those long term and long distance partnerships? Interestingly, the surviving entrepreneurs and businesses have already hit the reset button in every field. And the thriving positive stories in the mid-pandemic scenario only supports the famous statement of John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States of America, ““Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” We may never have seen such adaptions and growth without the pandemic. Listed here are the three areas of adaptions to best practices and changed norms that are here to stay even after COVID is long gone.
Work from Home: One of the things that India would never have thought about. Though a few multi-national companies were doing it, but working from home was never a trend in the country. With it comes work life balance, which was also non-existent. Today, the companies have reduced their staff, terminated their office lease, and opted to smaller offices. Some businesses have got into co-working format, or permanently opted to allow staff to operate from smaller towns. Podcasts and Zoom being the order of the day, it has become easier to have team meetings and create touch points.
Changes in behavioural pattern of Consumers: The consumers have happily adapted to online shopping even to the extent of buying marriage trousseau. An unbelievable fact—but today with the aid of smart phones and start-ups offering various schemes, consumers are buying medicines to entertainment — right from the comfort of their bedrooms, and the trend is here to stay. As more adapts to the online shopping blitz, the price and availability of goods, both will become at par with kirana stores, thus making them unsustainable.
Persistent Unemployment scenario and an Urgent call for Change in Education & Skilling: The adaption to bots, AI and technology which has led to lesser manpower and resultant business sustainability in short term is also poised to actually harm business environment of the country in the long term. As unemployment increases and taxes remain on the higher side, the economy is seeing a state of slow decline and stagflation. As real income erodes and demand driven production falls, value addition in the economy will definitely see a reduction. Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy has indicated that over 10 million or 1 crore people lost their jobs because of the second wave of coronavirus with 97 per cent of households’ incomes declining since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
The only answer or strategic intervention that can be made in such a situation is to relook into the skilling and education ecosystem that the country has and make adjustments to bring in technology in coursework. As the jobs for untrained labour disappears, it is imperative to relearn and reskill, so as to gain back the confidence to get in the tech world. While the business strategies evolve, it is important that they invest in the future of man-power.
The appropriate solution to business sustainability in the long run is as dynamic as the evolving situation. And the scenario calls for the government also to press the re-set button to change the way they operate – in order to react to the changing business patterns and persistent crisis.
The visionary schemes of PM Modi like the Start-up India – Stand-up India initiative, Make in India- Made for the World are few of the changes that can actually transform India into a global hub of activities. As schemes like Mudra loans and PM Svanidhi are aiming to help small-time entrepreneurs with required funds, government need to gear up and accept the changes brought in by AI, ML, Robotics Innovations that will create a much more efficient and digitally turned out workforce while creating wealth.
As start-ups, given their small size and fast turnaround time are thriving on these technologies, it is important that government understand their contribution in not only self-employment but creating that conducive digital environment that can guide changes in the country and also attract the global investments over to India. The policy environment should be such that the Soonicorns and Unicorns continue to headquarter in India, rather than opting to resettle their headquarters out of the country.
There had already been some talks of ‘flipping funds’ by investors who are pushing the start-ups to transfer ownerships overseas in order to skip Indian regulations and taxes—somewhat akin to the ‘Brain Drain’ syndrome India had seen with poor post-education placement facilities. However, one must realise, businesses are for profit first. Only after they become sustainable and strong, can they think of Social Impact and giving back. And that is only possible if the hole or flipping is plugged and the humongous wealth created in India and also remains in India. Indirectly this can increase the revenue and tax collections in the long run, create and sustain the start-up culture and be a support system for numerous young entrepreneurs.
The right moves at right time at executive level of government, that can integrate the short term policies with long term visions will be the key factor that will make the economy sustainable and with that help the businesses to sustain post COVID waves.
Best practices, once imbibed can always build up the defence wall against the next set of disruptions and provide a way forward for the then government. Underlying challenge for the global leadership, CXO’s, the thinkers and the innovators is finding out and executing the solution that can help not just businesses but largely the economy and humanity to sustain itself if the jobs disappear permanently. To that extent Microsoft Founder Bill Gates had suggested an idea of ‘Robot Tax’, to tax the automation and compensate the people who have lost jobs or the “Universal Basic Income” policy as touted by UN. While these are yet to evolve and accepted, it is important that the entire ecosystem work together to make business sustainable.