The world of business is a world of clichés and the post COVID scenario is no different. There are trends and there are megatrends that are being touted as the next big thing. Almost every analyst and futuristic thinker is waxing eloquent about how COVID could drastically change the way business is done. In the midst of this melee, one report from Forrester best captures the key changes likely to happen in the Asia Pacific region, including India. Here are seven such megatrends that could become significant for post-COVID businesses.
Megatrend 1: A big shift to values-based buying
It may be hard to appreciate the full impact but COVID has set the ball rolling. Some of the most enduring pictures of COVID were about cleaner beaches, return of dolphins in waters and a clean blue sky and green trees. If ever there is likely to be a vote for responsible manufacturing, ethical marketing practices and values-based businesses, it will be in the post-COVID scenario. You could see a sharp fall in tobacco sales as people become keen to save their lungs. Companies that pollute the environment and deplete the ozone layer will be punished. It could mark the rise of ESG investing; sooner than you anticipate.
Megatrend 2: A shift from customer delight to customer obsession
This would be a lot more applicable in the marketing function. It would not be just apply to product design but marketing strategy and product delivery. The more fleet-footed among the FMCG companies quickly tweaked their models post-COVID and focused more on online and contact-less selling. As more businesses fight harder for market share in a competitive post-COVID world, Forrester feels that CMOs must move beyond customer satisfaction and customer delight to the realm of customer obsession.
Megatrend 3: Shift to cloud could now be real and rapid
One of the things that businesses learnt the hard way during the pandemic was the advantage of a distributed set-up. Tech savvy companies that could leverage the cloud and seamlessly handle data and projects ended up doing much better. If many Indian companies have been sceptical about the security aspects of cloud, this is the time to make the big shift. As we increasingly get to a distributed work setting, cloud investments will be inevitable and also an integral part of business strategy.
Megatrend 4: Nature of workplace engagement could change drastically
One thing is certain; Indian companies are not going to shift to WFH tomorrow. But, it is also certain that the nature of workplace engagement could change drastically. It will be reduced travel costs, more of video interactions, less of one-on-one meetings and more of virtual meetings. That is the trend for the foreseeable future. Your marketing strategy, management information systems and almost all forms of communication need to be revamped to fit into the new workplace engagement model. You could be a great speaker in front of a live audience but you could look lousy on a video telecast. Tough luck that!
Megatrend 5: It is going to be less about products and more about platforms
To be fair, this trend was already visible for some time but COVID has only underlined and accentuated that trend. Just look at how Jio has suddenly turned the entire marketplace on its head. The traditional role of banks could come under question if platforms like Paytm, Jio and Amazon can do the job more efficiently. The smart way ahead is for the existing product originators to start thinking about themselves as evolving platforms. Remember, the biggest competition for cars may not come from Toyota or Tesla but from Google.
Megatrend 6: Artificial Intelligence will be critical in a distributed environment
The world is moving not only towards a distributed workplace but also a distributed marketplace. You have limited control or interaction with the customer and that applies to your workers too. One solution is the application of artificial intelligence to adopt a more proactive approach to business. Don’t just estimate demand and tastes of the customer. Instead, think like the customer and prepare the tray. That is the future.
Megatrend 7: All this means, regulation needs a drastic change
That is what it all will boil down to. This may not be a business trend but impacts business in a big way. Indian regulators including MCA, ROC, the RBI, SEBI, IRDA, CBDT and other bodies really need to think of regulation in a post-COVID world that is dominated by distributed markets, distributed workplaces and a surge in online transactions. How to make regulation stringent in the emerging scenario; at the same time conducive to growth? That will be the biggest challenge!