The world, as we know it, has changed.
Much of mankind today has not witnessed change of this scale. And having followed a drastically different pattern of life for an extended period, when we get out of this forced quarantine, business will have to face a new norm.
To take our mind away from the tedium of today, I thought it will be great to think ahead and try visualizing how business will change, as we hope to limp ahead to this new norm.
Peering into the looking glass of business, it will be interesting to compare notes on the possible new trends. Here’s my take and I’d love to hear from you, on your pov.
The logic for most of these trends will be apparent to many but if it isn’t, I think it will stimulate point and counterpoint and we can have a healthy debate here. So, here we go:
1/ The Surge of “Remote”
No points on guessing that we will see a spurt in penetration of remote as a practice in businesses and a faster pace of adoption as well. However, this one is perhaps going to be the defining change on how we live, work and play in the next decade. Chunks of a business operation, functionally, will be spun off as remote, WFH occupations. Clients and services will be far more at ease, in slipping into this mode of work.
Spin-off effect from this trend:
Up– Collaborative Software, shared work spaces, new WFH Hardware [smartphone + keyboard combo?], home gym equipment, snacking. Coffee shop traffic. And hey, move aside “Friday Dressing”. Enter “Remote Dressing”, the new fashion trend: boxers & button-down shirts and pjs & dress tops.
Down– Auto sales, public transport, city parking, commercial real estate
Globalization is going to be a bad mantra for some time. The short term will see a re-jig of supply lines for many businesses, where local sourcing will be on the upswing.
But “price” is a harsh beast and market forces a tough master. So, if you look at the longer term, “water will find its level”- market forces will take over and dictate that goods ought to be made in places that make it the most cost efficient to produce. Hence, there will be a more even spread of global sourcing, from different markets. India already is in the news as a possible manufacturing center for some companies that want out of China and this will spread to more markets.
Up- Inventory costs, local SME growth, surge in automation and AI, higher end prices to the consumer on products that can afford it.
Down: Just-in-time logistics? Bottom-lines of companies who are forced to absorb the added cost of doing business.
3/ Media Consumption
This one is a no brainer, right? We all know the role that the internet plays in our lives and more so in the media cocktail we drink up these days. But the tipping point of habit turning to addiction, just happened or is happening, thanks to the Corontine.
If you are an iPhone user, check out the App called Screen Time for the week and you will realize how enslaved we are by that palm sized piece of glass.
My number for total screen time for the week was 21 hours and 43 mins- that’s practically ONE FULL DAY in six days! and I still had one day to go in the week. And the total social networking time was 14h 9 min and I am possibly what you may call a “light” user.
TV consumption has been on the rise during this period- up by 25% in the US, as per Nielsen, in the first two weeks of March. But that is a function of being couch bound these days and bound to drop back to shrink mode as COVID recedes.
And BingeTV just got a boost in ratings- up 34%, for the same time frame as per Nielsen! While many have been talking of the demise of linear TV at the hands of streaming TV even before this, I believe our increased dependence on news from our palm-held devices will be an even harsher blow to linear TV as we know it.
Its no longer Good Morning America on ABC or New Day on CNN. It’s Good Morning World on WANN. The WhatsApp News Network.
So, where consumers go, media dollars & brand spend must follow. If last year we had online media dollars taking the lead over traditional media in North America, the post COVID era is going to turbo-charge it.
4/ The Business of Education
The last month of this semester was practically online for high schoolers & the college/university going crowd. And exams are going to be online. This can well be the dry run for what is to become a dominant trend in the future. Universities will need to pivot, to keep in step.
I have always believed the US, Canadian way of University life has been designed for a chilled-out time for the resident student and to fatten, university pockets. The four-year, 15 to 20-hour classes per week, “vacation time” for a student to finish undergrad is going to change and will hopefully cease to be the cash-cows that universities can milk. Universities will need to revisit their costs and match them to a newer revenue reality- a reality where user-demand-led pace to learning and distance learning will be on the rise. Learning, teaching and making money on it will start to face a new norm.
Up- EduTech, online tuition, student-employees, side-hustle start-ups. Faster, more efficiently run undergrad programs. Interactive, video-learning, WFH’s new cousin, SFH- Study From Home.
Down- Student housing, economy of university towns.
5/ The Stock Market and Regulatory Inertia
The financial carnage in the US market was worth US $343 billion – the difference in market value between Feb 19 and Mar 19. While the runaway Wall Street excess for some time now was begging for a correction, nobody wanted this blood bath and erosion of investor wealth.
But it was hardly that, for some. Just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, short sellers made US$ 51.3 billion in 7 trading days [Bloomberg/S3 Partners] when the Corona virus led market crash happened in the US. Stock markets the world over witnessed similar hammering down of stocks by short sellers. Profiting from misery never had better days.
In a world where increasingly the lay consumer is rewarding purpose driven brands & corporates, should not the regulatory body of the world’s richest nation find the gumption to curb short selling and protect investor interest?
Is it time that the SEC serve as an example and revisit the uptick rule or have provisions in place to curb/ban short selling during a crisis? Individually, we tout the fact that we ought to learn from our mistakes as a great virtue. Why then can we not learn from singular catastrophes such as this, as a business community?
Will the SEC & Wall Street have the will to be more purpose driven in curbing both short selling and misleading hype that leads to unwarranted spurts? No predictions on this, just a wish.
Amazon Prime, now more prime, thanks to COVID.
Newer followers at the altar of online buying in lower penetration countries, because of the home bound life.
And armchair shopping of grocery and medical supplies get a boost, forever impacting shelf space and parking lots at Walmarts, Targets, strip malls and the Walgreens of tomorrow.
More of us will become die-hard online buyers, more often, in the future.
7/ Food Sufficiency
Individual consumers, industry associations and governments are going to demand and support more local food production as we emerge from this crisis.
The way ahead for vertical farms, green house cultivation and kitchen gardens is bound to be up. And sustainable practices in farming, plant-based food, non-GMO food and hormone free meat will get a fillip.
Never has so much been owed by so many to so few, outside of wartime.
Lives of those in the healthcare industry have been in physical & emotional overdrive, coupled with the threat to personal safety and health. It takes a special breed to be able to care for others’ lives at the risk of your own. These COVID heroes need to be celebrated in a fitting manner once we are through this period.
A lot to do with this industry and its people is bound to come up for review and change, considering the unprecedented emergency they faced and continue to.
Tele-medicine and virtual healthcare in everyday treatment & care is off from first base, and we ought to hear more about this segment of healthcare in the future.
9/ Our People
Perhaps the most significant change will be the people who make each business. We have a multitude of businesses that have let go their employees just because the business no longer was viable.
Getting back to normalcy is not going to be instantaneous but what we need is a spirit of togetherness- both from the business owner’s end and the employee’s end. Both have a lot to lose and everything to gain depending on how we view tomorrow.
I would vote for every business to get its team back where they belonged, because that’s the best way to get the mojo back into each business. And for each employee to leap back into the roles that they had without rancor at being let-go and give it their darndest. That’s the quickest way they, their loved ones and the businesses will get back on their feet….. and learn to dance again.
10/ The Quality of Life
Will we be more mindful? Will we be better people? Will our businesses be better corporates?
I hope we will be mindful of the gift of the world around us and the environment we have. With so many sightings of bluer skies and cleaner air, around the world, maybe the COVID scare was a much-needed clarion call for a more mindful approach to Mother Earth and her bounties. And if we are more mindful as a society, business in turn, must be more mindful and purpose driven. Hopefully we will get to see more ”profit with purpose” in every business.
Will diversity take a beating? Will nations get more in-bred? Or will our mindfulness stretch to include more accepting behavior in our workplace? I hope it does.
Will we be more balanced in our approach to Work-Life balance? Will companies be more appreciative of an employee’s “life outside of work”? Will this allow for more WFH options during a week, less hours a day and maybe more liberal vacation times?
The employer of the future, post this turbulent time, ought to have the vision that the family’s well-being and the business’ well-being are so symbiotic.
And that is the biggest learning for business and us as a race- that we are so connected to each other and need each other. We can so easily fall into self-care & navel-gazing and indulge in isolationist behavior or realize that the most important learning from this is that we are all in this together. My vote is that our human spirit will prevail, and we will rise, together, stronger.