Amongst the many global economic ramifications of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the impact of which may last for decades to come, the most significant effect is on the price of oil, which has scaled beyond USD 100 per barrel ever since the war began. This will have a lasting influence on the economies of all oil-importing nations. As far as India is concerned, there is a disproportionately serious repercussion; every USD 10 upward price movement results in a USD 17-18bn of cash outflow.
For India, high oil prices are likely to widen the fiscal deficit and precipitate inflationary pressure, coupled with high commodity prices. Although the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), projects inflation @ 4.5% during the next fiscal year (April-March), the estimate on the street is much higher. The vulnerability will be fully exposed if the oil supply shortage continues. Moreover, persistent high inflation may also result in interest rate increases – something that the RBI could not have factored in when the policy came up for review in February of this year.
As India searches for the silver lining in the one-way war, it proposes to increase its share of wheat exports. Currently, India has a single-digit share of the USD 200bn global trade primarily dominated by the Black Sea countries. Potentially, India can seek to export anywhere between 15-20mn tonnes, which can bring in up to USD 8bn. Additionally, wheat export can also facilitate a sharp reduction in the Government’s (bloated) food stocks that exceed 20 MT (metric tonnes).
Furthermore, the trend of de-globalisation and localisation of supply chains is likely to accelerate because of the war. The services sector, which contributes nearly 50% to the GDP, will play out in India’s favour - on the back of the dramatic explosion of global demand for digital transformation. India’s technology sector continues to deliver well, with nearly USD 227bn in exports. It offers employment to 4.5mn people, which is set to double to 10mn in the next decade. India’s service exports recorded 18.4% growth during April-December 2021 as compared to the corresponding period in the preceding year and an 11% growth over the pre-pandemic levels in 2019-20. Computer services contributed an astounding 49% of total services exports.
The critical economic performance indicator, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections, rose 18% in February to USD 17bn, indicating that the third Covid wave (December-January 2022) impact remained mild and did not dent economic activity.
For once, the election results in the five states in the Indian heartland that mainly favoured the ruling party at the Centre, showed that the pursuit of reforms or its failure does not impact the election outcome. This learning is likely to give the Government strength to pursue investment-led growth, infrastructure creation, with a higher probability of supporting economic reforms. Also, as a result, some pending reforms, such as the privatisation of two state-run banks and a general insurance company, are likely to gain momentum.
In February, the Government initiated an internal revamp that will help to effectively meet its ‘Exports’ target of USD 2trn, by 2027. This initiative includes establishing a strengthened trade negotiation ecosystem, a directorate general of foreign trade, and a dedicated trade promotion body. The intent is to improve synergy between national objectives, support institutional mechanisms and enhance an active engagement with India’s trading partners to augment trade and investment opportunities. Days before the end of fiscal 2021-22, India’s annual merchandise exports crossed USD 400bn, heralding a new milestone in the country’s self-dependence journey.
The Government released a 25-year vision document that proposes replacing coal-based power generation capacity by stepping up the installed renewable energy generation base to 85% of the total requirement at USD 800bn. With this investment, coal’s contribution will likely drop to a tenth by 2047 from more than half now, backing up the Prime Minister’s carbon-reduction pledge. According to the proposal prepared by the renewable energy ministry, coal-fired capacity will initially rise to 267 GW by 2030 from the present 210 GW and subsequently, decline to 140 GW by the 100th year of India’s independence. The vision document implies that India will freeze its coal-based power generation capacity and phase out such plants as they age. India is unlikely to build any new coal-based energy capacity over the next ten years when the country’s energy mix will tilt significantly towards cleaner sources, with solar energy emerging as the top source. As per the proposed energy mix, the contributions are envisaged from grid-scale battery energy storage, hydroelectric capacity, solar energy generation, and wind energy. A significant addition in installed capacity is also expected from nuclear and pump storage stations.
With the hot summer months ahead, India and the world now watch with bated breath how and how soon the Russia-Ukraine war will end. An early breakthrough may give everyone a breather and allow countries to get back on course with their respective economic agendas, which were on standby during the long hiatus forced by the pandemic.
Between 31 January 2022 and 29 March 2022, around 179 M&A deals were announced of which 94 M&A deals were completed. The aggregate value of deals announced is USD 9,809.57mn; dominated by 130 domestic deals (USD 8,484.59mn) followed by 49 cross border deals (USD 1,324.98mn).
In terms of sectors (considering only closed deals), the Consumer Discretionary sector saw the maximum deal value worth USD 450mn followed by the Information Technology sector with deals worth USD 413.79mn and the Materials sector with deals worth USD 45.9mn.
Digital technologies have been disrupting existing businesses and operating models for some time. Be it digital cameras making the camera film rolls obsolete or digital newspapers challenging print news or audio cassettes being replaced by CDs and now online streaming, technology is driving a continuous change around us. Business leaders are constantly worried about the impact of various innovations on their organisations and are continuously evaluating investment propositions in different technologies.
Leaders are continually challenged with questions like ‘is this technology change relevant for the organisation’ or ‘what if I invest in a technology that doesn’t scale’ or ‘how do I make sure the technology change is sustainable for my organisation’ or ‘what is my return on investment for this technology initiative’ etc. While evaluating a technology, there are multiple factors to consider like business vision & the target customer segment, current digital maturity of the organisation, competition action, regulatory & compliance requirements, employee expectations, the timing of the decision, available investments, and the list goes on. There is no golden rule to follow to get the decisions right every time and there is a threat of analysis-paralysis if we keep on waiting for data to decide. Leaders follow different frameworks to arrive at the decision but most of them have a few common elements:
Knowing internal priorities: Ideally one would expect all internal priorities to be aligned to the organisation’s vision, but the reality is more nuanced. Priorities of different departments may be different basis their unique situations and must be factored in while building a digital transformation plan. A dipstick with different department heads and employees every 6 months is a good way of keeping track of evolving priorities grounds-up.
Benchmarking current capabilities: Knowing the current digital maturity of the organisation and benchmarking the same against the right peers and industries is critical for building a robust roadmap. While FAANG are the gold standard in digital capabilities, benchmarking against them can provide an excellent target state, but that may or may not apply to unique organisation situations. Building a digital roadmap factoring in current capabilities, target customer segment and right competition/other industries have a higher probability of success.
Balancing CORE changes and low hanging fruits: As digital technologies are continuously evolving; an ongoing effort is needed to keep the organisation’s core digital backbone up to date. The constant trade-off between investing in the core where ROI may not be immediately visible and transactional programs with good ROI need to be balanced to provide the organisation with quick wins while increasing the digital maturity in-parallel.
Learning continuously: Organisations need to continuously learn from new employees on how their previous organisations were using technologies, from innovative partners to understanding pathbreaking new technologies, cross-industry use cases, other developed market usage of technology and so on. Continuous learning enables the organisation to adapt to changes seamlessly and drastically increases the probability of success for all decisions.
The digital world is evolving very quickly and the risk of doing nothing is extreme. While fear of failure remains the largest reason for indecisiveness, leaders need to build a decision framework for themselves and get all the help possible to keep moving forward.
The last 24 months have been extraordinary, nothing like what we have seen before in our lifetimes. The pandemic accelerated the pace of change and these years have made us realise what can be achieved under duress. Have we innovated new technologies over the last 2 years? Probably not. Have we implemented solutions that we have been procrastinating for a while? A definite yes. Everything that was said or written over the last 20 years suddenly seems to be unboxed and reinvented. This has been the fastest adoption of technologies by CEOs and boards of companies, and the rise of CIOs and CTOs driving the digital journey.
Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, and Security (SMACS) technologies have been around for over a decade now, but the adoption took some time. Organisations waited for customer behaviour to evolve, operating models to change and technologies to mature before justifying the business case to invest in SMACS. Early adopters got a distinct advantage over laggards when the pandemic hit as they were ready with the right platforms and processes when everything went remote. One can debate that, technology also evolved drastically over the last decade and early adopters had to invest further in continuously upgrading the technologies, hence increasing the operating cost. While the risk of investing in technologies that may not mature, is real for early adopters, the early adoption helps in building a framework and organisation readiness for change which helps to navigate disruptions.
Now that, Customer 360, predictive analytics, automated user journeys etc. have been implemented or are on the roadmap, there are many new technologies with the potential to scale. A few of these technologies which are expected to bring in next level disruption are:
Blockchain: Anchored in the financial services industry, I see numerous use cases from payments where the technology is already being used for securities trading & settlement to commercial financing to centralised KYC and the list goes on. The ability of the technology to provide an immutable, decentralised, distributed, secure, consensus-based system can help solve several complex use cases. For example, Blockchain can be a wholesome solution for public-government, central-state governments, and international governmental interactions. Given the distributed ledger capabilities, each entity can maintain its ledger while integrating with others. Vaccination programs, public distribution systems, vehicle registrations and a lot more can be transformed by leveraging Blockchain capabilities and will help build a very strong eco-system for technology to evolve and mature for numerous other use cases.
IoT with 5G/6G: The usage of connected devices is increasing and with the commercialisation of 5G and the potential shown by 6G technologies, there will soon be a completely connected world. From monitoring human body functions in real-time to monitoring seismic activities to predicting earthquakes and wildfires to proactively managing traffic in our smart cities, the influence of these technologies will increase all around us. All products and services will evolve to factor in the personalisation capabilities provided by IoT.
Metaverse: With JP Morgan opening a lounge in Metaverse and expecting Metaverse to potentially infiltrate every sector, the potential opportunities are high. The use cases are evolving and increasing by the day around gaming, education, entertainment, commerce, tourism and so on. Allowing users to seamlessly switch between physical and digital worlds will be a leading differentiator in the near future.
The debate on when is the right time to invest in these technologies and what if these technologies fail to deliver the promised benefits is never-ending. Quoting Thomas Edison as he said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless” and Henry Ford, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”, we must continue to embrace new technologies and adapt to the changes coming our way to continue to sustain and build value for the society.
Watch Bernard Marr - An internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies as he outlines the 25 biggest technology trends that are expected to define the next ten years of business as well as the 4th Industrial Revolution.
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