Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


2020 will probably go down in history as the year of divergence. There was an unprecedented amount of disruption in every industry.

Global economic output plunged by 4.9%, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses had to recalibrate their strategies for the rest of the year before the end of the first quarter. This was a year of learning and change and businesses that adapted to the digital world fast, had their resources utilized much more efficiently to drive their adjusted business goals. Agility and scalability by way of accelerated digital adoption emerged as key business objectives for success in the new normal.

Today, let’s look at our detailed list of four key business trends for 2021.

Trend 1: Digital-first mindset will assume a central role in achieving business growth

If there has been one overarching theme that 2020 has led us to, it is definitely ‘Digital’. The shift to digital is now permanent. Individuals, enterprises and governments alike showed accelerated adoption of digital services. On the enterprise side, digital transformation charters have been doing the boardroom rounds for nearly a decade now, but come 2021, will be the most definitive year for investments and implementation of these plans.

Industry leaders have already begun digitising essential functions within their internal verticals as well as their horizontal process and partners along the value chain to better gather and analyse data, and transform it into actionable, real-time insightful information. It can enable enterprises to enhance their product portfolios with digital functionalities and introduce innovative, data-based services. It will also give them greater productivity and profitability than ever before.



Trend 2: AI will have an all-permeating presence at every core

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long been referred to as a ‘Future trend’. 2021 will mark the democratization of AI at scale. Major chip-makers like Intel, AMD and NVIDIA are already investing in semiconductor innovations that will power AI and deploy enhanced processing units in cloud ecosystems.

With computing power becoming more affordable and accessible, more and more companies will be driven by the appetite to incorporate intelligence into every product and service. AI will impact our lives from how we shop, to what we eat, how we hire and what we do for entertainment.

It will be powered by masses of data that use powerful computing capabilities. Together with Machine Learning (ML) in the cloud ecosystem, massive amounts of data collection, analysis and re-use will enable organisations to offer smarter and self-healing products and services to their consumers. We will see this scale even faster now that resources are becoming less expensive and more available to businesses around the globe.

Trend 3: Automation will be a cornerstone of every digital strategy

As organizations adopt digital-first initiatives, they will become platform-driven digital businesses. Large amounts of data and processes will need to be handled to help businesses increase productivity, profitability and stability.

In 2021, Automation will emerge as a way to address strategic business needs of strengthening operational efficiency, increasing accuracy of platforms, and improving user experience across ecosystems. It will help them automate routine, repetitive, predictable tasks and unlock tactical benefits.

Trend 4: The bottom of the pyramid will elevate

With frugal innovation driving business strategies across the globe, the base of the pyramid is coming to realise the impact of technology with low cost products and services. Inclusive growth can only be made possible by adopting digital as a key enabler of national economy. This would include accelerated deployments of digital infrastructure as the base for enabling access to meaningful digital services to the masses. Digital will unlock the potential of the disconnected as the digital divide is bridged, bringing the bottom of the pyramid online and into the mainstream of economy.

In India, Bharatnet and Ghar Tak Fibre are two such initiatives that aim to ensure high-speed digital connectivity to millions of remote Indian citizens. Product innovations as well as promotions through consumer education have helped elevate BOP buying power as well as shape their aspirations. Rural India broadband subscriptions have shown a 100+% growth since 2018, driven by accelerated penetration of low-cost smartphones and affordable internet. Between Paytm and GooglePay, they offer a wide range of financial services in addition to their online payment solutions across more than 3 lakh villages in India.

The next few years will witness increased deployment of new digital technologies like big data analytics, machine learning, blockchain, cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) which will be used to offer products beyond cities and in rural areas.

References: Statista, EY

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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