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22 For 2022: Of omicron and unicorns

The emergence of the Omicron variant makes it crystal clear that mutations of Covid-19 virus are here to stay for at least the next few years. How do we deal with it? The answer lies in one of the 22 essays the Forbes India team has put together in this special collector's edition for 2022

Brian Carvalho
Published: Jan 3, 2022 01:00:06 PM IST
Updated: Jan 3, 2022 01:11:25 PM IST

22 For 2022: Of omicron and unicorns

That memorable line from the poster of the sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws—about a killer shark that runs amok on a beach community—may well sum up 2021 and how it’s winding down. If 2020 was Jaws, 2021 would be Jaws 2. After all, it was in 2020 that the Covid-19 virus unleashed its first round of devastation on India. Then came the even more destructive second wave in 2021. And just when you thought the shark had been tamed comes another variant that’s said to be more transmissible than its predecessor, albeit, less deadly. As we enter 2022, few know how this one’s to end.

Jaws was followed by three sequels, each one worse than the other; and one hopes that the latest Covid variant proves as damp a squib as Jaws: The Revenge—the fourth and final in the tetralogy of killer shark movies before Hollywood reckoned that enough is enough.

The emergence of the Omicron variant makes it crystal clear that mutations of the Covid-19 virus are here to stay for at least the next few years. How do we deal with it?

The answer lies in one of the 22 essays Forbes India has put together in this special collector’s edition for 2022—a year that may have little ‘new’ in it as far as the pandemic goes. Dr GVS Murthy, director of the Indian Institute of Public Health-Hyderabad, writes in the piece headlined ‘Vaccination Plan Needs A Boost’ on page 72: “It is likely that towards the later part of 2022, Covid-19 may establish itself as an endemic disease in India (present continuously at low intensity), but mutations will keep occurring like with influenza…”

What does this call for, from a policy perspective? A systems approach to strengthen public health services. “A dedicated workforce skilled in public health is needed at all levels, starting from the primary health level to the policy level at the central government,” writes Dr Murthy.

It is a truism that the pandemic period has been laden with opportunity for the affluent and the enterprising (often but not always the former makes it easier to become the latter). Sure enough, 2021 was a year in which the startup ecosystem was awash with venture capital (VC) money, what with a unicorn (a venture worth at least $1 billion) being created almost every 10 days.

Will the party continue in 2022? As Ashish Dave, CEO of Mirae Asset Venture Investments India, puts it in ‘Looking Beyond Unicorns’ on page 52: “The pace is likely to continue. The intensity, though, may not be the same.”

Dave drives home the point that the flood of unicorns is not the end game for VCs. “Backers are looking beyond unicorns. (Only) companies that create efficient cash flow engines while ensuring top-quality governance will attract capital seamlessly.”

One class of Indian startups that will be on almost every VC’s radar for some time to come is the one that makes products for the world. Girish Mathrubootham, founder of Freshworks, which sells software products in more than 120 nations, is leading the charge of a new generation of entrepreneurs helping to create a new tech landscape dotted with Indian products. As Mathrubootham writes in ‘India’s Product Generation: Lessons For The World’ on page 69: “I see a new kind of startup emerging that is fundamentally Indian in personality and style.”

The message from the year gone by then is that Omicron-like variants and unicorn-like valuations are here to stay, but most eagerly watched—in 2022 and beyond—will be the strides India takes as a tech product nation.

Brian Carvalho
Editor, Forbes India 
Email: Brian.Carvalho@nw18.com
Twitter ID: @Brianc_Ed


(This story appears in the 14 January, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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