Chart the course for 2021, but don't forget the lessons of 2020

2020 has been a great leveller and teacher—it’s shown us the bigger picture, and made us look beyond the trivial to find purpose and passion, besides a lot else.

Updated: Dec 28, 2020 06:50:36 PM UTC
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Will 2021 be the silver bullet the world needs? The whole world is certainly hoping so.

When 2020 began, no one imagined a black swan event of a magnitude of Covid-19 that would affect every single person in the world. The ensuing chaos posed a massive challenge for organisational leadership, testing their mettle to the core.

However, rather than look at the rearview mirror, here the intent is to focus on the positives–the lessons learnt, the rapid strides forwardand welcome 2021 with our heads held high, in that we survived and grew. 2020 played catalyst in many ways– acceleration of digitisation, offline loyalists adopted the virtual world, mom-and-pop stores got a shot in the arm, work/ studies/ medical consults/ entertainment were all online and within the safety of our homes.

Hope returned towards the later part of 2020, with business sentiment turning positive thanks to stay-at-home consumers turning to retail therapy fueled by need and/or passion. As we come to the close of an unforgettable year that we’d rather forget (barring the lessons learnt), below is my take on the outlook for 2021.

The New ‘You’ in a new world
Each one of us as individuals and organisations–have discovered or developed new facets of ourselves, thrown as we were without a safety net into an alien, never experienced before, free-fall environment. This changed us foreverwe developed new efficiencies, cost structures, learnt how to work together remotely, digitisation became the norm, lines were blurred between the physical and digital, making it a truly ‘phygital’ world. These are extremely valuable lessons that we must stick with and build upon as we enter 2021.

The current situation is like a suppressed spring that when released, tends to revert to its original form, so we must not lose the proficiencies and advantages we built.

Own the digital economy What will be the new normal? The digital economy’s share is only set to grow going forward. So, irrespective of who leads it we need to start owning the space. Organisations that successfully tap the advantages of a digital-first world will win big. Consumer-facing businesses especially need to leverage the efficiencies garnered this year and focus on using digitisation across their platforms along the consumers’ path-to-purchase journey.

We learnt how to be agile to respond strategically which led to cost advantages. When trade re-opens, it is important to remember this to stay competitive.

'Micro' attention for 'Macro' gains
The pandemic has reiterated that paying attention and managing at the micro-level pays macro dividends. That means your feet need to be firmly planted on the ground because as GDP swings back from -10 percent to 7 percent GDP, a change of over 15 percent, you want to make sure it is managed at the micro-level and you, and not your competition, are poised to take advantage of it. It's also very necessary to be conscious and cautious of where new investments are made, where capacities should be created, and then to be nimble-footed so that you are neither over competing nor under competing. At the end, everything needs to dovetail into the macrothe innovation agenda, product differentiation, imaginative strategiesto gain and maintain consumer trust and confidence.

Crafting the corporate culture
As offices get reimagined in 2021, and centralised offices give way to decentralised offices with multiple satellite offices, the functional environment and corporate culture will need to get reimagined too. Systematic support across the organisational structure from IT departments, training and development of employees to empower them to work cohesivelywill play a crucial role in the success of the company.

Training and development have never been more important, with the past year forcing us to pivot to new ways of thinking, working cohesively despite being physically distant, and making us rely on our colleagues’ support more than ever. Employee engagement via training, support sessions, regular check-ins have helped ensure their mental well-being and enhances skills, instilling in them the confidence to thrive.

Businesses must serve the communities that surround them, and by extension, society. In time, businesses will be remembered fondly for their service and commitment towards consumers, employees, and not for cashing the most bills.

To put it succinctly, 2020 has been a great leveller and teacherit’s shown us the bigger picture and made us look beyond the trivial, to find purpose and passion, besides a lot else.

The writer is the CEO of Usha International

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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