Davos 2024: GenAI, cyber security, focus on climate, to be key topics of discussion

2024 holds immense promise but it is imperative for business leaders to assess whether substantial efforts have been dedicated to leveraging technologies and fostering business reinvention

Sanjeev Krishan
Updated: Jan 12, 2024 06:00:02 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

2023 will go down in history as a year that surprised us all and at least for India, it turned out to be a much better year than expected.

With global CEO optimism reaching a record low, as highlighted by our annual CEO survey released at the same time last year, coupled with rising interest rates, a banking failure in the US causing fears of recession, and geopolitical shocks contributing to unprecedented levels of uncertainty, the trajectory of 2023 remained uncertain and unpredictable. AI, in particular Gen AI, as a potential disruptor that could herald a transformative era for both businesses and employment, added a different dimension to this.

Looking back at the year, what stayed constant was the faith in India’s growth story, which is now palpable across all sectors of the economy. Despite signs of a global economic slowdown, the outlook for India to meet its growth targets remained largely optimistic. The G20 presidency revealed India’s mounting influence on the narrative of global policies and growing stature as a credible voice of the global south.

As the brand-new year unfolds, I see India emerge as a transformation hub presenting immense opportunities for global investors. The global capability centre (GCC) space in the country, for example, has made the leap from cost arbitrage to driving technological advancements and leveraging emerging digital capabilities. In banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), the country has been making rapid strides in innovation and financial inclusion trail through Unified Payments Interface (UPI), Aadhaar Stack, and central bank digital currency (CBDC). It is also home to a rapidly expanding insurance market. The automotive industry has been riding on strong demand fuelled by an expanding middle class, higher disposable incomes, better roads and growing aspirations. Domestic electronics manufacturing has seen a four-fold increase over the last decade while mobile phone production is expected to surpass the USD 50 billion mark in a couple of months from today. In pharma, India has already established its credentials, accounting for the largest pie of global vaccine production. As investor enthusiasm in sectors such as technology, e-commerce, healthcare, renewable energy and infrastructure remains high, I also anticipate robust growth in deal activities, including M&A transactions and growth funding. The India story only becomes bigger.

Also Read- Is Generative AI a disruptive paradigm-shifter? The questions to ask

But that begets the question – are we doing enough to retain that position of prominence? Are we making enough investments into our future?

While there is tremendous optimism all around, India business leaders must continue to keep an eye on investing for future by being cognizant of addressing potential threats primarily from cybersecurity, inflation and health risks. An eye on disruption is also crucial. 2024 holds immense promise as the sustained economic momentum in the country looks poised to deliver exceptional results. At this juncture, it is imperative for business leaders to assess whether substantial efforts have been dedicated to laying the groundwork for capitalising on India's growth narrative, fostering business reinvention, leveraging emerging technologies such as Gen AI, and fortifying resilience in the face of climate change.

As I gear up to engage with industry leaders and visionaries at the upcoming World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos next week, three prevailing topics that are likely to take centre stage in our discussions include:

Recalibrating to changing customer preferences

CEOs today understand the fast-changing needs of customers need to be seriously considered to continuously deliver enhanced value and ensure a harmonious and collaborative ecosystem. In this year and beyond, we expect companies to focus on exploring new channel models such as direct-to-consumer (D2C) which offers a wide product range, pricing and product reliability along with a good delivery experience. As e-commerce expands, businesses will also need to look at capitalising on the opportunity to serve geographies that are currently underserved by traditional channels. Another key driver will be the ability to recalibrate skills within the organisation to propel the fit-for-future transformation in anticipation of tomorrow’s demands.

Also Read- What should leaders make of the latest AI?

Exploring new avenues, embracing risk and building trust by design

Going into 2024, cyber as usual will not suffice. As regulations evolve and fall into place, especially in the Indian context, bold steps triggered by thinking out of the box will be necessary to build a trustworthy security management strategy. This would mean bringing in innovative, sophisticated risk modelling tools and speaking “cyber” in a language commonly understood by all stakeholder—senior management, employees, partners, customers, investors and regulators. On the other hand, GenAI will prove highly valuable in facilitating the accessibility of advanced technology for employees in non-technical roles. Of course, it will be important to account for risk factors such as data, bias and inputs.

Consistent focus on climate

We believe sustainability will be a powerful economic driver for India, creating jobs and opportunities for revenue generation. To stay ahead in the race, organisations will need to sharpen their focus on sustainability through measures such as bringing together the ecosystem, including project promoters, investors, climate start-ups and technology vendors via collaborative institutional frameworks. In addition, ensuring optimum utilisation of national schemes such as performance linked incentives and developing a comprehensive monitoring, reporting and verification framework for efficient and transparent transaction of carbon credits will help drive greater sustainability focus.

Above all this, earning trust will remain crucial to instil confidence that bold, fundamental change will set a solid foundation for growth.

Also Read- Cyber-security management landscape of the Indian automation industry: Overview, challenges, action points

Over the next few years, India business leaders will have the tremendous opportunity to navigate and capitalise on the evolving global market dynamics, foster innovation, strengthen sustainable practices, and play a pivotal role in shaping the country's economic growth and international influence.

I'll share more details on what I hear when I return. Watch this space.

The writer is chairperson, PwC in India.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

Check out our end of season subscription discounts with a Moneycontrol pro subscription absolutely free. Use code EOSO2021. Click here for details.

Post Your Comment
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated