With bigger role of tech, future of work could be a game changer: Amit Adarkar

Shrugging off the disruptions of the year gone by, businesses and agencies are looking for a strong revival in 2021. Over the next few weeks, Adgully – as part of our annual TRENDING NOW endeavour – will be presenting the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of 2020.

Amit Adarkar, CEO, Ipsos India, looks back at the pre-pandemic era and how the global crisis brought about changes – some permanent – in our priorities, the way we worked, became AtmaNirbhar, and took to digital in a major way.

Before the pandemic

Even before the pandemic, our Global Trends Survey had identified few emerging macro forces that would shape the third decade of this millennium. The role of technology in connecting a large and diverse country such as ours was always acknowledged. Enablers such as increasing smart phone penetration, UPI and one of the lowest cost of data access were propelling India down the digital highway. Our past research also indicated growing concern about the state of our fragile planet. Plastic ban and growing eco-activism are signs of a society that is becoming increasingly aware of larger issues facing us. And then, the pandemic hit us!


Observations from 2020

Early feedback based on the initial stages of lockdown and later validation during the peak of the pandemic led us to our CHANGE framework to capture the immediate impact.

Changing priorities: Owing to WFH & health scare, people started rebalancing their priorities and life choices. For some, “less is more” became the mantra. While for others, “YOLO (You Only Live Once)” became the guiding principle. Food experimentation, wellness, holistic living went beyond just being buzz words.

Home, the new nerve center: This led to changing family equations and role play. For some families, this led to equalisation of family chores, whereas for others it led to further polarisation. Home assumed the role of a command center, the center of people’s universe.

Aatma Nirbhar: In absence of external support, AatmaNirbhar became the way of life.

Go digital: Internet connectivity and speed joined roti, kapda aur makaan at the base of Maslow’s pyramid.

Emerging purchase channels: Home kitchens, organic produce, farmer’s markets, and a big spur to home based entrepreneurship became supplements and at times, competitors to eCommerce.

As the pandemic threat recedes and a sense of normalcy returns, there is bound to be some residual impact. Some habits will revert to pre-pandemic levels, while others will yield to new ones.

What do these mean for 2021 & beyond?

The pandemic is irrevocably associated with obvious signs – people wearing masks, sanitizer usage, social distancing, temperature checks. These are merely visible and temporary manifestations of the pandemic in 2020. They will certainly exist for some time (at least till vaccination covers a substantial population), but I am fascinated by the long-term impact of the pandemic which will endure for many years. The pandemic has certainly stepped up the role of digitisation and people’s health consciousness. We could expect a flood of innovations around healthcare and wellness to ride on people’s concerns. Experiential products and services will see a resurgence to cater to a population that has been starved of it for almost a year. Once the economy gets back on the growth path, discretionary spending and premiumisation could get a boost.

I also feel that we are at a tipping point. Governmental policy and corporate action could shape (or not) some emerging trends. Post the pandemic, a lot of people and companies are okay with employees operating remotely. If government policy encourages this through incentives, this could lead to a reverse migration to small cities that could de-congest bigger cities and improve quality of life. With bigger role of technology (especially AI) post pandemic, future of work could be a game changer.

Exciting times are clearly ahead of us!


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