November came and went like any other year in 2016 too. But it left in its wake two democracies, the largest and the oldest, reeling in shock and aftershocks. Grand pronouncements of making the country “great again” thundered in one, while promises of purging the nation of ill-begotten wealth and springing to a cashless economy rang out in the other. In the battle of blue and red in one nation, and ‘black’ (money) to ‘white’ in another, the wheels of fortune came to wobble in both. While one country came to rub eyes in disbelief as election results came to be declared, the other cash-strapped nation saw mixed reactions of fury and euphoria over a ‘historic’ move supposedly intended to weed out corruption, transitioning to a cashless economy. What emerged as the unifying thread in this narrative of notes in one country and votes in the other was a crisis of confidence.
In India, three months down the line, we are still continuing to debate the merits and fallouts of demonetization, whether India’s economic growth has been stunted by 0.5% or by 2%, how 1% of Indians controlling 58% of the nation’s wealth plays itself out in the socio-economic fabric of a developing country, if Victor Hugo’s famous observation that nothing can stop an idea whose time had come might describe India’s digitalization drive, or whether it was ‘audacity of hope’ at best, to borrow the name of a book by former US President, Barack Obama.
Less than a month into the new administration, the world’s most powerful country is also in tenterhooks over what’s coming next in a bid to trump the old order. The current government’s resolve to deliver on its bold campaign promises is foregrounding the initiation of a protectionist era that might witness more walls and fences coming up, literally and figuratively, undoing the very underpinnings of American ethos and practices. The executive order freezing federal hiring, banning travellers and refugees of certain countries from entering the country, renegotiating the NAFTA and Trans-Pacific Partnership among others is sounding the knell of international collaborative alliances, fanning fears of religious and ethnic persecution, political polarization, and xenophobic tendencies. The superpower’s long-standing policies that attracted talent from across the world and fuelled meritocratic corporate America to drive its innovation engine forward is suddenly found tottering.
It goes without saying, India’s intellectual heft is the key determinant of India’s (and the Indian diasporas’) success in the US and beyond. With the US market accounting for 60% of India’s IT exports, and with the H1B visa slated for revision, the Indian IT biggies are compelled to recalibrate their moves. And this is despite the Silicon Valley giants uniting against the juggernaut.
Not in recent history has the world witnessed such self-feeding disruptive influences. We could compare this to today’s VUCA business environment (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) that the industry leaders talk of. Traditional methods and mindsets of doing business change in an age of churn, characterized by disorder, disruption and discontinuity. The moods and modes of the stakeholders change along with those of the powers that be. Innovation, disruptive innovation too, could succeed in surviving such testy unpredictable times, as prices and profitability hang disproportionately on factors beyond control. While academicians continue to fret over the indiscriminate use and application of the term ‘disruption’, the world’s smartest organizations do recognize that it is inevitable as the sands of time shift. They acknowledge that their business strategies must prepare to anticipate and manage disruption – their businesses must scale up not because of it but in spite of it. Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, had put things in perspective when he said, ‘If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will’!
Neena A Ghosh Roy
Learning & Development
Aidias Consulting Group