The new calendar year of 2021 has started on a positive note for many people and for many countries. Sporting activities have resumed, schools have resumed in many cities in various countries, and more passengers are flying the airlines who have witnessed healthy growth in passenger numbers. The holiday season of Christmas and New Year saw millions of tourists visiting their destination of choice to the extent feasible and viable. But the scenario is a mixed one globally as not all countries can be said to have returned on the path of reclamation of greener pastures.
The biggest positive is that the human resilience of fighting against all odds and thwarting more harm gifted the world with Vaccines that are supposed to make people immune against Covid infections. It has been path-breaking and showed great camaraderie between the scientists of several countries exchanging scientific and research data, information, and knowledge to unite against a common enemy. What usually used to take about 2-3 years to develop a Vaccine has taken less than a year to commercially produce vaccines that work.
The whole world is desperately seeking to return to the good old days when commuting, socializing, mingling up, holidaying, and celebrating a wedding or an anniversary used to be real and free of any interlocks. As the end of 2020 approached and vaccination started off in some European countries, North America and UAE, there was renewed hope in everybody’s thoughts that 2021 will take off in an encouraging way forward to recapture the lost economic and business activities that got disrupted severely resulting in millions of lost jobs all over the world.
But this was not going to be without some heartaches and hiccups. Many countries in Europe and even in Africa and Asia have been fighting the 2nd wave of Covid infection since early December 2020. Although each of the affected countries has put safety measures and precautions in place to curb the rising infection, there is a common consensus that business should not be stopped as the economic value chain will again get disturbed, the morale of people already suffering with huge financial distress will be impacted beyond repair, and the positive effect of government’s financial stimulus will be lost even before it would start showing its catalytic change.
Retail markets are facing huge challenges to attract customers inside their stores while online and e-commerce is growing at a rapid pace. Within retail, the demand for garments has remained very weak, with work from home, less socializing, and marriages with limited guests becoming the new normal at least for another 6 months.
Aviation sector which is one of the most difficult businesses to manage is facing unprecedented challenges. There are fewer flyers and hardly any international long haul flights, so the possibilities of earning even operating margin remain bleak. An area that has seen growth is of private charter airlines with wealthy businessmen and families preferring them as regular airline flying schedule are yet to be permitted.
Demand for homestays and vacation rentals have seen some growth in the last quarter of 2020 and it’s supposed to remain steady in 2021 as well, as people prefer to work remotely, away from congested and bustling metropolitan cities.
Tourism and hospitality continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic as airlines are still not permitted to fly on most international routes thus regular flight schedule remain disrupted, and this has resulted in millions of lost jobs in travel sector all across the world. It shows what a big contribution travel and tourism industry has to offer to a country’s GDP. It also shows that humans are by nature drawn towards nature and are relationship-oriented. The mad rush of domestic tourists during the Christmas and New year vacations to the several hot spots in each country is a testimony to the fact that there is a growing latent demand to travel to their favorite destinations within and outside the country.
For the governments across the world, the challenges are multifold. On the one hand they have to generate employments and on the other hand they have to induce consumer demand and spending, to ensure that the financial stimulus has the desired impact to revive the economy. It is not so easy given the Covid situation which has so far been so unpredictable.
What is in it for the innovators and marketers? I have asked this question to myself a hundred times over the last couple of months, and have also tried to analyze the emerging normal what it is going to be like for the majority of the billions of working class people and entrepreneurs.
One thing is for sure that many jobs in manufacturing and service sector are bound to get restructured, to cut costs and to reduce manpower, without compromising on productivity and quality.
Many young professionals who lost jobs might not get a desirable job immediately and they would rather take up freelance work or part-time assignments. As the employer faces low demand for their products and services, they would not mind hiring freelancers or part-timers.
Use of robotics in manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, and service delivery is going to rise. IoT enabled devices and equipment, not just in our homes, but also in Industries, are going to see significant traction. With 5G telecom technology, we are going to witness some major disruptions in the way we consume services and both IoT and Robotics are going to be immensely supported by 5G in almost every activities we pursue or render.
Skill development is another area every youngster would like to adopt in their respective area of work. Demand for skilled workers is going to rise. Actually, multi-skilling will be the need of the hour as many youngsters would be required to carry out not one but two or three jobs to earn the kind of money they aspire to live the life of their choice.
These would further grow the education sector as people will queue up to learn C, Python, Magenta, WordPress, and so on to undertake short-term and project-specific freelance or part-time work. Even high quality, high paying jobs that require knowledge of working with Amazon EWS and Data Analytics are on a rise as competition intensifies in both B2C and B2B sectors. Demand for Digital Marketers, SEO specialist, and Video editors will grow faster than before but the focus shall be on quality and commitment on delivery.
Road, railway, and metro rail projects will grow faster as large populated cities decongest and give way to new townships and growth of smaller towns. This will generate demand for core sector industries such as Cement, Metal, and Power.
Renewable energy is another area that is going to regain lost momentum. Complementing renewable energy is the rapidly rising demand for Electric vehicles which most people consider as the future of automobile. We already see countries like Norway taking a pledge that all cars sold by end of 2025 should be adhering to zero-emission, i.e. with either Electric or Hydrogen.
Electric vehicle and Lithium battery are going to be big businesses as countries reduce their dependence on polluting fuel driven automobiles.
Last but not least, healthcare industry is going to see huge technology play and massive investments by every government. From tele-medicine to e-medicine to video consultation to remote surgeries, we are going to see a major uplift in this segment.
It’s also a time to unlearn and relearn for many of the professionals in 45 – 60 age groups as they seek to adjust to the new realities of doing work and business. It’s a time to introspect and reassess our skills and competences vis-a-vis our career goals. Some may drop out of the rat race in their corporate career and some may enter with renewed vigor.
But people having learnt the lesson during Covid19 crisis, they will see to it that they have at least two sources of steady income to tide over any uncertainties. This also goes in tune with the fact that people will seek to create a healthy balance between work and leisure.