HNY and we all have 2020 vision

I spent the night of 31 December 1999 working – and partying – showing international journalists that Y2K was not the disaster it was expected to be thanks to the hard work of Infosys (and others, of course). The hype and optimism of that day has not been repeated in 2009 or 2019. Back then, like Calvin (not Hobbes) we thought that we’d have floating cities, flying cars, moon colonies and personal robots real soon.

I was tempted to do a “20 for 2020” list as a requiem to the “Vision 2020” title that was the mainstay of so many presentations. But I resisted, and decided to focus instead on what I see as the top trends.

1. Speed. 
Latency is a big deal. A startup founder said that they reduced time taken for a process from 20 minutes to 2 minutes. Next goal is 20 seconds – that’s what customers want. Our attention span is 8” as per a Microsoft study from 2015, as against 12 seconds in 2000. Whether it is financial transactions or order fulfilment we want everything NOW!

2. Prices are falling
Real costs of basic needs – food, energy, transportation, clothing and communications – are on a downward trend. This is great as it improves quality of life for everyone. Incumbents need to figure out either how to be the price warriors in their category or offer sufficient value addition to justify their premium. In the US, apparel as a % of household spending has dropped to 3% from 6%.

3. Experiences
Where does all the money that would have been spent on essentials go? Experiences like travel and eating out have grown to 18% of household spends in the US, and technology to 3.4%. But everything can become an experience – business travel, Uber, clubs, airline lounges, co-working spaces, fitness centers, spas, Netflix – are all operating in industries where the costs are on a downward trend. They resist that trend by transforming themselves from basic need to experience.

4. Information transparency
The internet – and some regulatory changes – make it far more easy to learn about a topic than ever before. Business models built on information asymmetry cannot survive – if there is a cheaper or better option available somewhere in the world, consumers will find out about it. There are comparison sites for everything. The best defence against being compared? The fuzzy wuzzies. If a brand creates a feeling of belonging or pride then it won’t be compared on the same parameters. A value added experience is the other way to fuzz the comparison engines.

5. Being good 
In the past 20 years the desire to do good for the environment has significantly increased. But it is an area where consumers feel helpless and confused – yeah, flights are polluting, but I really want to see my parents. Is the water consumption of washing reusable cups better than biodegradable paper? Health is another area where the trade-offs are often confusing – I want to eat fruit, but what about the pesticide levels and carbon footprint of that grape?
These are areas where the “Next Best Solution” will be on the rise. Where the best solution is not acceptable but the next best is.

6. Longer lives
Life expectancy is increasing for a large number of people.  Meeting their needs offers immense potential, one that continues to be untapped. Most of today’s aging have no models to follow – our parents’ generation lived very differently with retiring to your ’native place’ and pursuing spirituality as the popular options. Paul Writer is pleased to associate with Unmukt Festival to encourage dialogue in this space. 

Personally I live my life in decades and need to figure out what the focus of the next 10 years will be. The 2000s were about professional growth and enrichment – Infosys, iGATE and Wipro. The 2010s marked the beginning of entrepreneurship and parenthood. It also saw me join the boards of three publicly listed companies – a whole new professional experience.

The 2020s should be around continuing education – learning a new language and doing an educational course – and consolidating knowledge through publishing are some of the things I have thought of. I also want to travel more.

I published my first book – No Money Marketing – in 2009 to encapsulate my learnings in the IT industry and am working on a new book with the same title for 2020 which is more broadbased and focuses on reducing friction to sales.

Social media makes it ever more possible to doubt your chosen path as being the right one. But I recently saw a thread started by Nima Srinivasan on how we define a successful person – and while financial independence was cited as important so were attributes like contentment, satisfaction and wellness.

I wish you all a decade of health, wealth and happiness.

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