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BW Businessworld

Not Just A Club Of Rich

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The Annual Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is often pilloried for being a club of the super rich who don’t care about the rest. The rich and powerful meet to network, renew alliances and initiate/close deals. In many ways though the key takeaways from Davos are new ideas, insights and inspirations that are shaping global developments. Predictions are always fraught but trends mapped in Davos tend to be spot on. Here are three key ideas that excited me in Davos 2015:

Deepening Connectedness
Many think that the Internet has taken over our lives and mass de-addiction from social media should be the priority of the healthcare industry. They don’t know nothing. Internet hasn’t even begun to take charge of our lives. “The Internet that we know will disappear,” Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google said at Davos. What he didn’t say was that even Google could disappear, or will have to convert to something new. So far, the Internet has been about consumers. Social media, smart devices, wearable tech are about the way people consume. The next wave of Internet will be about the gigantic manufacturing and services ecosystem that still runs on old processes. “During the past 15 years, the Internet revolution has redefined business- to-consumer (B2C) industries such as media, retail and financial services. In the next 10 years, the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution will dramatically alter manufacturing, energy, agriculture, transportation and other industrial sectors of the economy which together account for nearly two-thirds of the global gross domestic product. It will also fundamentally transform how people will work through new interactions between humans and machines,” says a WEF report.  Consumers will be impacted but producers will be transformed. For the IoT efficient networks will have to be shared while lines between industries will be blurred. The customer will be a brutal king and demand impossible efficiencies that only a deeper integration of humans and machines can make possible. Policy-makers and corporations will have to collaborate to ensure that skills are constantly upgraded. Investment in connectivity will required at a level not conceived of yet.

Millennium Of The Young
The only bunch of people who will embrace the IoT will be the young. The WEF ensured its relevance to the young when it launched the Global Shapers programme. These 20-somethings are now the most vibrant and exciting bunch of participants at Davos. I met several such shapers from Lithuania to Botswana to the Philippines. Most exhibit a healthy disregard for the establishment and perform multiple roles. They volunteer for projects while running their own company or initiative. They love the connectedness and can’t wait for the world to change. These shapers work on local projects with a global perspective. Unlike all other communities within the WEF, the shapers have set up more than 400 hubs across the world. Many CEOs are now learning to engage and work with the shapers.  

Emerging Anew
Two countries that were being written off bounced back in Davos this year. Despite the slowdown, China remains an economic dynamo, while the new leadership sparked a fresh interest in the India growth story. India has used Davos very well in the past years to create its reputation. Last year at Davos, no one cared much about India. Even companies from India were morose. This year, the buzz created by the Modi government could be seen in packed sessions on India. ‘Make In India’ could be seen on billboards and buses in Davos. What a difference one year makes!

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 23-02-2015)