21 reasons for hope in 2021

Businesses have had to face not one but various key challenges in the past year. This year, however, seems to be brimming over with opportunities as the latest trends seem to indicate. We asked business executives about what in their opinion are the 21 reasons that will make this year exciting and worthwhile. Here is what they shared.

   
21 reasons to hope from the year 2021

2020 might be behind us but it has been an incredibly difficult and challenging year for most of us. It has taught us all many lessons as well. Keeping all these lessons in mind, there are many things that India is looking forward to this year. Things are looking hopeful on all fronts, be it in terms of personal wealth, health or business. We asked 21 people from various sectors about 21 reasons that make them look forward to 2021 in a positive manner and here is what they said.

2021: The year of happenings

Nityanand Sharma, Co-Founder & CEO of Simpl says that for him the year 2021 is a year of happenings.

He says, “Our telecom sector, taking great strides in the field of technology will foray into 5G in 2021. India has launched the world’s largest vaccine drive to cover 1.3Bn plus citizens, which is also slated to become the fastest. India is on track to enter the coveted 50 plus strong start-ups unicorn club in 2021. The markets peaked to an all-time high to the 50,000 mark (BSE) with bullish sentiments expected to fuel a further rise in 2021. India would further transition towards e-mobility with a slew of EV launches in 2021. As a step towards strengthening our banking system, PSBs might witness additional capital infusion to the tune of Rs 25,000-50,000 crores. The new labour codes to be implemented in 2021 would usher in a wave of ground-breaking reforms for India’s 50 crore workforce India’s Production Linked Incentive scheme would boost domestic manufacturing and contribute to higher GDP growth. I feel, if hindsight is 2020, 2021 is the year of hope for India.”

Time to implement the lessons learnt

For better or for worse, the last year has changed us. And now, looking back, we can evaluate the lessons that it has taught us-about ourselves, health, family, work, resilience, community and most importantly, the ability to adapt.

Meghna Suryakumar, Co-Founder & CEO, Crediwatch, a data insights-as-a-service company says, “Nearly every small business is hopeful about 2021 after the previous calendar year hurled a pandemic at the economy and our lives. However, what gives me hope is not some vision of an economic revival, but the strength and learnings of having come through such a tough time. People and teams have found new ways of working with each other that will make us more productive, creative, efficient and hopefully more successful in time. The year gone by has taught some incredible lessons, some that we never imagined that we might encounter in our lifetimes. We now have the ability to endure a pandemic, keep our businesses and our lives afloat and succeed while doing so.”

Economic revival and a strong lending ecosystem

Everyone knows how difficult it has been for people to survive in the last year due to the economic turmoil. Various businesses were shut while many suffered major setbacks. Industries and sectors incurred heavy financial losses. However, as the pandemic eases up, businesses are back and hoping to do better.

Shachindra Nath, Executive Chairman and Managing Director, U GRO Capital says, “After a contraction in 2020, the Indian economy is all set to revive, with the GDP expected to grow by 11 per cent in 2021-22, as projected by the IMF. The Indian MSME sector which was one of the worst-hit sectors from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, will play a pivotal role in this recovery and support the government’s vision of an Atmanirbhar Bharat and its ambition to become a $5 Trillion economy by 2025. However, to support the growth of MSMEs, a lending ecosystem, backed by policy reforms, is essential for promoting credit disbursal, considering the credit demand will only pick up as compared to the last financial year. With the government’s different liquidity schemes, MSMEs’ performance should be significantly better than what transpired during the pandemic and in 2020 overall.”

Currently, MSMEs are a part of India’s informal economy. Timely, hassle-free access to credit from formal sources like banks, NBFCs, and digital lenders is essential not only for MSMEs’ revival but also for integrating them into the mainstream economy. Digitization is essential for the success of the MSME sector. For the same, MSMEs must adopt the digital way of life. Digital transformation can not only help improve their efficiency, but it can also help enhance customer experience. Most importantly, having a robust digital presence can help MSMEs gain access to cash-flow based credit which is going to be the next big thing to happen in the Indian BFSI sphere. Innovations like the Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN) protocol can democratize credit by creating a uniform lending platform and enabling lenders to disburse small-ticket loans. GeM Sahay can empower LSPs to extend low-cost credit to MSMEs.

The overall environment is buoyant and supports growth for those who are open to digital transformation.

Health is wealth

2020 has reinforced the reality that anything can happen, anytime. The pandemic has forced us to shift our perspectives on how we see health. We are now more proactive about our health-related concerns.

Megha More, Co-Founder & COO, Possible, says, nothing has brought as much hope as 2021 has. “My biggest hope from 2021 is that after the big health scare caused by the COVID-19 virus, people will stop taking their own life for granted. Maintaining healthy food habits and an active lifestyle go a long way in improving the body’s immunity. I hope in 2021, people will not just wait for the vaccine, but work on their body to make it strong in order to enable it to fight off any and all viruses. Our immune system is our first line of defence and it is in our hands. Eat well balanced meals, get some exercise, sleep well and breathe deep. As a company, I feel we are fortunate to be in a position to help people get fitter and healthier. I hope we are able to transform thousands of lives this year,” she says.

Promote the remote

As the crisis hit, we all moved indoors, confined to our homes we continued to work from there. Though it was a temporary fix, it’s now embraced all over and this trend is definitely here to stay.

Kriti Aggarwal, Co-Founder & CPO, StoreHippo, an e-commerce solution provider feels the same and hopes it continues to grow. She shares, “The pandemic made us stop and rethink about our lives and the world that we are living in. Despite the gloom, the pandemic taught us so many things, the most important being to realign with our core and to seek out of the box solutions. So, based on our learnings I look forward to a better, healthier and more successful future for myself and other businesses.”

Businesses changed during the pandemic along with a corresponding shift in consumer behaviour. It is expected that 2021 will bring about better growth for SMEs as well as enterprise businesses that are working on “promote the remote” experience and delivering goods and services direct-to-consumers (D2C). With the delivery of healthcare to education and daily needs going online, there are immense opportunities for everyone. Even the markets beyond tier 2-3 cities are opening up to online shopping which is a silver lining for those businesses that have suffered during the pandemic. 

“This remote work culture has given us a new perspective on work and taught us to learn and grow with the aid of smart technologies. We look forward to a balanced life which allows us to work hard along with maintaining good health through yoga, healthy eating and meditation,” adds Aggarwal.

Don’t neglect mental health

2020 showed us that people are vulnerable. The lockdowns pushed everyone to their limits and many people succumbed to anxiety and depression. Research shows that the impact of stress, anxiety and mental illness on productivity could amount to $16.3 trillion in economic losses by 2030. It has been shown that India has the highest suicide rate, the largest number of mental health patients in the world, and a treatment gap of over 70 per cent. 

Medical experts warn that amid this pandemic, a nationwide mental  health crisis is imminent, unleashing another silent pandemic unless addressed immediately. That being said, the year 2020 has also been noteworthy for the fact that it has brought more attention and awareness around the topic of mental health.

India Inc is now opening up to the fact that mental illness can be the cause of great loss to society and the economy and hence is actively engaging in discussions on mental health and matters related to it.

Sumit Mittal, Founder of VentAllOut hopes that this awareness continues to grow among the people. “I hope in 2021 people should understand how important mental health is to all of us. The need of the hour is to acknowledge that mental illness contributes to a significant socio-economic impact on the overall health of the country. Until there is sufficient investment to promote awareness, education, and infrastructure,  mental health issues will cause damage to the economy. It is time that we normalize these conversations and focus on mental well-being from an early age. We should also continue to interact and raise awareness around this issue in order to eradicate the stigma around it. The best way to do that is to talk about it openly,” he shares.

Be empathetic

The year 2020 has been a roller coaster ride for a few, a blip year for some and a completely horrendous one for others. But it has taught us to be more empathetic and whatever we have learnt from the past year, we hope will spur people to continue to apply it to their lives this year as well.

Nisha Parikh, VP- HR & Marketing, Telebu comments, “I have not set any crazy expectations for myself personally or professionally. I wish to be more open to serendipity and embrace things as they happen, continually working to improve on both ends. The goal is to focus on the process and not burden myself with expectations or outcomes. I want to continue pushing barriers and build ‘Made in India’ products that are loved by the world. I would like to embrace my spiritual side, be more empathetic (something 2020 has taught me), live in the moment, give back, be there for my colleagues, customers and family. To be honest, no one has clarity about whether things will go back to normal or when they will go back to normal. The best thing is to enjoy the time we have by spending it with our loved ones, cherish it and stop stressing about the future. Let’s work to build a better tomorrow for ourselves & our children without worrying about how things will pan out eventually.”

Inclination for natural products

Due to the pandemic, people have learnt to work from home and be productive instead of wasting time in traffic so hopefully this trend is here to stay, says Prerna Puri – Founder and CEO, Prerna’s Handcrafted Ice cream. But most of all she hopes that people will continue to consume more natural products rather than relying on o chemical laden foods in order to maintain their health.

“I hope this year is filled with new opportunities for Indian start-ups that are led by women and the government offers some fabulous benefits to them. Also, the plethora of more healthy food options without harmful chemicals and preservatives in the market will go a long way to educate the customer about the benefits of eating pure, natural and fresh ice creams made without any stabilisers, emulsifiers, preservatives, artificial flavours or colours. We are looking forward to a great expansion drive for Prerna’s Handcrafted Ice Cream and hoping to make our pure and all-natural ice creams reach as many people as possible in 2021 and wishing for people in the retail chains to be more open to new start-up brands, especially those made in India,” she says.

Living virtually continues

In the year 2020, the pandemic turned our lives upside down. However, 2021 is filled with hope, opportunities, recovery, and growth. The industrial sector has undergone a digital transformation and will increasingly be inclined towards the online space, feels Amol Roy, founder at Shutter Cast.

According to him, this year virtual communication, contactless operations, advanced technological solutions, network upgrades and the omnichannel approach will continue to grow and prosper. “Firms will increasingly invest in their digital, IT and software, networking, and security solutions, especially in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in order to ensure that they can quickly recover from the previous year’s losses and eventually earn revenue as well. Having said this, I am anticipating that this year at Shutter Cast, we will continue to grow. We plan to get on board more clients and are also targeting increased revenue generation. Overall, 2021 looks promising and we hope it will be a prosperous year for everyone,’’ says Roy.

Returning to offices but with new norms in place

A long time has passed since the outbreak of the coronavirus. We have now mastered the new norms and learnt to live with a virus that has infected millions. We are now mostly well-adjusted to the new normal and are also bringing our learnings into our offices as we return to them once more.

Zainab Cutlerywala, HR Manager and Admin Executive, Hats-Off Digital Private Limited says, “Staying away from our office buddies and working from home for the entirety of 2020 was a big task initially, but eventually we got used to the new normal and now going back to the office again is turning out to be another big task. The knowledge that the spread of the virus has not yet been halted leads us to worry more about our families, ourselves and even society as a whole.”

She further adds, “Keeping in mind the varied perspectives of our employees, being from the HR department, it’s our social responsibility to take the utmost care of all of them. I believe 2021 is the year when most of the offices are planning to reopen Hence, I hope the new normal becomes a a habit and all workplaces continue to have safety and precautionary measures in place such as sanitization, handwashing, use of face masks and disinfectants.”

Made in India apps

The year 2021 has ushered in renewed hope for this pandemic-stricken world. Technology, which emerged as a saviour in 2020 and provided us with various solutions during the pandemic, will continue to be the driving force for 2021. Abhinav Girdhar, Founder, Appy Pie, a mobile app developing platform hopes for the same.  

“Apps for instance will provide novel solutions for many across the globe. Therefore, it is expected that app developers will be kept very busy providing solutions for both tech as well as non-tech people. No code app development is also likely to witness a substantial rise in 2021 as many would scout for simple solutions to their tech-related problems. It is safe to say that smart apps will hold the key in 2021. The non-tech people will also become more comfortable in adopting technological solutions that will be both cost effective and efficient. Meanwhile India has banned hundreds of foreign apps. This has given a boost to Indian app makers and we are seeing loads of new applications in the app market.”

The year of ideas coming to life

The time is to create, innovate and manufacture.

Rahil Rupawala, CEO & Founder of Lightspeed Mobility hopes this will continue to be the case this year as well. According to him, the only way is up. “Amid all the upheavals of 2020, we’ve also seen a much-needed silver lining when it comes to innovation in design and manufacturing. The many lockdowns of 2020 have given designers and innovators an opportunity to really push their boundaries, explore new concepts, and come up with technological breakthroughs. It’s only a matter of time before the best and most workable ideas are manifested in their physical forms. That’s pretty much what 2021 is all about — really making our best ideas come to life as functional products, processes, and technologies.

“When technological breakthroughs happen, the biggest challenge usually is to make this new technology accessible to a fairly large cross-section of people across the world. In 2021, we can hope for better diffusion and adoption of new products and technologies, especially in the emerging economies where the pandemic is now on the backfoot,” he says.

2021: Year of start-ups

2020 has greatly empowered start-ups, especially those in the specific domain of technology. Last year, a record 1,600 start-ups with 12 unicorns surfaced in the Indian start-up ecosystem, the highest ever in a calendar year. Sensing the sentiments around innovations and new solutions, India Inc hopes this year is going to be the best-ever for the start-ups in India.

And the best days have surely commenced as evidenced by a non-life insurer, Digit, backed by Canadian Prem Watsa becoming the first unicorn of 2021. NASSCOM states that with the continued addition of new start-ups, booming unicorns and increased adoption of deep tech, the ecosystem evinces an even more promising future. Depending on headwinds, 2021 promises to be a positive year for Indian tech start-ups – marching steadily towards the $1 trillion digital economy goal. The apex body further expects the total number of unicorns to rise to 50+ as mentioned in its report. This calls for more investment and a further infusion of funds to this effect.

Ankit Sharma, Director, Airific Systems hopes for the same and shares, “The year 2020 was all about challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected individuals and organizations. It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. Although the pandemic has upended people’s lives, it has also created several new opportunities for start-ups. Indian start-ups have also come up with new and innovative solutions to alleviate the health crisis and to ensure that the nation stays ready to face more such crises in the future. Innovation is one of the most important tools behind a successful economy, and India is arming itself with new ideas, technology and innovations to continue to fight the outbreak of COVID-19.”

Year of hyper-automation

The year 2020 forced businesses across the globe to go digital and the early adapters saw the huge benefits of digitalisation. 2021 is certainly about taking that quantum leap in digital space for the adoption, transformation and normalisation of IT operations.

According to Kunal Bhatt, Practice Head, Automation and Managed Services at CMS IT Services Digital, technology and hyper automation will be a priority in 2021 for businesses.

“Enterprise conversational chatbots serve as a uniform platform for internal and external customers, support integrations with enterprise tools, collaboration suites and social media platforms. This is to ensure a seamless experience is delivered across the ecosystem. Meanwhile, hyper-automation with the AI platform will be useful for scaling the IT Ops. IT automation architects will play a crucial role in designing the IT strategy and automation adoption. Hyper-automation adoption will help in the reduction of the costs of IT operations and their adoption will help to reduce the complexity in modern hybrid IT environments.”

Besides that, enterprises will be rapidly adopting hybrid cloud infrastructure this year.

5G will change industries

2021 has another bright spot if we look at 5G.

The talks are on and we are hoping that the adoption of 5G will see some positive momentum in India. If 5G gets rolled out in India, it will be a game changer for many industries.

Amit Singh, CEO, Teliolabs – a telecom and IoT solutions provider expressing his thoughts, says, “With 5G, especially in manufacturing, the whole process can be mapped using IoT devices. This will not only make the production process efficient but will also make the whole process more controlled, hence saving time and money in the form of waste reduction and timely maintenance just to name a few. Similarly, the real time feed will help other hazardous professions like offshore mining to get data from places which cannot be accessed by humans. So, 2021 seems to be the year which will lay the foundation of innovation for the next decade.”

Personal vehicles on the road and sustainable goals

Roads were deserted during 2020. But the circumstances have changed now. With this, the automotive sector, which was hit hard, is getting good traction with new launches and more people buying personal vehicles.

Pankaj Tiwari, Chief Marketing Officer, Nexzu Mobility, an EV maker seeing the positive trend for electric vehicles, hopes 2021 is going to be very good for the business of electric vehicles.

“Within the automobile sector, the change led to a growing realization about the personal, safe and cost-effective mode of commuting and travel – the electric vehicles segment. Also, environment conservation and sustainability took centre-stage among the corridors of power and the boardrooms.

Among OEMs, there was a race to develop and add traction to roll out innovative EVs solutions with a more holistic ecosystem and infrastructure approach. This applied to not just products but to all categories including EV Cars, 2-wheelers & e-cycles, EV busses and autos/ 3-wheelers. Surprisingly, the growing consciousness towards and the adoption of EVs has been driven by semi-urban and rural markets with a high percentage being buyers of e-scooters.”

Self-reliant manufacturing

2020 was a transition period for India in a big way. Businesses went online, supply chains were digitally converged and manufacturing changed. The government pushed for self-reliance as the crisis plummeted the profits in the manufacturing sector. Businesses worked out new ways to be self-reliant depending on their own materials, skills and artisans and are continuing to do so this year as well.

At least Pooja Thakur, CEO, Etienne Fashion, a domestic footwear brand thinks so. The footwear industry has immense potential to become self-reliant in 2021. The manufacturers of India possess some natural advantages which can make this industry self-reliant. Being the second largest producer after China, Indian artisans are admired worldwide for the versatility of their craft. Along with this, the increase in the buying capacity of customers in the first quarter of the year has led to a steep rise in demand for children’s and home footwear.

“The demand for fashion footwear is also growing. This may bridge the demand and supply gap in this arena. The footwear industry contributes about two per cent to India’s overall GDP along with employing 2 million workers, which makes this sector one of the top employment generators in the country. Considering all these aspects, we expect a renewed focus from the government on the non-leather industry which is fragmented and nearly 75 percent of its production comes from the unorganized sector,” she comments.

BYOH: Buy your own house

Many trends were reshaped last year, and the real estate sector was no exception. People are using more technology solutions to choose their accommodation and they are interested in buying their own for various reasons. Hence, in 2021 this trend will grow further.

Speaking about it, Saurabh Garg, Co-Founder & CBO, NoBroker.com tells us that research shows 73 percent of tenants in Delhi-NCR are looking to buy a home in 2021. He says, “The role of the pandemic in shaping most of the dominant real estate trends we observed in 2020 cannot be overstated. Pandemic-induced safety concerns are driving buyers as well as tenants towards opting for society accommodation, where new-age apps are elevating the residential experience. We anticipate this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. Further, far from subduing the purchase sentiment among Indian buyers, the viral outbreak has only served to strengthen it. This is especially true for the millennial customers who, in a shift away from the ‘never settle’ lifestyle, are realizing the value of owning property as an important physical asset that ensures financial security.”

The love of coffee remains in the air

Most Indians are chai lovers, but the reality is that there is a group of coffee lovers out there which is on another level. Remember the Dalgona Coffee fad that was the craze in the early months of 2020. During lockdowns it was all over social media and people made millions of videos related to coffee, while trying to kill the boredom induced by the lockdowns. On the other hand, the Indian workforce escaped from its hectic work schedule during the WFM by having a hot cuppa coffee.

This fad was a great impetus for the FMCG coffee brands. Shriram Sanjeevi, Vice President, Levista Coffee hopes this trend is here to stay and the love for coffee never dies.

‘’We witnessed increased coffee consumption in our key markets of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and the brand grew its top-line over 50 percent during Apr to Dec’20, be it due to corona or despite it. But the key reason for increased coffee consumption ‘at home’ is due to continued WFH for many people while thousands have been displaced from their jobs ending up in them sitting at home as well. Although offices are getting fully functional now, we believe the impact that Levista has left behind on thousands of consumers will likely continue and therefore we are quite hopeful that the year 2021 is perhaps going to be the most exciting one for us in our four-year history. We are focusing on capturing 4-5 percent of the market share this CY and we also plan to enter the Northern and Western Markets by H2 2021,” he shares.

Staycation in 2021

Life has almost returned to normal but people are still sceptical about travelling. Although, travelling continues to be on their bucket lists, a new trend has emerged about consumers preferring to consciously and safely reconnect with the places and people that matter to them the most and opting for places that are closer to their homes.

This trend is popularly known as a staycation.

The staycation trend resonates with travellers, pointing to the perennial human need for new experiences, either for short stays or for stays that are a month or more, as per an Airbnb India report.

In 2021, most experts say that this trend of travelling to closer cities and working from anywhere will continue to propagate. “Importantly, this means that travel will benefit more and more local communities economically, rather than being concentrated on a few tourist hotspots. We truly look forward to a future of travel that is inclusive, sustainable and regenerative,” Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager – Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, says.

Record output from the agriculture sector

2020 was devastating for most sectors, but agriculture remained resilient. This year as well industry stakeholders are hoping that this sector will continue to grow tremendously with new reforms in place.
Rajesh Aggrawal, Managing Director, Insecticides India Ltd, tells us, “The sustained upward performance of the agricultural sector in the face of COVID-19 is an encouraging sign. Given that the rains in 2020 were optimal, we are expecting a record output this year. The sowing area of rabi crops has increased by 4 percent this year. Coupled with the announcements of the union budget to modernize APMCs, doubling the micro-irrigation fund, increasing the scope of ‘Operation Green Scheme’ from tomatoes, onions and potatoes, we can say that the future of agriculture is a priority in policymaking, which also indicates that we must look forward to a promising time ahead.”