‘Non Obvious Mega Trends’ (Book Review): The times they are a-changin’

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March 28, 2021 2:00 AM

The world is dynamic, and businesses have to keep pace, especially with technology

A file photo of a worker assembling commercial data servers for cloud computing at a Hewlett-Packard manufacturing facility in Houston, US (Reuters)A file photo of a worker assembling commercial data servers for cloud computing at a Hewlett-Packard manufacturing facility in Houston, US (Reuters)

The thought that we should be forward-looking is more than a philosophical advice for an individual and holds for companies too. We have seen how several companies were not able to predict the future of their businesses and hence had multitude problems when change came. Rohit Bhargava, the author of Non-Obvious Trends, talks on the same lines in this book on how enterprise should be able to predict these changes, if not be the agent of transformation, so that one remains in business.

This is not easy, as one needs to understand what the final customer wants and how she adapts to these new products or services. Also, technology, which is simultaneously a blessing and challenge, has to be handled with delicacy. One would never have thought that it is possible to have a holiday without going to a hotel and this is where the homestay concept caught on. We all know that e-commerce has caught on, but this is not just a deal between the individual and an e-commerce platform, as the final product is being dispatched through the supplier who has to create structures to maintain business.

Bhargava, who has been the author of the signature Non-Obvious Trend Report for over 10 years, talks of 10 mega trends that will transform the way we work and live. There are also caveats everywhere that point to what we should watch out for. For example, we all are more conscious of the environment and what appeared to be a fad today is a real fear as we see what ecological damage can do to our lives. The recent tragedy in Chamoli in Uttarakhand just reinforces this thought process as people are more cognisant of how we produce and deliver goods and services. Therefore, sustainability has caught on, as there is a palpable fear that those companies or products which pollute the environment will not just affect future generations but also us in our lifespan.

Corporates are hence more cognisant of how they do business as their customers are more discerning.

Another mega trend that we can associate with is the ‘plethora of data’ that is now available for doing not just analysis, but also has the potential to influence us. The recent controversy on how social media was tracked to find our preferences, which were then fed by political parties, is not just American but is present everywhere. Hence the question is where does your privacy end and how do we control the misuse of such data?

Interestingly, the author points out that gone are the days when we left feedback on hotels or restaurants or even an Uber ride. Just like how we leave our view behind, the same is done by the supplier of the good to the extent that misbehaviour with a taxi operator multiple times can have us blocked from using the services forever. We have seen this happening already for something like air travel where airlines bar people who misbehave from travelling. The same can happen with other services as technology transcends all frontiers. Hence while technology has eased our lives, we need to know we are being tracked every moment and such information has potential of being misused.

In fact, an interesting point raised by the author is that since our attention span is coming down thanks to this new-age technology where we look for immediate gratification, media has been exploiting the same by filling our vision with so-called breaking news which can be meaningless but works to make it addictive so that we view the channel, thus garnering advertising revenue for the channel. This is something we all can identify with given the recent developments in the media space in India.

Another mega trend that is emerging is the concept of ungendering, which is moving away from stereotypes. This is actually necessary as several products that are designed are for men and women have to adjust and the most glaring example is cars, where the height and leg space have not really kept women in mind as the target is men. It holds for other products and services too and this is changing quite fast. This starts from the children’s toys range where products are meant specifically for boys or girls. Here, too, mindsets are changing because often genders do what they were traditionally told to do.

At the individual level, too, there has been growth in individualism where we all work towards projecting an identity which gets buttressed on social media where we get judged. This influences the way people see and judge us. Therefore, even this micro trend is important when companies do their research that goes into future planning.

Bhargava also tells us about the attributes required for spotting such trends. We need to have a particular type of mindset that can be developed if we do not have these qualities that go into making this framework. As a reader, you can pose these questions to oneself. Are you observant? Are you curious? Can you be fickle in the sense of being able to move on? Are you thoughtful? Can you craft beautiful ideas? We need to cultivate these traits or rather trends in our way of thinking before we can look outside and be successful in picking up what is required to build a successful business idea.

Madan Sabnavis is chief economist, CARE Ratings

Non Obvious Mega Trends
Rohit Bhargava
Pp 258, Rs 599

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