Follow On

What would I wish for in the New Year? For myself, I wish opportunities to mentor, enable change and work with teams to play our role in building a 5F (Fast, Focused, Flexible, Friendly and Fun) world; for our country, the ability to truly leave divisions behind and move towards high growth and a high employment future…

There is an old Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times” and for many of us who choose adventure over caution in 2021, this has truly been an interesting year. Starting with COVID still devastating many parts of the country and the world, we started emerging from the shelter of our homes and Zoom screens, some early like our family and colleagues and some not at all like my brethren in the IT industry. We stayed out and in (compulsorily in when the second wave hit) till most of us finally started working fully from office, started frequenting our evening haunts again and almost got the full momentum back in life. Hope Omicron doesn’t spoil the party again of course.

While this was COVID induced, I personally made the most of this new work from office and home balance and found the time to write two books, one on Digital Success published by Bloomsbury early in the year and our landmark collaborative book of the Pune International Centre on China published by Rupa. All our companies grew successfully and were profitable, our social enterprises did their bit for COVID relief and substantially increased their impact across the country. And after starting domestic travel mid-year, the pull of family in New York made us embark on a lovely fortnight trip to Mexico and then four weeks in the US. All in all, a productive and positively interesting year.

While my personal journey through the last twelve months may have been very enlightening and entertaining, when the history of 2021 is written, it will certainly have black and white and many shades of grey. The blacks are many. Globally, the US and Europe dipped in and out of panic while Asian destinations like Singapore and Dubai made travel difficult with rigorous quarantine rules. India was truly caught napping by the Delta wave, with shortages of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders everywhere and bodies floating down the Ganges becoming symbolic of many tragedies that were played out, some on television screens and some quietly across our nation. But in a somewhat rearguard action, the Government’s vaccine program went into full throttle by August and while we may not quite keep our promise of having every eligible Indian fully vaccinated by year end, the large numbers of jabs given for a nation of our size is truly creditable.

India saw its share of strife too with the farmers’ agitation lasting longer than many would have expected and the stand-off putting paid to what seemed to be very intelligently drafted bills that could put agriculture on the right track if not hijacked by vested interests. At the time of writing this piece, it is good news that the farmers have suspended their agitation and are making their way home from the Singha border. With demand coming back in rural and urban India, one can only hope that both rural and urban India will see renewed success by March 2022. As indeed we must, because after falling so much behind China in economic progress, we owe it to our countrymen to record eight percent plus growth numbers for the next twenty years and aspire to be a 50 trillion-dollar economy by the time India celebrates 100 years of independence in 2047.

There are other lows and highs. Children being away from school through the year cannot be good for morale or learning. The high decibels of debates, accusations and counter-accusations on television channels and social media have probably deepened the fissures in the country on community and political fronts. On the positive side, the progress of digital transformation – in industry and academia was hastened by the forced need for social and physical distancing. One can hope that truly “phygital” models will emerge in the new digital India that will enable every Indian to benefit from digital platforms (not just for payments which UPI has made possible, but in multiple critical areas – Education, Skills, Employment, Agriculture and SMEs in industry). We have a real opportunity to build a new India in the next ten years and must seek pathways to continuing success.

What would I wish for in the New Year? For myself, I wish opportunities to mentor, enable change and work with teams to play our role in building a 5F (Fast, Focused, Flexible, Friendly and Fun) world. I also wish progress on the four parallel roles of investing in entrepreneurs, enabling digital futures, lighting up new paths for children and youth in our city slums and writing and sharing more for larger audiences.

For our country, the ability to truly leave divisions behind and march forward to a tryst with a high growth high employment future that is the right of all our countrymen. For the world, a hopeful return to the flat world articulated by Tom Friedman where trade barriers can be dissolved, free movement of people to areas of opportunity can be facilitated and nations work with their citizens and other nations to bring a new era of prosperity, peace, environment protection and much needed happiness and sustainability in the world. So go away Omicron and Delta and every other lurker from the Greek alphabet; we have a new world to build!