Sitting in the Vivekananda Hall at the Delhi School of Economics on the day of his birth anniversary while witnessing the discussions on Digital Revolution and the future ahead, I get reminded of the worldview Swami Vivekanand portrayed through his preaching and practices. The inscription in the hall reads - May I be born again and again, and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls – and above all, my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, is the special object of my worship.
The farsightedness of his thinking and the depth in his beliefs has brilliantly blended the universal conception that science and technology is trying to bring together by making the world look like a village and the flattening is proving to be a temptation for an entrepreneur and enterprise. Yes we are all beholding digital journey into the new world and as Nandan Nilekani had told Thomas Friedman sometime in the beginning of the 21st century – the playing field is being leveled, India is responding to that challenge with its demographic advantage and timely aspirations.
More than a decade has lapsed since Thomas Friedman argued that the world is getting flatter through the ten forces that flattened the world. All these forces have their own stories of experimentation and expansion in the last decade. Though the premise of fruition by the small and middle enterprises spread across emerging economies and the expanse of opportunities it was to provide was countered by Pankaj Ghemavat through his arguments on prominence of consolidations and back and forth movement between World 2.0 and 1.0, yet when it comes to reaching out to the peripheral demographics, it is quite evident that we are getting flatter. Joseph Stiglitz, who we heard last month at the same venue, i.e., the Vivekananda Hall, Delhi School of Economics, had also argued that world is not getting flat rather with more capital flows the inequalities are rising, especially in the developing economies. Though groupings and un-groupings might vouch for deglobalisation, but whether that would hold water for long term sustainability, shall be proved only by time that is uncertain and unpredictable.
Academic arguments of Pankaj win him over Friedman but if one looks back and gets deeper into the development paradigm that we have witnessed in India, one could believe that technological advances have made major interventions into broadening the markets and building speedy transition when it comes to supply chain at both ends. Technology is playing a key role in leveling the field and providing learning opportunities to the remotely deciphered population. It is also allowing the open mind to explore markets through the use of different platforms that are available across physical boundaries. It is the time for neo-liberals to explore, expand and experiment with an enterprising mind to develop, design and deliver in most frugal manner. The time is all for the experimenting mind, multichannel marketer, digital geek and a social media strategist to demonstrate such value proposition which can contribute to hit at meaningful engagement with customer at one end and the employee on the other end.
The companies selling technology solutions are becoming most valuable companies much faster than the ones that operated in traditional ecosystem. Digital marketing for them has come as a boon to capitalize on available opportunity and sell satisfaction at a competitive price. There are visible signs of proliferation of markets and mediums to design and deliver better experiences and solutions not just product and services. Economies of scale and speed are in full bloom through new age enterprises. The services that are perceived to be free are able to generate and collate data to engage with the customer on one end and to customize their product and delivery on the other end. Social networking, gaming, and entertainment is being redefined and integrated with associated products and services to assure seamless experiences which is generating data at the back end to articulate demand. Retailing, banking, insurance, customer service etc is being automated to reduce cost and response time. It is posing challenge to HR as they are facing the brunt of dealing with the employees on the exit side of the bell curve. Managing and retaining talent is proving to be much more difficult a task than acquiring the right person.
In India, the interplay between public policy (politicians) and wealth maximization (profit seekers) is leading towards assuring economic growth which is putting pressure on the businessmen to abide by norms prescribed by the existing regime which is open for experimentation and taking steps that is helping deal with crony capitalism. International agencies are showing positive signs of cooperation and sounding positive signals through their ranking statistics and optimistic reporting. Drucker said – Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility. Only time would prove whether this translates into improvement in the better human well-being or not.
It is more than a century that work-motion study and Fordism were conceptualized and practiced where human beings were considered as machine. Now we are moving towards a milieu that is going to be dominated by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. We are transcending to a time where data is a new oil and analytics is a new refinery. We are entering a phase where more than human beings, machines are going to be respected and rewarded. Are we heading towards completing that cycle? I wish otherwise.
Alexa took birth in San Francisco for tracking web traffic and doing analytics more than two decades back but the way it became a brand owned by Amazon indicates the culmination of audio, data, and analytics which might redefine the future of business. While Amazon shall celebrate a quarter of the century of its existence in coming two years, it shall perhaps surpass all its competitors which might have existed on this earth for more than a century. Like the companies, individuals and machines born in last twenty five years would become brands of the future.
Adam Smith advocated entrepreneurship for wealth maximization as a proponent of capitalist thinking; Schumpeter thought otherwise of entrepreneurship and believed that capitalism shall decay with the entrepreneurial mindset and practices. The call for conscious capitalism might be a step towards balancing business and well-being. Entrepreneurs’ role in taking the lead towards making the world flat and distributing the benefit to the masses shall certainly pave our path towards the Vedantic truth of sameness as propounded by Swami Vivekananda and as inscribed in this hall. What would be a better tribute to this great young leader on his birthday than committing to the cause of greater happiness for all beings?