Business in 2021 – a look into the future
“2020 has changed the way we work” is an understatement. It has changed us all. Some of our new habits and ways of working will stay with us, some will evolve, and new habits will form. With all the GCC countries introducing new regulations to help businesses, and Expo 2020 finally rolling out at the end of the year, 2021 shows a lot of promise. Here are some of the trends that we think will be a part of businesses in 2021:
Sustainability is becoming more important for all companies, across all industries. As we slowly begin to recover from 2020, sustainable business practices, not just in the running of the business but those that worked in harmony with the UNSDG helped many SMEs survive and thrive and will continue to do. The ones that did thrive were agile and had developed strategies that foster company longevity. From a focus on gender equality to sustainable infrastructure that are in line with proper waste management to health and welfare, would be in step with the direction that the world is moving towards.
As more businesses realise the business benefits of sustainability, we think that the healthy interest from investors from the launch of the Ubuntu Love Challenge to the launch of the Conscious Collective, to the continued global investments in sustainable food by KBW Ventures will continue to gain pace.
We think while we are all happy to be back in office, especially in the UAE, a lot of us have realised that working from home can be quite efficient. While we may not adopt it full time, a hybrid version of working remotely a few days a week might be the norm.
One of the hardest hit sectors when the lockdowns began, the F&B industry needed to reinvent itself. The customer experience will always dominate how this sector survives but we will see more adoption of sustainable food sources, more vegan and vegetarian options as plant-based options and food security begin playing a stronger role for this sector.
In the mid-market segment, virtual kitchens that have been gaining momentum in 2020 (judging by some of the investments in this sector) will continue to grow, at least within the quick service restaurant sector as delivery apps continue to consolidate and aggregate the convenience of food to one’s door.
The Connected Payments report in November 2020 revealed that the region presents (and will continue to do so) a significant growth opportunity for the digital payments industry. Digital payment will become even more ubiquitous as regulations come into play to manage this sector.
We may see the emergence and growth of digital-only banks. SME banking still seems to be a challenge so perhaps some of the newer banking options using apps, digital payment options, blockchain and AI too may make the banking system more efficient, intuitive and workable for small businesses.
Fintech experts predict that blockchain will also come into its own especially in the investment sector making the authorisation and disbursement of transactions safer and more democratic.
Customers are the centre of any business and the way they connect with brands has changed. The transformation and adoption of a hybrid digital strategy will evolve as different sectors continue to embrace e-commerce. As customers get smarter, they demand more from brands whether it is online or offline whether that is the experience, personalised attention to detail, payment and processing as well as an efficient and considerate after sales support.
Technology has dominated more this year than any other as it has enabled businesses to survive with the rapid mobilisation of digital strategies. This means that the promise of 5G for a smart city will change the way we communicate, automate industry and processes, not to mention create efficient ways of doing business.
AI algorithms have begun taking over our routines and we see this becoming ever more ubiquitous in our processes and in how we manage and process data to create better experiences for our customers and business ecosystem.