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Eight Trends that Will Define the 2020s

Everyone is talking about the trends to watch out for in 2020 and every year someone or the other talks about it, so why is this any different? And why has Falak decided to do it now? Well for one, we have tried to stay specific to what we know well, uncovering business opportunities by understanding the impact of dynamic changes on consumers and for the timing of the article, it is because we view the year 2020 as a gear shift when some of these opportunities based on the said trends are becoming commercially viable. We have also tried to identify trends that will stay relevant through the decade and so we are talking about trends to look out for in the 2020’s and not just for the short term (we believe these are not just fads but trends that will take clear and definite shape in this decade).

As we brace for the new decade, we find ourselves more confused than ever! Everything is changing, and at a pace that we have never experienced before. It was just a little while back that computers in the workplace caused a revolution, then there was the internet, and emails, that left the previous generation of workers aghast. Now we are faced with changes that barely anyone of us can completely comprehend. In order to simplify things a bit, we have tried to look at certain trends we feel very strongly about and those that present some interesting business opportunities. We have tried to answer some pertinent questions about each of the eight trends uncovered, these are:

1. What is it?

2. Why is it important?

3. What does the data tell us?

4. What business opportunity does it present?

5. What will be the impact and the magnitude?

6. What are the expected challenges from it?

Here is a quick look at the 8 trends to watch out for in the 2020’s:

1. Automation will go beyond just simple machines: Robotic process automation (RPA) is going to change the way mundane tasks are done. The idea is to use software bots to automatically use application program interfaces but at a much greater speed than humans to bring in efficiency with lower processing times and error rates. While this has some serious positive implications such as work becoming more stimulating, it will become just as challenging. The good thing is that mind-numbing and repetitive tasks will no longer be part of the job requirements. Companies that are already using this to their advantage will be the industry leaders of the future for instance, Glass manufacturer AGC has reportedly used RPA to reduce work hours by 4,200 hours per year and aim to bring this to 10,000 hours per year by the end of 2020.

We think that being automation-ready gives any business a competitive edge as RPA bots move towards no-code/low-code models, making them easier to implement with more scalability and lower training costs. While, it will take some time for the tech to reach one and all, the adoption rate is growing at an exponential rate, and as the cost of implementation goes down this could be the future of industry.

2. Nature is going to find its way back in our lives: The fact that there are now synthetically produced biomaterials such as spider silk available for consumption goes to show that we are finally bringing nature back into our lives. The growing resentment among the youth for plastic, fossil fuels and their extracts, and all things polluting is at its peak. The youth are now demanding that we advance in enviro-friendly research (in fact most of them are leading the charge) and change how we have been consuming our planet. This has given a significant impetus to the bioeconomy. Bioeconomy creates economic and social value by producing, converting and using biological raw material. It is an essential factor to mitigate the impact of climate change and help achieve an economy’s sustainable development goals. The EU is leading the rest of the world in creating the infrastructure necessary for the acceleration of the bioeconomy.

We are very excited about the opportunities that the bioeconomy is presenting to the businesses and corporations as well as startup entrepreneurs today. It is important to note that while participating in the bioeconomy can positively impact the climate by achieving carbon neutrality by reducing emissions and fossil resources dependence thereby restoring ecosystems and enhancing biodiversity, it is also critically important to understand that it has the potential to disrupt multiple businesses and industries. This is because we are systemically changing our consumption patterns and the market for bioeconomy participants is growing at an exponential rate.

3. and 4. Our consumption patterns are changing to ensure we take care of our minds and bodies: There is tectonic shift in how we take care of ourselves, there is

significant efforts we put into making ourselves well through a holistic approach to our wellness, including the emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects. It is becoming more and more prevalent and people are changing age old habits to feel better and live better. There are two trends we feel that are becoming significant based on our changing habits, these are:

o (3.) The rise of plant-based eating

o (4.) A growing acceptability of self-care

The rise of plant-based eating: It has been a while since buzzwords such as vegan, plant-based eating and raw food diet have been around for a long time, it is now that there is a behavioral shift that is happening and at a large scale across the world. There is a push even in traditionally meat-eating cultures such as those in Japan, China and the Middle East.

Our CEO, Suhail Algosaibi, a flexitarian for over a decade and a half, says “generally speaking, people follow a plant-based diet for three reasons.  First, for the health benefits.  A plant-based diet can provide benefits like reduced risk of heart disease, some types of cancers, diabetes and obesity.  Second, for animal rights reasons, and third, for environmental causes.” U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have increased 11 percent from 2018 to 2019, hitting a plant-based market value to $4.5 billion.

The consumption of cow’s milk has dropped so significantly that US dairy farmers are struggling to survive. In fact, Dean Foods, the largest processor of milk in the US has filed for bankruptcy late last year.

We at Falak encourage our network of investors to seriously start considering investments in this space. There are many plant-based foods startups coming on the scene that will require Seed, Venture Capital and Private Equity funding (Since its IPO, the share price of Beyond Meat, a meat substitute manufacturer, has risen over 700% at its peak.) The plant-based trend represents an opportunity for the savvy investor.

A growing acceptability of self-care: It is the recognition that we need to take care of ourselves – and that it’s okay to do so. It’s a recognition that WE have the RIGHT to take care of yourself in a happy and guilt-free manner. The idea is that if we take good care of yourself, you’ll be able to better take care of others.

Thus, it boils down to taking a holistic approach to wellness, including the emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects. Forms of self-care can include exercise, good nutrition, meditation and mindfulness practices, getting enough sleep, an active social life with friends and family, and spoiling oneself with a massage, hot bath or other reward. This growing trend is opening up a large number of opportunities in a wide array of sectors, be it, hospitality, food and beverages, food processing, coaching, wellness, etc. At Falak we have already worked with some big investors to explore these areas and are constantly looking for opportunities that can help drive the change on the ground.

5. The boundaries of reality will be extended to catch up with our imagination:

The impact that the combination of augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR respectively) can have can be both transformative and disruptive. This is what we refer to as enhanced or extended reality (XR). In a world hungry for stimulus, the application of XR can find many a way to engage, enhance and inform in the most targeted way the intended recipients of the message. This becomes critical for both educating customers and training and developing employees. Currently XR is being adopted by the US military for scenario training and simulations of real time war like situations and Walmart is using VR with hopes to train more than 1 million associates in the areas of new technology, soft skills like empathy and customer service, and compliance by simulating real-life situations.

At Falak we believe that XR has huge potential going forward especially when combined with AI. With companies like Microsoft providing these devices for businesses, training can become much more effective for corporations through experiential and scenario-based learning. Doctors will also be able to use them to overlay digital images and data on their patients, so that they do not have to look away during surgery and to increase accuracy in detecting medical issues. On a more fun level, VR can also let you have a mini retreat to a travel destination before booking it, deliver enjoyable gaming experiences, or immerse you into a realistic movie.

6. and 7. The concept of 9 to 5 and permanent employment is going to get an overhaul: This combines two trends we feel will redefine the relationship employees have with their employers – the rise of the (6.) Gig-economy and the increasingly (7.) Compressed work weeks.

The gig-economy is not a new phenomenon, freelancers have been around for a long time. What has made it a buzzword of the 21st century is the fact that technology has significantly lowered barriers to entry, making gigs easily accessible. A recent survey commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union shows that the gig-workforce is growing three times faster than the overall United States workforce and by 2027, majority people will be working independently. This implies that there will be a paradigm shift in how the workforce will look in major economies around, triggering a need for restructuring roles across corporates, developing new laws and legislation and building technology to embrace this change.

The concept of compressed work week, though not new has transformed significantly and the following styles are most prevalent in the market, currently:

  • Hours don’t change but the number of days change: For example, with a 4/10 compressed schedule, employees might work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, with Friday off. Or, they could work a 9/80 schedule with nine-hour days for eight days straight, followed by one eight-hour day, which gives them every other Friday (or other weekday) off.

  • People work 4 days a week (reducing number of hours from 40 to 32/30)

  • People work 6 hours a day for 5 days (reducing number of hours from 40 to 32/30)

  • Flexible work policies (work from home, flexi-hours, etc.)

Both the gig economy and flexible work have led to increased productivity and better manpower planning while at the same time having a downward impact on staff costs for all corporations that have experimented with these.

We think that both these trends present an opportunity to a wide range of sectors to better manage their workforce and skill requirements. They have a direct impact on continuity of business and the talent pool that can be accessed is limitless. Given that the world is moving towards these forms of working it would be prudent for businesses to restructure and reorganize themselves to take advantage of these trends.

8. Robots will be a part of our bodies and environment: A misconception that surrounded nanotech 15 years ago when it was the buzzword, was that it was going to be its own industry specializing in things as crazy as injecting Nano-sized robots into our bloodstreams to kill cancer cells. But that’s not what nanotechnology is. Though a specific definition is not agreed upon, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) defines nanotechnology is the “manipulation of matter with at least one-dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers”. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter. While it may not be an industry in its own right, nanotechnology provides a powerful tool used in many different areas ranging from medicine to electronic engineering to food and food packaging. Nanotechnology’s importance thus comes from its wide range of benefits be it saving lives, providing the convenience of thinner, more portable gadgets, or helping the environment through thinner packaging. With interest and support for nanotech R&D coming from all corners including the US Government which has already committed USD 25 billion to the development effort, and private companies such as Pfizer and LG taking their application to the next level, nanotech will shape the world around us in the coming decade.

We believe that application of Nano-bots can go beyond what has so far been explored and it could be the future of alternate energy with more efficient and easier to mount solar panels, greater computing power than we have ever experienced and smarter gadgets capable of doing a lot more than they do now (if that is even possible!).

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