InterviewsOutlook

Outlook 2022: “The Post-Pandemic World is Still Evolving”

Niranjan Gidwani, the Consultant Director, Member of UAE Superbrands Council, and a Charter Member of TIE Dubai, speaks about what worked for 2021, what didn’t, and the key opportunities and challenges expected for 2022

How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
2021 has been a robust year for the companies that I am assisting and mentoring. As the Government cautiously eased restrictions, we saw a big upswing in both offline and online sales. In our consumer electronics and appliances industry, online sales now comprise about 24 percent of total in-country sales. In categories like wearable devices and small appliances, this percentage is in excess of 30 percent.

This has continued well, and sales success has been across sectors. This is also evident in the fact that October registered the highest PMI of 54.5, the best in over two years, indicating that the UAE is back to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity.

What sort of opportunities will 2022 bring along?
The post-pandemic world is still evolving, and we still have to see many things shape up fully. Work from home, which was a necessity in the pandemic, has now given rise to more of remote and distant working options. The pandemic also allowed many people, who lost their jobs, to explore and find entrepreneurial opportunities. Do expect Dubai and the UAE to play a more significant role in the entrepreneurship space.

Technology and AI has also evolved to shape our online and offline behaviors. We will see many new exciting things in 2022 that will shape the future, based on how we interact, consume content and also our purchasing behavior.

Did you face any challenges in 2021?
The big hurdles of 2021 have been the International logistics and supply chain challenges on the global front, and domestically, on the last-mile delivery. This has led to some shortages and delays in certain categories, and also towards an increase in prices.

The issue is still evolving and will continue into the first half of 2022. Companies are working to mitigate this fallout and keep the customer happy. But the challenge is real and has economic consequences.

What were your key achievements in 2021?
In 2021, I took a conscious decision to dedicate the full year to work pro bono and to give back in some form to society. My personal biggest achievement has been to assist/mentor organisations and startups which are seeking change in the post-pandemic world and driving the change through a younger leadership team or ownership change. I must also admit that the commitment, enthusiasm, ethics, and hard work of the younger generation do have a huge positive rub off on me.

What promises does 2022 bring along?
2022 starts the next 50 years of UAE, and if the first 50 are any indication, it’s just going to get hugely better as we move along. There will be the usual impediments, but will not hamper the path of the success of UAE.

Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
There are many major opportunities to be explored regionally. Saudi Arabia is bringing in changes that will further drive private investments into that country. Qatar, with the world cup 2022, and Oman will continue to be robust markets to explore. The new winds of change will ensure that, together with competition between countries in the region, the collaboration will also necessarily increase. Similar to air-bubble arrangements that came up during the pandemic, do expect business-bubble arrangements to also get formed between nations.

Certain countries of east Africa and west Africa also have great potential in the years ahead. And Dubai and UAE continue to act as the best show-window to the extended region. As of now, there are only two places in the world that are very similar in nature to business. Dubai and Singapore. While remaining competitive, deeper country to country and business to business ties are possible and need to be explored.

According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
2020 and 2021 saw a huge upswing in Tablet, Laptop, and device sales. With supply chain and chip shortage issues continuing. we should see a bit of slowdown here. Smartphones will continue to be the center point for growth, but home security, wearables, and smart homes will become the new areas that will drive growth for technology organisations. Investments in Artificial intelligence, blockchain, 5G, IoT, managing data, and environmentally friendly products will be a new way forward.

What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
People management and engagement. This is crucial given that, with layoffs and pay cuts, employees have seen companies benefit from a good 2021. It is imperative to not only engage them but also remunerate them for standing with the organizations during the difficult phase.

The younger and newer generation can now truly be defined as “Digital Nomads”. All the assets that they possess, they carry between their two ears. Any transformational business models or technologies actually work only with and through people. Hence this will become an area of focus for 2022 and 2023.

What milestones have you set for 2022?
People happiness, people engagement, and organization growth through people growth for the companies I assist.

What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
Strengthen the change we have made through 2021 and ensure 2022 solidifies the base for the next few years.

Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2022?
Yes. The organisations I assist are now rapidly looking to scale their businesses regionally, and also wish to add new products to their portfolio. 2022 will be a year of fortifying that change.

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