By Kamini Banga, brand consultant
Think hard before you say yes to the above question. Listening to chief executives, economists and academics at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it appears that business today is between a rock and a hard place and it is a wonder that they can do anything at all. Well, there are several rocks and hard places really. Here is a list that came up again and again during different discussions.
Short term versus the Long term – both are critical – in a rapidly changing environment staying on course for long term goals and future vision is critical for business. These gains may come at the expense of short term pain and this cannot be easy for business leaders most of whom are under constant scrutiny from shareholders, society, government and the media.
Globalisation versus Protectionism – one gives rise to the other – it is evident to everyone that globalisation is in everybody’s interest. Developed countries need to extend their global footprints to economies that are growing rapidly (read developing nations). That is not enough, for them to remain competitive they also need to offshore their manufacturing to many of these countries. However, rising unemployment and declining economies makes it imperative to first protect jobs at home. Migration policy also needs tightening as scarce jobs become scarcer with skilled migrant workers hungry for jobs. It would seem as if protectionism is a natural outcome of globalisation.
Young versus Old – not either or – as current models of capitalism and globalisation come for scrutiny and debate, there is a need for new models that call for greater disruption than those who grew up in the old world order will allow or have the skills to bring about. Unfortunately, the young are lacking the right education and the necessary skills to change the old models that perhaps need revision or a complete overhaul. Business versus the Government – friends or foes – while some regulation is certainly needed, there is perhaps a greater need to deregulate some areas that might be holding back growth. Labour laws and FDI rules are only some of the areas where easing stranglehold of policy might create jobs and increase competitiveness. Michael Porter presented a study done among HBS alumni that shows a decline in the US business competitiveness, primarily, because of government interventions. India has the same story, unfortunately.
Business versus Society – certainly not friends – With rising income and inequality in both developed and developed economies becoming a tinder box, the debate on the 1% versus the 99% is finding expression in Occupy Wally Street, the Arab spring, Anna Hazare movement in India, riots in Britain and Wukan in China among other parts of the globe.
Business versus Media – adversaries – Media perhaps has overreached itself in its role as watchdog. They are now crucifying business without presenting a balanced view of events. Bankers have been their target and as a consequence everybody loves to hate them. Is the stigma of the financial world coming to haunt the entire business world?
With so many challenges and so many adversaries is it any surprise that business is in the state that it is. While everybody seems to have taken a position against them, it is important to remind ourselves that business is the engine for growth, job creation and upward mobility. There is a need for civil society, government and business to come together to create a future that cannot be built without cooperation and collaboration.
This blog post was spotted on The Economic Times