The enthusiasm was palpable as I met world leaders today at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012 in Tianjin, China. It struck me that the endeavour to achieve an optimal future scenario is not a distant dream. Efforts are in the right direction, and it is just a matter of time before a model can deliver social cohesion, technological innovation, sustainable consumption and meaningful employment. We are living in exciting times, with each day teaching us something new. Utopian… well, not quite, but the world has its share of optimism still burning somewhere like a comforting fire, despite the economic gloom.

My optimism stems from seeing sustainability (an essential ingredient to achieving an optimal scenario) as a competitive force. Building a strategy for and around sustainability into the rhythm of business will determine the difference between winners and losers. Companies that develop products and services to address global challenges – such as energy supply and access, climate change, pressure on ecosystems and water – will be around for the long haul. The key factor that will decide their success is technology.

Technology is eroding the barriers to entry to all sorts of games, markets and movements. While technology is getting better, people are getting better at using it. Those who do not have technology today will be the most active users tomorrow. Ten years ago, 361 million people had access to the Internet. Today, that number has increased to 2.1 billion, with the fastest growth in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Technological growth will have the biggest empowering effect on those who currently find themselves with the least power.

Some of the technologies pinpointed to change the future include glycomics, injectable tissue engineering, molecular imaging, grid computing, wireless sensor networks and mechatronics. Some of the most extensive research on these nascent technologies is been done by the emerging economies, which is, again, a positive indicator for achieving the optimal future scenario at the earliest.

While the latter half of the last decade saw the world coping with recession, the trend towards globalization will resume as the economy recovers. More companies will adjust their strategies from just establishing centres overseas to aggressively growing their markets. Add to this the potential for major growth in many emerging markets. In all probability, global real purchasing power will have quadrupled by 2050. We have exciting times ahead of us, with technology, innovation and smart thinking playing key roles in shaping the new norm of the world. Each day is a surprise; each day is a new opportunity to create history.

 

Author: Rohit Gandhi is the Senior Vice-President (Asia-Pacific, India, Middle East & Africa) of Mahindra Satyam. He has rebuilt the organization, turning it into a profitable, high-growth and high-energy engine poised for significant growth. Rohit speaks regularly at conferences including the World Knowledge Forum.

Picture: First graders work with XO laptop computers at a public school in Montevideo, Uruguay. REUTERS/Andres Stapff