Making predictions about the future is a risky business. Business leaders, economists, astrologers and futurologists have all been wildly off the mark if long-term analysis is done. A few predictions do come true but over a long period of time, predictions are as often likely to be wrong as they are to be right. You could as well toss a coin.
Having said that, it is hard to bring out a New Year issue without taking a stab at what the year will bring. So I will stick my neck out and make my predictions on business and technology for the coming year.
Blockchain applications will accelerate: So far, it is mostly the financial sector that has started adopting blockchain. In 2018, the technology will be far more widely adopted by industries from logistics to retail.
Artificial Intelligence will go mainstream: AI advances will accelerate and will move beyond simple chatbots and fringe applications to mainstream functions within an organisation.
Brick and mortar will rebound: E-commerce companies are experimenting with brick and mortar presence and omnichannels. Far from dying out, there will be an explosion of brick and mortar retail
Farm incomes will be in focus: Bountiful rains have not helped farm incomes in a big way. With farmer protests rising, farm incomes and rural programmes will take centrestage in both Union and State Budgets.
More mergers and acquisitions: Consolidation will accelerate in more industries and sectors as companies seek scale, and weaker companies sell out to deleverage their balance sheets. We will see far more mega-sized companies being formed in industries ranging from oil to retail and pharma to steel and even e-commerce OTT will overtake TV: Perhaps not, but 2018 will be the year when consumption of over the top (OTT) content will move mainstream and more people will abandon big TV screens in favour of personal screens Jobs, jobs, jobs: Jobs will remain the focus of both government and private sector as automation and consolidation reduce fresh and existing jobs. But, new jobs and careers will be created, though perhaps not in the great numbers that people hope for in the year.
Cryptocurrency bubble will burst: May be Bitcoin will continue rising (though at time of going to press, it had dropped sharply), but there are too many cryptocurrencies flooding the market and too many Initial Coin Offerings taking place. At some point in 2018, the law of gravity will come into play for cryptocurrencies and a great many will come thudding back to earth from their inflated valuations.
The Big Five will be even more powerful: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Apple will become even richer, more powerful and intrusive. Privacy will be a serious issue, but there will be no immediate respite from the all pervasive Big Five
The economy will speed up: Though private investment is still some way away, the Indian GDP story will pick up pace as reforms (and disruptions) of 2017 settle down and business becomes more streamlined.