Happy New Year!
As 2022 begins, it is time to look back at the year that was and look ahead to the year that is coming. There is always something about the turning of the year and late December holidays that makes us a bit more reflective than usual. I had done a similar series last year and had written: “Life has always been about unknowns. Whether in business or in life, the future is yet to happen and therefore unknowable. We can speak of broad trends but we cannot say for certain what will happen. The best we can do is to make the most of the time that we are alive and in good health.”
2021 began with optimism on the Covid front in India; the first few months of the year brought the mirage of normalcy and optimism on the vaccine front. I had even gone sailing with a few friends. Lunches and dinners in restaurants were being looked forward to. And then came the second wave with the delta variant which hit all of us hard in April and May. The horror stories of oxygen shortages and deaths came much closer. In Netcore, we lost one of our senior executives. It was time to hunker down at home once again even as I got the vaccine doses in April and May. The virus first, and then the vaccines, provided immunity to most Indians as time passed. As the year ends, things are almost back to the pre-Covid normal. In December, I did two business trips to Pune and Goa. Masks are coming off, handshakes are back, in-person meetings are welcomed. Almost two years after it all began, the end of the pandemic seems to be near.
On the personal front, I am going to the office 3-4 times a week. Meeting people face to face rather than on Zoom is so much better. We have learnt to make the best of both worlds – in-person and virtual. I have watched four movies in theatres (No Time to Die, Dune, Spiderman and 83). Abhishek and I have resumed our fortnightly visits to Kitab Khana, followed by long walks around the bylanes of Mumbai. Life seems to be normal again, even as the spectre of Omicron rises.
And yet, the India of 2021-22 is very different from that of 2019-20. Even though the economic output has reached what it was, the income skew towards the top 10% has increased. For many of us, the bottom 90% and their pain is invisible. The digital lives of the top 10% have led to an Internet boom with an average of $100 million coming into India as VC/PE investment daily. Entrepreneurship is flourishing and so are solutions that are now working to address many of the challenges that were long unsolved. Globally too, industry by industry, risk capital is birthing innovations. From consumer tech to B2B SaaS, from Web3 (blockchain and the promise of decentralisation) to clean and green energy, from robotics to the metaverse, from deep tech to space, we are now living through exponential change across many aspects of our lives.