Our hack teams envisaged an India characterized by social and cultural mobility, driven by a young, aspirational population eager for change:
Work will change, but India will not become a robot economy
India has a huge and growing workforce. There is little appetite — or need — for machines to replace jobs that are today done by humans. Instead, future technologies will focus on facilitating or improving work. Consumers will be more empowered by new professions. Automation will face strong cultural resistance from some quarters. But talent pools will evolve and grow in new industries and areas such as contract employees in infrastructure, micro-entrepreneurs, employer-entrepreneurs in technology-enabled employment models, and freelance workers on on-line platforms.
Infrastructure will improve, but do not wait for it
India will improve its infrastructure. Better physical infrastructure will create more efficient logistics and connect isolated rural communities. Better digital infrastructure will drive innovation and virtual connectivity. But it will take time.
Companies will need the agility to exploit the opportunities that infrastructure improvement delivers, while minimizing the constraints and frustrations of doing business in India compared to other markets.
Shorter supply chains and localized manufacturing will help to resolve some of the challenges posed by India’s poor physical infrastructure. A slowdown or decline in urbanization will establish new geographic markets, as rising incomes create opportunities outside cities.
Business leaders can learn from India’s frugal innovators
Frugal innovation is an important part of India’s future. This is about taking ideas that could be high-tech, inaccessible or exclusive and delivering them at an affordable price.
This approach to innovation will focus on practical problem solving and cost-effective solutions, fueling the emergence of new microbusinesses and subject-matter resources. Innovative solutions created in this way could be adapted to other markets. And ideas developed at high cost outside India could be simplified and scaled by Indian innovators.
One India, with a billion voices
India’s millennial generation — the largest in the world — will drive social change. Today, Indian society is fragmented and hierarchical. Communities are isolated. Social and economic inequality persists, and access to goods and services remains uneven between different communities and classes.
The aspirations of future consumers will increase social mobility and challenge a fatalistic view of society. Technology will break down barriers through automated translation, social connectivity, education and digital health care. This leveling of the playing field will drive consumption of goods and services that target an emerging and rapidly growing middle class.
The worlds we modeled in Mumbai are aspirational, optimistic and profoundly — and proudly — Indian. They are founded on behaviors and attitudes that are deeply rooted in India’s culture: hard work, pragmatism and entrepreneurialism. And they seek to address challenges that are, sadly, an integral part of India today: corruption, poor infrastructure, extreme inequality and poverty.
India will transform and, as it does, the leaders of consumer-facing businesses will have a central role to play. How can their companies shape and serve the future consumer that will emerge, without compromising the deeply felt and increasingly confident sense of Indian identity?