Navigating volatility: Six trends businesses should look out for

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The first thing, of course, is to think about resilience. It’s really important to have your house in order in a moment like this. And I think all the leaders we’re talking to have taken action on that front.

The second one that’s perhaps a little more counterintuitive is to think about growth. What we know, based on our research, is that organizations who, throughout downturns, are able to both manage resilience and growth emerge significantly stronger than their competitors. And so, I think thinking about, “What are the avenues for growth at this time?” is really important.

The third element that I would call out is technology. We are at a moment, I think, where tech is obviously critical to everything. There’s talent that’s more available than ever before. We just heard today (November 18, 2022) about how the stock options that tech companies have been offering employees have really come down in terms of valuation. And so, particularly for incumbents, there’s a moment to really double, triple down on the elements of tech.

The fourth thing is continuing on the path to net-zero. Now, of course, the question of energy—it has become absolutely clear that net-zero also needs to come in a way that is providing energy that is both affordable and accessible to folks.

And so, for companies to think through, “What is their path to net-zero, and are there a series of actions that can be taken now that are actually relatively lower CapEx and relatively easier but get them some way along the journey?” is a really important reflection.

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I think the fifth element is geopolitics—it’s very much on the mind of the delegates and speakers here—and the implications ranging from supply chain setup, nearshoring, friendshoring, those types of things and also the implications on systems and the way businesses compete. So, I think thinking about the implications of geopolitics and the various scenarios on businesses is really important in this moment.

And perhaps finally, the element of talent. We’re in a moment that is stressful, that is volatile. We have a generation of people all around the world who haven’t necessarily been through this type of macroeconomic volatility. And so, thinking through things like hybrid but also things like employee engagement and health and well-being are critically important at this moment.

For consumer and retail companies, I think they are some of the hardest hit right now. We have, of course, all the supply chain challenges, which are really creating a lot of turbulence. And we also have, on the other side, the question of consumer confidence.

And, of course, it varies around the world, but consumers are really feeling the pinch right now and are altering their spending habits accordingly. I think what consumer companies can do is learn from geographies that have had significant inflation in the past, in their recent histories.

Brazil, for example, is a country where both the consumer goods companies and the retailers have dealt with inflation for many years, and really have a playbook that is around coming up with product value propositions that are attractive to consumers and different ways of thinking about pricing such that it really meets the pocket of the consumers and what they have available to spend. And, at the same time, working in collaboration between the retailers and the supply chain in order to bring product costs down, and to bring the supply chain and logistics costs down such that all of that can be an economically viable equation.

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