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Trends impacting Indian businesses: Here’s What in Store for 2020

In today’s technology-driven and hyper-connected business world, changes in customer expectations, societal shifts, and industry disruptions rule. That’s why leaders think constantly about trends with the potential to impact customers, partners and the global community.

Mankiran Chowhan
Mankiran Chowhan, MD-Indian Subcontinent, SAP-Concur

Based on trends from economics, travel and environment, from last year and recent developments, here’s what you can expect in 2020:

  1. Fears of a slowing economy in Asia-Pacific will bring pressure on businesses to do more with less: As a result, more CFOs will steer their companies to calmer waters by improving visibility into corporate spend to better control budgets. By harnessing technologies like AI, machine learning and deep data analytics, automation will deliver greater productivity and intelligence to operations, without growth in headcount. In addition, more travel managers will leverage technology to help their teams achieve the same business outputs with fewer trips. Asia Pacific airline and hotel prices are also expected to climb about three percent in 2020, according to BCD Travel’s 2020 Industry Forecast, and there will be a bigger emphasis on implementing corporate travel systems to get the best deals. In India, strong demand, competitive changes and regulatory developments will lead to higher fares. As a region, with so many countries and borders, solutions that help firms manage the complexities of business T&E – such as country-specific tax regulations, traveler tax and immigration, VAT reclaim, and cashless payments – will grow in popularity.
  2. Trade tensions will create uncertainty and reshuffle global priorities : A period of widening free trade and travel came to an end in recent years, replaced by rising tensions that will continue to build, at least in the early part of 2020. These tensions will shift business practices in travel, procurement, and beyond. A trend that we predicted last year, that shifting immigration and tax policies would increasingly subject multi-national companies to additional tax liabilities, will continue. In addition, in 2020, companies should no longer expect the same levels of visa and tax flexibility that they took for granted in the earlier part of the new millennium. They will need to keep a close eye on current events and adjust their travel policies accordingly. Add to these challenges, new pressures to diversify supply chains to be less dependent on Southeast Asia and South America, where trade tensions with certain super-powers grew in 2019. There may also be “wildcard” trade impacts in the coming year – or for that matter, a reduction in tensions – as we are in a period of trade uncertainty. However, it’s conceivable that mixed economic growth around the world will encourage parties to come to the table to negotiate, which would push the pendulum back in the direction of freer trade.
  3. Small businesses will tighten budgets to safeguard against economic and government downturns: Over the last five decades, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector has emerged as a highly vibrant and dynamic sector of the Indian economy. It significantly contributes towards socio-economic development of the country by fostering entrepreneurship and generating one of the largest employment opportunities. While small businesses are thriving in the country, they have faced major roadblocks in 2019 owing to social, political, and economic factors. Moreover, unpredictable stock markets, threat of a recession collectively has had a massive impact. With similar threats remaining a possibility in the coming year, small businesses will stay tough on budgets – they will hold on to expenditures in order to safeguard their business health from external factors that are beyond their control. While these businesses are vulnerable to the unanticipated ups and downs of economy, they will perform much better by expecting and preparing for the unexpected.
  4. Organizations will treat their employees as technology customers: In 2020, more organizations will endeavor to meet employee expectations about how workplace technology should evolve. The trend is related to the “consumerization” of workplace tech: having become used to great experiences with mobile phones or shopping websites, for example, employees expect their enterprise applications to work just as well. Yet it can be difficult for employers, who face cost, policy, and other roadblocks, to keep up. At the same time, it is important to make the investment because employee satisfaction and retention are critical. In the coming year, more organizations will gather data on the user-experiences of their employees, and use it to improve productivity, human resources, travel, expense and other technologies. In addition, we anticipate that organizations will increasingly bridge the gap between how their enterprise travel-booking tools are configured, relative to consumer-travel apps, without forgoing the discounts, control, and real-time visibility into the choices that employees are making. The range of possibilities is huge, but the common denominator comes down to better employee experiences with office tech.
  5. Employees will travel with purpose: With bleisure trips already on the rise – Indians rank 2nd among bleisure travellers globally according to a survey conducted by com. Whether picking destinations to support a community impacted by a natural disaster or spending vacation time volunteering, people are increasingly approaching travel with a sense of purpose. They are choosing trips, activities and brands that support their values, and nearly two-thirds of consumers engage in belief-driven buying. This carries into their booking experiences, and in 2020, we predict this will influence business travel significantly. Companies will factor this into their travel policies, providing breathing room and additional programs for their employees to make a difference.
  6. Safety will go hand in hand with employee satisfaction: Female traveler safety will rise to the top of corporate agendas. While there has been progress, the issue of traveler safety overall – for all employees, will reach critical mass in 2020 owing to more awareness on personal safety. Workers will increasingly demand more information and resources to stay safe during their work trips. According to a recent study by Wakefield, 87% female Indian business travelers have been harassed while on a business trip. In 2020 and beyond, companies have an opportunity to step up and enrich their traveler safety resources for employees, from introducing flexibility within travel policies to offering access to tools that keep them safe and protect their rights on the road.
  7. Paper receipts decline, smart receipts rise: The on-demand economy is changing the way we perceive and use technology. Today, businesses are embracing technology to adapt faster than ever. Organizations of all sizes have realized that smart technology can enable growth and ultimately help them remain relevant in an increasingly competitive environment. This is the first and foremost step of transforming themselves into an Intelligent Enterprise. In 2020, we will see a significant increase in the number of digital receipts provided by suppliers. Employees will benefit, as receipt data flows more easily into expense reports, eliminating frustrations about lost “receipts” and helping employees get reimbursed faster.
  8. Hotels and other travel vendors will make wellness amenities the new norm : Those of us who travel frequently for business worry about the impact it has on our health, and the evidence is more than anecdotal. Recent research from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, investigating health outcomes of frequent business travel, found higher body mass index scores, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and trouble sleeping, among other problems in frequent travelers. Hotels and travel brands are catching on – several major hotel brands already offer healthier meals, bike-sharing programs, and in-room exercise equipment, from yoga mats to Peloton bikes. Wellness features are also increasingly found in airports, from napping pods, to nutritious food options, and even therapy dogs. This trend will continue to grow in 2020, and business travelers will have more options, in more places, and at a wider number of price-points, to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle on the road.
  9. Environmental Stewardship: Environmental concerns will accelerate eco-conscious travel: A recent study by Wakefield research found that one-third of business travelers have adjusted their form of travel due to environmental concerns, and we predict that number will rise. With the EU’s commitment to the Green New Deal pushing companies to reduce their carbon footprint, airlines adjusting seating options to maximize travelers per flight, and hotels rethinking the sustainability of their designs, it’s only the beginning of a shift to eco-friendly travel. As discussions around climate change intensify, travelers and companies will continue to strive for more sustainable traveling options. Whether you’re in the rural country-side or populous city, expect to see green travel alternatives in 2020.


Nitisha Dubey

I am a Journalist with a post graduate degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. I love reading non-fiction books, exploring different destinations and varieties of cuisines. Biographies and historical movies are few favourites.

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