Predictions 2021 | Cloud, IoT and Tech Powering New Normal


As we move towards a new year 2021 and start of a new decade – here are some of the trends and predictions that are coming from the industry trendsetters.

Srinivasan CR, Chief Digital Officer at Tata Communications

· Cloud’s reign continues

Even before the events of 2020, cloud had already established its value for many businesses by providing improved agility, scalability, and cost efficiencies across industries. This year however, the technology is helping add a layer of resilience to many organisations by making the sudden shifts in working habits less disruptive. This has sealed cloud’s place as an essential piece of enterprise tech. In the next 5 years, the cloud computing industry is expected to grow from $371.4 billion in 2020 to $832.1 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 17.5%.

Next year specifically, businesses will focus more on managing their cloud costs better and look to unify their different cloud environments. In the face of increased competition due to greater prevalence, cloud providers will need to focus on enhancing and integrating security, compliance, and privacy into their offerings. Cloud will also grow in popularity as the ideal execution venue for new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), blockchain, and edge computing. Thus, making it integral to the digital transformation journey many more businesses are now on.

· Intelligent networks are the new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses to innovate reactively and creatively in order to make work pattern shifts that they thought would take years, happen in mere weeks. This new normal will put new pressures on companies, as there will be increasing need for networks capable of supporting hybrid architectures – be it cloud, on premises, or edge computing.

While it might’ve been necessity that got them there, the results of this mass experiment have been eye-opening. Despite many preconceptions, remote working has largely been a success. Some 77% of remote workers say their productivity has increased this year which is great for employers.

According to one study in the US, 75% of those surveyed said they would like to continue to work from home in at least a partial capacity, while 40% of respondents said they feel strongly that their employer should give employees the choice to opt-in to remote work.

This new normal will put new pressures on companies, as there will be increasing need for networks capable of supporting hybrid architectures – be it cloud, on premises, or edge computing. As a result, I predict more organisations will start seeking intelligent and intent-based networks that offer integrated security – such as SD-WAN for the WAN with SASE and Zero Trust security or virtual networks for multicloud – to deal with the increased cybersecurity threat of their new perimeter-less ecosystem. Similarly, the need to also improve customer experience (CX) will accompany the increased digitsation of businesses.

Being able to offer platform stability, ease of use, and personalisation, while maintaining a human touch, will only grow in importance. I also think we’ll see more onus placed on digital trust. The businesses capable of ensuring the safety of the customers identity, data, and transactions as well as employee data and transactions, will be rewarded with customer loyalty.

· IoT will play a greater role in securing and analysing data

There has been a spike in the amount of data organisations have had to contend with this year due to a combination of all the digital transformation that has happened this year and the increased online activity due to lockdowns.

With more 5G rollouts expected in 2021, along with further growth in LP-WAN-based services, the amount of data created and handled by businesses is set to skyrocket. So, to differentiate themselves from the competition, more companies will start focusing on data analytics technology capable of securely handling information as well as analysing and deriving greater insights from their mostly unused operational data.

For instance, many of the COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be lifted by mid-2021, meaning hard-hit industries, such as travel, may start to see some growth again. However, the ability to offer enhanced experiences by using data better will likely still be a strong deciding factor for many customers.

So, in all of this, I expect IoT to play a pivotal role – helping to automate processes and make more information readily available to enterprises. And as IoT becomes increasingly intertwined with AI, and more deeply embedded in organisational structures and transformation programmes, devices will become increasingly ‘smart’ and capable of driving greater intelligence.

· Automation – a business imperative

The pandemic is significantly increasing investments in automated solutions this year, such as AI, ML, and robotic process automation (RPA). So, in the new year, I predict more businesses will become platform-driven digital business and use of these technologies will continue to rise. This will help them automate routine, repetitive, predictable tasks and unlock tactical benefits.

These innovations will strengthen operational efficiency, increase accuracy of platforms, and improve user experiences across ecosystems. This will also drive cost efficiencies and realignments, by helping businesses intelligently repurpose these savings in the right innovations. Looking forward at what poses to be an increasingly more uncertain future, expect businesses to continue to gravitate towards solutions that make them more resilient and agile.

Praveen Jaiswal, Co-founder & Head- Business Development, Vehere

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies and has accelerated shift towards greater automation. Across the globe, industry verticals have been looking to build on their digital competence to bring greater efficiency for business continuity and ensure enterprise safety. Digital transformation today is one of the most strategic topics in boardroom agenda and the continuity of operations critically depends on the organization’s digital capabilities.

The year 2021 will mark the start of a decade that will require organizations to address both digital transformation and proactively manage uncertainty. Here are some of the emerging technology trends that will shape the future of enterprise in 2021.

Reinforcing identity framework and ‘zero trust’ approach

Enterprises are compelled to foresee the traditional perimeter-focused tactics of security controls with the rapid transition to remote work environments and increased usage of cloud and collaboration tools. A renewed ‘zero trust’ approach to identity and access management policies and incorporation of new models for cloud access and security will take the center stage in 2021.

Strengthening AI and ML in Business Operations

Organisations are consistently exploring new innovative approaches to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their business operations. The introduction of intelligent automation with the integration of AI and ML in back office processes will help businesses become more efficient and resilient while expanding their operations

However, the enterprise will need to bolster efforts to recruit, train, and educate the workforce to ensure the quality of output and to deal with transparency, ethics, trust, and compliance concerns.

Collaborative approach to control rising cyber threats

The growing need for cloud applications and data in the enterprise business must be secure and protected at every step. With the increased usage, the complexities for security in cyberspace, and a marked growth in cyber-attacks across industries, there will be a greater push towards information sharing and collaboration on security matters. This will include sharing of threat intelligence and best practices to support overall defense against emerging threats.

Kavita Viswanath, GM JFrog India 

Developers as rainmakers

As the world is powered by software, developers become game changers in many organizations, they are not only enablers but decision makers. The developer community and how fast it’s scaled, is the driving force for change in many industries. We are already starting to see this in India where more and more attention is paid to developers and a greater understanding of just how important they are.

Security is Quality

Software organizations are in a constant battle between delivery speed and delivery quality. The faster they move the greater the chances they end up with a lower-quality product. Most are in a race to do things fast and also instill quality into the product. What many may not consider is that security is one aspect of quality. Organizations using lots of third-party components in applications must pay special care to security if they want to continue to rely on 3rd-party dependencies for re-use and accelerated delivery, and handle these in an automated way throughout the pipeline.. We’ll see more companies implement security safeguards very early on in their development process to combat this.

Everything Cloud

The pandemic has forced enterprises to move much of their operations online. A big part of this is the automation of cloud infrastructure setup and updates. Right now, most of the solutions for securing the cloud setup are an “after the fact” kind of solution and alert you once your cloud infrastructure has already exhibited a misconfiguration that can be compromised. We’re going to see the cybersecurity market for cloud infrastructure mature to solutions that take a more proactive approach to ensuring secure cloud config before unsecured changes reach the real cloud.

Permanently enabling remote work

To support remote teams worldwide, as well as enable developer productivity, IT needs to provide as much of the tools of the trade and dev/test environments as on-demand cloud services. This will reduce the management overhead to install and operate the complex DevOps toolchain itself and the environments that developers rely on, as well as ensure global coverage, scale, and self-service seamless experience.In a world where isolation and distribution of teams and processes is the reality, fully automated, quality-trusted, tools and cloud services that enable continuous delivery as well as seamless collaboration become much more critical for DevOps teams to ensure that software delivery never stops!

CP Gurnani, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra

The pandemic has pushed leaders to explore alternate frameworks for sustainable growth and development in a post-COVID era. As we wait for the vaccine, I believe that the post-COVID era will be focused on innovation, scientific advancements, and the adoption of digital technologies like 5G, cloud, and data analytics. In all this, technology and connectivity will be the ‘sutradhar’ of India’s digital future and leadership, thus fast-tracking our Bharat towards Atma Nirbharta.

Karthikeyan Natarajan, President and Chief Operating Officer, Cyient

2020 will be remembered as a year of disruption, resurgence, and a year when we saw the true spirit of humanity, collaboration, and selfless-service emerge.

At Cyient, we are closing this crisis year better than we anticipated. What we are seeing is a start of a strong multi-year digital transformation cycle. Our aim is to be a technology solutions provider for the 21st Century with a three-pronged strategy of ‘Survive, Stabilize and Strive’. Our charter remains to spot the green shoots and steer the business towards high-growth segments of telecommunication, rail transportation, medical devices, automotive and semiconductors.

With a focus to build an organisation for the future, we are carving out our sustainability and growth plans for the next decade. Inspired by our promise of Designing Tomorrow Together, we are committing ourselves to the philosophy of “*Design for Circularity”, with the focus on preserving the precious. It is our moral responsibility to leave this planet in a better state than we inherited.

Lt. Gen Dr. SP Kochhar, DG, COAI

Like any other sector, the telecom industry was also impacted by the pandemic with a sharp fall in the number of subscribers in March and April. However, business and individuals adopted digital ways, the telecom industry emerged as a savior. Many telecom players have benefitted from a surge in the traffic of data and voice, due to which the telecom sector is performing well compared to other infrastructure sub-sectors. In the first quarter of this fiscal year through June, customer spending on voice and data services increased 16.6% year-on-year, amounting to Rs. 35,642 crore (US$ 4.80 billion). The growth of data services was primarily triggered by the use of OTT platforms for voice communications, chat, online meetings, webinars, entertainment and more.

As an outlook for 2021, the 5G launch is expected in the later part of the year. The technology is poised to open up a plethora of possibilities in terms of business models, better education, healthcare, smart cities, smart manufacturing, intelligent logistics, and overall, enhanced lifestyles for one and all. With the focus on AtmaNirbhar Bharat, revenue from the telecom equipment sector is expected to grow to US$ 26.38 billion by 2020. The number of internet subscribers in the country is expected to double by 2021 to 829 million and overall IP traffic is expected to grow four-fold at a CAGR of 30% by 2021.

However, Industry continues to be financially stressed and we seek the support of the government in enabling the industry to truly play its role as an enabler of horizontal growth and a boost to the nation’s economy. Some of the top challenges faced by our member TSPs today are those related to Liquidity, Rationalization of the regulatory levies, AGR issues, spectrum pricing, Right of Way (RoW) rules, and cell tower radiation. COAI has been pressing the government and TRAI on these.

Anku Jain, Managing Director, MediaTek India

2020 has set the stage for 5G to go mainstream and in 2021, driving the next level of innovation across sectors, be it remote working, gaming, healthcare, manufacturing, video and data consumption, setting the pace for a smarter and faster-connected devices ecosystem.

This will also lead to an increase in demand for next-gen 5G smartphones, newer applications and smart devices like smart TVs, tablets, phones integrated with voice interface etc. 2021 will see a bigger trend towards improved remote work capabilities with 5G SoCs taking smartphone and smart device experience to the next level.

The pandemic has acted as a great catalyst expediting digitalization and faster adoption of transformative technologies like Artificial Intelligence, AIoT, Robotics and Cloud Computing, among others.

Rajiv Bhalla, Managing Director, Barco India

2020 has been a transformative year and it has changed the way we work. A growing trend in hybrid working enabled with digital transformation was witnessed through 2020. A key learning has been that every business needs to be a digital business.

Resilience, adaptability, and lifelong learning have been key skills that stood out. The leadership structure and work culture underwent a sea change as organizations strived to limit the pandemic backlash and drive a digital and hybrid transition.

Learn, unlearn, and relearn became the new superpowers as leaders tried to accelerate automation and enterprise sustainability. Many organizations worked towards ensuring business continuity employee wellbeing and pivoted towards adapting themselves to navigate and survive through the storm.

As we enter 2021, organizations will focus on talent strategies, leadership, and culture, combined with a focus on deep tech, and reskilling, will boost our resilience and stand us in good stead during future upheavals.

Neetish Sarda, Founder Smartworks

Due to the advantages of ‘workspace-as-a- service,’ the coworking sector will witness a surge in demand from occupiers looking for flexible, upgradable, and adaptable spaces. The pandemic has accelerated the need for flex spaces with hybrid work model taking centre stage.

The year 2021 will focus on low touch / contactless technology or smart offices for touchless transactions, ergonomic designs, safety first spaces, and sustainability. With work from anywhere gaining momentum, flex space providers with a strong presence stand to benefit as more corporations gear up for the hub-and-spoke model, taking up satellite offices closer to their employees to avoid long travelling hours.

Flex spaces are no longer just an option for corporations but will become a crucial part of their future strategy. The growing interest from enterprises in coworking spaces has caught the investors’ eyes, and one can even see the hospitality brands foraying into this space- so overall, the sentiment around the sector’s growth remains positive.

Jahnabi Phookan, National President, FICCI FLO

The fact that Covid19 has been equally brutal to everyone is a hoax! When it comes to the women workers and women entrepreneurs of India, the term ‘equality’ takes a back seat, even in the case of the brutalities borne due to COVID19 . The pandemic has had an immensely negative impact on women entrepreneurs, as they suffered from factors such as lack of customer orders, supply chain disruptions, limited workforce, and financial crunch. Along with all these financial problems they also had to suffer from personal challenges which they faced at their homes, and exacerbating this situation for them were the social injustices meted out to them on a regular basis.

2021 should mark the dawn of a brighter future for India’s women entrepreneurs because as per a joint report by Bain & Company, Google and AWE Foundation, 80% of women entrepreneurs expect demand to bounce back to pre-lockdown levels by March 2021 while some believe it might happen by this December; but let’s admit that estimations can sometimes waver. However, at the same time this pandemic has boosted the digital revolution in India which could act as a highly profitable domain for women entrepreneurs in the near future as it has already helped them to sustain their businesses in such harsh times.

Ajay Data, Founder & CEO, VideoMeet Pvt Ltd

The year 2020 has proven to be a boon for the IT and tech sector. With the entire world being restricted to their homes for close to 70+ days, the industries and businesses rushed to adopt this transformation, wherein they can be fully equipped to multitask on virtual meeting and conferencing platforms. E-meeting platforms like VideoMeet became the mandatory integration in every working professional’s life. More so these tools also became a big aid in facilitating social gatherings, informal meetings, online classes, etc. Indian IT ecosystem is fast developing with start-ups rising and dominating a fair market share. India’s growth projection has scaled from 29K start-ups in 2014, to 55K start-ups by the end of 2020. The year has also been elemental due to the Chinese applications ban, which has further created a void to be filled by Indian counterparts.

The upcoming year represents a vast number of opportunities for virtual meeting platforms, even if the vaccination begins; the convenient and cost-effective option will continue to stay as long-term practices. Sectors such as healthcare, education, corporate, government affairs are likely to utilize most of the virtual meeting applications; even the app upgrades and features will be dependent upon the needs of user base.