Meet the CEO : BANKING ON RAJEEV KAKAR
The UAE is expected to lead economic recovery worldwide as it implemented a successful strategy to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the country, says an industry veteran.
Rajeev Kakar, a senior banking and financial services industry visionary said there is no fear of ‘Great Recession’ in global economy as the central banks worldwide are more active to contain the damages from the coronavirus pandemic. However, he made it clear that economic recovery will be gradual and slow.
“Global economic recovery will take time to achieve pre-Covid levels and I believe it will be fully recovered by 2025,” Kakar told Dubai News TV.
Rajeev Kakar is a seasoned banker, a serial business founder, board member on global bank boards, an entrepreneur, public speaker and thought leader with over three decades of experience in financial services across various countries and geographies. Below are excerpts of his interview:
DNTV: Do you think, we should be ready for a ‘Great Recession’ in the wake of huge economic losses and job cuts ?
Rajeev Kakar: It is important to remember that these current slowdown conditions have resulted not solely because of the Covid scare, but largely owing to the actions of governments across the world to impose a lockdown – both domestically and also across international borders. With this immediate freezing/slowdown of economic activity across the world, each country was bound to face an acute economic contraction that we have seen. This policy action by governments has led to an acute and heightened awareness of Covid-19 across all sections of society, and the resulting fear in people’s minds has led to further reduction of social interactions and elective consumption habits in households.
For economic recovery to become evident in the global economy, after such a drastic and grinding halt of activity driven by personal fear and imposed government restrictions, there is a need for two things to happen.
Firstly, governments have to reverse some their imposed restrictions after having beefed up their healthcare facilities and having created the necessary enhancements of infrastructure to allow for routine economic activities to resume under safer conditions, with greater remote access, and an assurance that healthcare facilities are adequately prepared to handle any situations where people are infected by Covid.
The second factor required to build a recovery momentum is more the assurance and the building of personal belief in the minds of people and broadly across households in the community, that it is safe and relatively more prudent to start socialising and interfacing again on elective activities. This second element is the one that is more difficult to achieve, as personal individual confidence levels will not build as long as the incidence of new infections and deaths continue to increase.
Of course, there is a risk of a second/third wave occurring as well and, should that happen, then there will be a very strong/immediate reversal again of the limited confidence levels rebuilt and consumption will refreeze and, in such a situation, the economy(ies) may go back into a downward spiral.
Also, there is an added risk and foregone conclusion that businesses will start aggressively cutting expenses and reducing employee strength, once government relief measures to support individuals and companies to manage the immediate economic downside effects during Covid-19 are withdrawn. Such an action will have a knock-on downward spiral impact, as business expenses will be cut, unemployment levels will increase, and the ability/will of impacted individuals to spend will also be impaired.
We must remember that the impact on loss of livelihood will largely be at junior levels who depend on monthly/daily wages to consume and support their family needs. The essential consumption spends of this segment as a ratio to their incomes is highest, and so when this lower wage segment restricts its spending the negative multiplier effect will compound faster and negatively impact the economy.
Based on this scenario assessment on the flip side, as the government restrictions get removed we will start seeing immediate pick-up of essential economic activity and such lower-restriction-policy-led impact of recovery will lead to an immediate one-time fast paced economic surge. However, despite being a rapid process, this recovery momentum will not be sufficient to restore growth to the pre-Covid period levels, but will remain below the former peak. The reason for this is that the intangible elements of perceived individual fear and loss of confidence will be harder to rebuild, until the vaccine is found and also the overhang of the impending fear of second/third waves remains. In addition, the adverse effects of lower wages and/or job losses will continue to keep the economy far from being fully recovered to pre-covid levels for a longer period of time. For total personal confidence at an individual level to build, not only does a vaccine need to be found but also it should start getting produced in adequate quantities, be distributed globally and be effectively administered to entire populations. This entire process will necessarily take given the global spread of the virus and, only after this is achieved, can we expect people to slowly start attempting to live normal lives. However, with businesses and households having lost months, perhaps years, of income/revenue during this period, it is only fair to expect that even at this stage the capacity to spend will be missing, and we will start seeing a slower, but surer, growth trajectory then building up.
In summary, I believe, we will see some rapid recovery as an immediate surge back to a fraction of the pre-covid levels once all government restrictions are withdrawn. Thereafter, the recovery will be very gradual over 18-30 months for confidence to get restored post the discovery of a vaccine. So, overall, we should expect to see a much slower recovery over a 2-3 years period from the current time, at a minimum, for pre-covid growth levels and trajectory momentum to be reached.
Based on this, therefore, if we assume that the vaccine is indeed available by mid-2021, as is being expected, then I believe that full economic recovery will not be seen until end-2025 for the reasons above, as history has always shown that it takes several years for a post-recession recovery to get back to pre-recession levels and growth momentum. During this period, unemployment will continue to be at high levels and business spending will be cautiously low. We will see a very slow tail of recovery growth after the initial partial steep growth, and so we all have to be ready for a rocky ride.
DNTV: Do you think, we should be ready for a ‘Great Recession’ in the wake of huge economic losses and job cuts ?
Rajeev Kakar: I personally do not believe that we should expect a ‘Great Recession’ again….. As this time round, after the learning from the 2008 global financial crisis, the central bank playbooks have been ready and central bankers and governments have not been shy of unleashing almost every kind of stimulus measure in a very short period of time. It is almost like a massive dosage of steroids injected into economies globally by respective governments, in the form of huge lacing of liquidity for businesses, in addition to the allocation of grants (….helicopter money, in some form) to the vulnerable segments.
Obviously, such intervention globally at a massive scale and on a broadly coordinated basis across all major Central Banks and governments around the world, have ensured downside safety protection for ‘Financial, Equity and Debt markets’ to prevent any risk of their collapse, as such an event would lead to a freezing of credit and financial market function – which would be disastrous, as we saw with the Lehman collapse in 2008 during the financial crisis.
We need to be aware that these government-led relief measures cause a huge risk of moral hazard as, in the process, many Zombie companies are unfairly supported and the provision of grants/dole indirectly incentivizes people not to work. However, such actions always needed in such crises to quickly stem the initial shock of the crisis…..’which in the crrent Covid crisis is primarily a health hazard and has the potential impact of converting into a simultaneous risk of mass loss of livelihoods’. So, if such timely relief and stimulus had not been provided by governments, then the resulting adversity would have unleashed uncontrolled levels of social unrest and turmoil…..which would have further compounded economic de-growth at an accelerated pace.
Since, the technical definition of a recession is two continuous quarters of economic traction, I believe this is highly unlikely to happen in the current Covid situation, owing to the rapid speed and massive size of stimulus provided by governments on a proactive basis, unlike what we saw in 2008. Hence, we are unlikely to see a global financial crisis like technical recession. Also unlike the earlier crisis and Great Depression phases, this time banks are healthier, better capitalised and stronger on liquidity. In fact, in the current Covid crisis, banks are proving to be constructive participants and are playing the responsible part of serving as an effective mechanism for positive transmission of stimulus and relief into the economy. Therefore, banks have provided the much-needed added backstop to the economy, as credit flows have fortunately not disappeared for constructive business purposes and, at the same time, the moratoriums announced across client segments has ensured adequate availability of liquidity to essential businesses.
In such a situation, I believe, a 2008-like crisis situation is highly unlikely and, in fact, this should help positively restart economic activity at a faster pace while providing a support for broader stability ahead.
However, we need to note that there is no direct correlation between financial markets recovery to economic recovery….though a more stable financial markets system does have a positive contribution to instilling confidence for future economic recovery – albeit at a much slower pace and over a longer period….which is my expectation in the case of the current Covid crisis.
DNTV: Dubai is quick to reopen its economy and looks set to gain momentum for business activities and tourism. What do you say ?
Rajeev Kakar: In my view, the UAE authorities have handled this entire Covid crisis extremely well and with a very well-defined and phased approach. The timely actions by the authorities has really produced excellent results and this can serve as a role-model for other countries….. eg., the timely announcement of an early and effective lockdown, setting up of essential health care facilities and capacity to manage Covid patients, increased provision of essential services through remote/digital means, provision of subsidies on basic utilities, adequacy of essential food supplies and groceries, announcement of moratoriums by banks on credit facilities, infusion of central bank liquidity to support businesses, physical sterilization measures undertaken at a massive speed, ongoing continuous open communication with all residents and citizens to avoid risk of uncertainty and/or speculation, gradual opening up of facilities after enhancing social distancing measures, ongoing advisories for operating businesses, lenient resident visa norms, special latitude provided to those stranded with expired visas, flexibility provided to SMEs and businesses to manage costs and yet keep employees on their payroll, gradual reopening of borders, a well-designed plan to open offices to kick start normal business activity, etc.
Everything has worked like clockwork and, in this crisis, special focus has been rightly also placed on the ‘power of the intangibles’, eg., softer support to affected and vulnerable segments on the individual and small business segments. Such a focus is very appropriate in a crisis, as individuals are the important link between the macro- & the micro- elements of any economy and the SMEs/small businesses form the essential backbone for significant employment of the work force of any nation and also are significant participants in providing essential services.
While the confidence level of UAE businesses and households has undoubtedly been adversely impacted, as in the rest of the world, but the crisis has been managed well, which has ensured that the relative rebound in optimism and confidence has been very fast and significant. While I do expect expect that businesses will have to cut costs, employ fewer workers and/or enhance digitization/automation which will make jobs redundant, but a whole parallel set of jobs required different skills are emerging that will lead to new job creation –eg., in essential services, remote services, automation providers, hygiene workers, health care workers, elderly and child care support, increased on-shoring/near-shoring of supply chains that will create newer manufacturing and supply-chain opportunities ahead, etc.
Relative to most other nations, big and small, I believe UAE deserves to be recognised amongst the top nations and governments who handled the covid crisis well – especially in the manner of handling the entire crisis management process and also in the well-planned efforts taken to restore confidence and optimism faster in the broader population. Obviously in such a scenario, I expect that the UAE should emerge as one of the ‘winners’ in this Covid crisis, as such a track record helps position it as a preferred location for firms to consider making UAE its regional base.
It is in times of adversity that the true spirit and resilience of a nation is seen, and the UAE has scored highly on all fronts….and hence, I believe, it will be one of the beneficiaries of a fast economic recovery both domestically as well as from incoming foreign inflows. Also, UAE’s established high quality physical infrastructure, specialized economic zones, world class residential facilities, excellent schooling system, top-tier utility services, domestic safety and security, focus on diversity and tolerance, etc. collectively position it positively as a regional champion and preferred base for living and for conducting business – domestically and the region.
DNTV: How do you evaluate role of banks in present scenario to bring economic stability ?
Rajeev Kakar: As said above, this time round the role of banks has been very positive in addressing the adversities of Covid.
Firstly, banks are strongly capitalised and have adequate liquidity unlike the global financial crisis time.
Secondly, the banks are well positioned globally and being used by governments to efficiently serve the essential role of providing transmission benefits to the economy of the government stimulus measures announced. With a strong and working banking system, the multiplier effect of such stimulus-based transmission leads to faster results and, also, given the role of banks as intermediaries in the financial system, the traction of such stimuli is also better.
Banks have also, in the current crisis, played the responsible role of being customer focused and announced very quick moratoriums on a targeted basis to keep essential businesses supported and liquid. Banks have also continued to make credit available to deserving obligors, assured deposits on the safety of their funds, and also have acted extremely fast in reorienting their customer interface models to allow for efficient and effective remote servicing of customer needs.
Both the Great Depression and the Great Recession have demonstrated how a failing banking system can create havoc and mayhem. This time, during the Covid crisis, the positive role of banks, as healthy participants and active participants in the process of providing solutions, has provided the much needed impetus to accelerate the restoration of economic stability.
I believe that banks and their regulators deserve to be applauded this time round for leading from the front….especially as they were severely criticised in the previous crises for falling short on expectations.
DNTV: Do you see consolidation and mergers in the UAE banking sector in near future ?
Rajeev Kakar: Yes, I definitely expect to see increasing consolidation in the banking sector in the UAE, and globally. Specifically in the the UAE , there are too many banks for the size of the population which leads to the risk of institutions running the risk of remaining sub-scale. Therefore, I believe we should see further consolidation in the banking sector on an ongoing basis to create much needed economies of scale and efficiencies – which are essential and necessary to achieve in the face of rapid technology changes, the advent of non-traditional technology-led disruptive sources of competition, and the evolving changes in customer habits and preferences (…..especially post Covid, which has accelerated such behavioral change).
In addition, consolidation is necessitated owing to the need for individual banks to have size and scale to be able to raise liquidity easily and at an affordable price. From a regulatory standpoint too, there is a strong need for consolidation in the Banking and Financial Services sector as banking is systemic to most nations/economies and, given fiduciary responsibilities, there is a need for greater regulatory supervision to ensure high standards of adherence and the sustenance of broader confidence in the financial system of any nation/economy.
With banking regulations becoming more rigorous and demanding globally, I strongly believe that the roles of banks will necessarily also have to shift to becoming ‘large balance sheet repositories of assets and liabilities with massive transaction processing scale/capability, with high reliability and security’. Also, with new-age emerging technologies leveraging innovative ‘API-led Open banking’ and ‘data-driven’ in the form of non-traditional fintech players, the relatively lighter-touch regulation requiring banking activities will increasingly shift to such NeoBanks/Open banking players to drive the important front-end of customer acquisition, servicing, fulfilment, deepening, and Cross-sell. Given the massive challenge for financial inclusion needs across burgeoning populations globally, and the importance of ensuring that the rights to customer data are owned by each customer, such innovative NeoBanks will be better placed to provide deeper outreach and better-suited customer-centric solutions….at a lower cost and faster time-to-market, while providing superior value to customers.
In summary, bank consolidation and mergers will necessarily happen for a variety of reasons as mentioned above, so as to create both a safer banking/financial landscape and at the same time provide for superior quality, competence, choice, and value for customers. Such a modular and connected new banking model will also help better support regulators in conducting their supervision responsibility. Therefore, such banking consolidation and mergers will be a win-win-win for all…. regulators, customers, depositors, borrowers, partners, rating agencies, shareholders, and will also enable success in enriching communities through financial inclusion success which is greatly needed all over the world.
DNTV: Being a veteran in banking industry, what three tips you will give to young bankers ?
Rajeev Kakar: My advice is consistent with what I have always said in the past as, I believe, these principles have been important in the past and will always remain true even in the future, i.e.:
- The world and the future is always in the control of knowledgeable minds, and so one should always be ‘open to new learning and gaining knowledge’ and keep learning from new developments and changes. As a banker, one remain prepared at all times to benefit from the opportunities that any crisis or rapid change provides. Those, who are resistant to new knowledge have rarely survived and will definitely not survive ahead. Those who are forever open to learn will thrive; and
- Focus on building a culture of creativity and innovation and being open to innovation and risk of learning from failure, so that you are well positioned to disrupt the status quo in this continuous period of change and crises ahead. There is no place for mediocrity in the critical field of banking! We must remember that crises will happen always in the future and, perhaps, more frequently. Also, the magnitude of every subsequent crisis, to my mind, will be substantially larger than the previous one(s), so do not look only to the past for solutions in the future. The future opportunities will require a can-do culture and a creative/gutsy orientation to realise the attendant opportunities that each such crisis will newly offer; and
- Imbibe the highest standards of ethics and integrity in your personal repertoire of traits and skills, as these can/should never be sacrificed. The world increasingly across all sectors will reward high standards of conduct and will pay a ‘governance premium’ on ‘how’ institutions and employees behave in their personal and professional roles, more than the ‘what’. So, remember, ethics and integrity should not be seen as a set-of-rules to tick off actions against, but should be a personal management theme which should define your behaviour.
DNTV: How do you see future of banking in the wake of automation and digitization? Do you see role of physical bank branches in coming years ?
Rajeev Kakar: As I said above, the future of banking will undergo a huge change ahead, and the process has already started – especially with the series of new regulations announced that support the role of new insurgent activities and a reimagined business model for financial services. The forces in financial services that are accelerating this change for new age business models include increased cost commoditisation pressures, data monetisation opportunities, the emergence of bionic workforces that will reduce dependence of human labour in many roles, the systemic importance of financial institutions as well as that of systemically important Big-Tech players, the pressure of profit redistribution of traditional profit pools between multiple players, the importance of experience ownership with customers demanding that the power be transferred to them as data owners and have right to choose the experience they seek from hyper-scaled or hyper-focused specialist service providers, etc.
In effect, there is an unstoppable process of convergent disruptive forces that are reshaping banking business and customer experience models from the traditional model. There is further impetus coming from facilitative regulatory changes and the evolution of Neobanks, and other emerging platforms that offer customers with the power to engage with different financial institutions from a single channel – which will become the dominant front-end provider for the delivery of all kinds of financial services on a bank-agnostic basis.
The speed of change has accelerated exponentially owing to the current Covid crisis as it leaves no discretion for choice – especially, as banks have been forced to invest rapidly in digitisation and customers have been forced to adopt changes at an unprecedented speed. We are also seeing regulators introducing regulations at a faster pace to accelerate digitisation in banking.
These evolutionary changes is leading to a rapid change in the operating model of banks, requiring the banking business architecture to get increasingly modular and open to connect with other players in the eco-system, like never before. Banking in the future will revolve around the importance of ‘mobility’ and such functionality will now be core to all B2C and C2C services. For this, boards are already revisiting investments in banking platforms to create on open-ended/service focused architecture so that banks can open APIs to partner with Neobanks/Fintechs as disruptors to become providers of innovative solutions in line with customer needs, while ensuring mobility and a fast time-to-market at all stages.
I believe that banks in the future run the risk of increasingly becoming ‘utilities’ and so they need to fast reposition themselves as the essential railroad on which the NeoBanks and fintech disruptors can ride to deliver innovative solutions at a rapid speed, in partnership with banks. The strategy for banks has to be one of ‘building partnerships’ and of ‘building secure value-added interfaces’ with other non-traditional players in the ecosystem, such that banking services become integrated to the mobility enabled day-to-day behaviors of customers, in an environment where customer-centric solutions provided by NeoBanks will increasingly be offered on a bank-agnostic basis as mere providers of the railroad. To counter this risk of becoming utilitarian, which can erode the revenue share of banks, the approach of bank boards/management has to be one of navigating this market evolution through speed, innovation, nimbleness and an openness to partnerships in a sharing/connected economy. The past approach of ‘owning all capabilities and insisting on captive resources’ will not be viable ahead
This change is already putting major pressure on bank revenues and earnings, which has been accelerated by the behavioral changes driven by Covid. So, Banks that do not manage the transition well in the face of this evolutionary changes, they will end up being losers. In the new paradigm, therefore, it is imperative for banks to focus on reorganising their operations, rethinking their organisations, reimagining the customer experience, and accelerating digitisation to leverage data-driven real-time decision making to win the new opportunities being offered in this open, sharing and connected operating model and ecosystem.
The future of banking lies in making this success change and transition and it lies on investing in a culture of agility in driving transformation, and an openness to creating new partnerships and interfaces. The focus should be on owning the customer’s mind and being ‘first’’ to provide for customer needs at the most attractive value-based pricing.
Traditional banks will have to necessarily accept partnering with NeoBanks and other players in the ecosystem, and to match up on readiness and capability to allow for such innovation and change at a rapid pace while keeping high standards of governance, compliance, asset quality, adequacy of liquidity and capital, with strong partnerships and top-tier talent within.
While, the above is a challenging transition for most banks but, if done right, the future of banking is very exciting with massive opportunities ahead! The one ingredient that will drive this success and differentiate on performance between banks will be the TALENT that bank’s hire, grow, progress, retain and empower to generate the required success….and this needs to be nothing short of the BEST!
DNTV: Are you ready to explore banking sector for another venture? Pls share some details of your new venture ?
Rajeev Kakar: I am a banker and an entrepreneur at heart, and have always been very entrepreneurial over the years during my banking career of 33+ years where not only have I worked in multiple countries around the world , across India, AsiaPac, and EMEA while working as an International expatriate office for Citi which was US headquarters for the first 20 years of my career and then 13+ years with Fullerton (Temasek Holdings) headquartered in Singapore. I started my CEO career at the age of 32 years when I was the Founder and MD/CEO of a greenfield JV company in India between Citi and Maruti Suzuki motors of Japan.
This early experience and the subsequent extensive cross-geography CEO experiences provided me with great learning and opportunity, which I leveraged with my innate entrepreneurial bent-of-mind to create many businesses and franchises during this period. In fact, as a Global CoFounder of Fullerton, we were an original four-man founder team that started from scratch and built the business into 14 entities across 12 countries, with 80,000 employees, 7 million+ customers, and AUM valuation at peak of almost USD 40Bn. Within my Fullerton days, I also was the founder of ‘Dunia Finance’ in the UAE which I ran successfully for 13+ years as the founder Managing Director and CEO.
So, as you can imagine, I am always ready for a challenge and definitely looking forward to my next entrepreneurial or turnaround opportunity. I believe that one must keep identifying opportunities in line with how the market evolves and opportunities emerge.
Clearly, my focus ahead is in multiple areas and markets…..but, of the various opportunities I am working on, the one global opportunity that I especially like is that of NeoBanking. I believe that NeoBanks are moving at a rapid pace to disrupt traditional banking models, as we have known them. In today’s connected world and sharing economies, a NeoBank need not even hold a banking license and yet offer customers with a full function relationship, comprehensive service levels, offer solutions that are bank-agnostic by being simultaneously in partnership with traditional banks for processing customer needs and providing customers with robust and fulfilling experience bouquet through a single front-end customer facing experience while, in the back end, using analytics-led and API-connected capabilities to source the customer centric solution from any bank that best meets the client’s needs. Basically, Neobanks win by focusing on offering value through a better user experience & by owning the primary relationship with customer & serving as intermediary to banks agnostically.
Post Covid, regulators and banks are rapidly focusing on digitisation of services and customers too are rapidly adopting these for a change. In this environment, the relevance and need for creative Neobanking offerings is even more heightened.
DNTV: Please share some details of your contributions to education sector, nurturing talents and skills of young entrepreneurs ?
Rajeev Kakar: I am deeply passionate about education and the need for people to keep learning and acquiring knowledge. I believe that the biggest opportunity is for the human race to help nurture the wealth of creativity and resourcefulness that is innately available in our burgeoning populations. In my efforts to give back to society, I believe that the core strength of an economy and the tools to realize its true potential lies in the ‘natural resourcefulness and initiative of its population’. This resourcefulness is available in abundance in all populations and is naturally equitably distributed, and is ‘not the preserve of just the rich’. This is nature’s way of democratizing knowledge and skills, to allow for a natural redistribution of wealth, resources, and opportunity…..just as an earthquake is nature’s way of redistributing its natural resources like water and soil.
I focus on education-led initiatives as part of my focus to push a strong sustainability focus in my businesses and personal life, and which is why I have always continued to support the cause of top-tier education by my involvement in the advisory board of leading educational institutions (like University of Chicago’s Booth School of business). Within the businesses I run, my sustainability-focused initiatives have always revolved around imparting education/knowledge to relevant stakeholders. As part of this, over the years, within my employee force I have ensured that employees are enrolled in executive education study programs with leading global colleges to help empower them by making a permanent difference to their lives. For external stakeholders, I have also focused on creating CSR programs like the popular ‘Dunia Young Business Leader Program” on an annual basis to provide talented high school students with a high-pace learning over their summer vacations – which provided them an opportunity to learn critical functional, business and life skills by interfacing directly with actual business leaders.
I am greatly motived by my desire to help nurture and discover the latent knowledge inherent in our burgeoning populations, so that we can make a difference by helping thousands of flowers to bloom. I believe that we should help people gain the right attitude/skills/knowledge to adapt to enable them to drive change and be a part of the process of disrupting the status quo, each in their own way. The world has always been run by “resourceful and knowledgeable” minds and so one must invest in acquiring knowledge, and the ability to be adaptable. Those who can successfully make this transition will be part of the new-normal and for such “knowledgeable” minds” the upsides ahead will be huge.
As a beneficiary personally of high quality education that empowered me to drive change and make a difference, my focus has always been to give back by similarly enabling the success of many by helping provide knowledge so that they can drive change to enrich our world and the lives of all its future generations.
A study of the past has consistently shown that adversity throws up new opportunity. The power to win and now realise the new opportunities lies within each one of us! So, let’s make the change and take the leap to rule in the “new normal”!
I fully agree that with the view that with adversity and crisis, new opportunities emerge. Also, this leads to a process of change that redefines what people want, how they want it. Those individuals/firms who invest in possessing the creativity, knowledge, passion and grit to drive this change are the ones who eventually are best positioned to realise these opportunities.
I personally do not subscribe to the phrase ‘new normal’, as I believe the ‘Normal curve’ naturally reshapes itself along new realities, and hence what should be considered ‘normal’ evolves with time. This is how nature has so beautifully defined the perfect concept of all things following a Poisson distribution or the famous bell/normal curve.
I believe that people who look for the ‘New Normal’ are often waiting for others to define for them what the new realities are….and can end up being losers or being behind the curve. On the contrary, the winners do not consider anything as the ‘new normal’ but they believe that they have to constantly recreate skills, reorganise their operating models, rethink their organisations, and reimagine customer journeys on an ongoing basis – because the normal curve is as true a concept as that of ‘shifting sands in a desert’. The dunes always exist but their shape and location changes with the conditions of the moment. Similarly, the normal curve is always bell-shaped, but it reshapes constantly with new evolution.
So, those who wait to get the definition of what is the ‘new normal’ at any time, are already too late….and end up being losers who follow the lead taken by winners who change on a real-time basis as changes evolve. The process of change is a continuous one, and not a discrete process ….and this requires an agile-mind-set and a founders-mentality to be instilled within, so that innately one evolves along with changes in the ecosystem.
DNTV: With fast progress on technology side and quick adoption of automation in almost every sector, could you please advise students how to select their future careers ?
Rajeev Kakar: My advice is simple….Do not be guided by your parents or the previous generation in choosing your career directions, as this is akin to being guided by the past. Remember, the past will not be an indicator of the future and such well-intended guidance could inadvertently mislead you.
Instead, dare to follow your heart and do what you love to do. Do not try to do something that does not excite you within, as then you will never excel in what you do. The world today allows for different ways to contribute and to excel. So, keep an open mind, and be prepared to then prepare to achieve your dreams by ‘being focused, passionate, energetic, creative, innovative, execution-focused, always maintain high levels of personal integrity, and have the courage/grit/resolve to achieve what you desire’. If you have imbibe all these qualities, then you will definitely succeed in whatever you start out to do.
Another piece of advice is to always the ‘walk the talk’ and ‘not just talk the talk’. It is important to take chances, as else opportunities will go by. It is okay to fail as, each time you fail, you will learn what not to do as you continue with focus, energy and creativity to yet again try and win. If you are sincere and have the grit to succeed, then you will definitely succeed.
DNTV: Do you suggest top three careers for next 10 years as students are no more only restricted to medical, engineering, computer science and business administration ?
Rajeev Kakar: For the reasons above, I hesitate to recommend what the top three careers in the next ten years will be….because I would be lying if I claimed to know what these could be.
But if you insist, then all I can share is the important top three skills, attributes and knowledge areas which I believe will be very useful ahead for anyone to succeed in whichever career they choose, as follows:
- Cognitive skills to understand how the human brain works and makes multiple decisions on a real-time basis. This is important as the human brain is nature’s only ’s perfect intelligent system…..and to succeed in any sector/area, it is important to learn skills that can help us make decisions similarly by decoding the minds of humans for business/other decisions, leveraging concepts of neuroscience and using computational techniques to make real-time decisions based on such learning; and
- Data analytics skills to acquire the ability to interpret the streams of voluminous data footprint all humans constantly create which helps any business in truly comprehending customer needs and in predicting individual behavior with high confidence levels, on a very precise customer-centric manner; and
- High levels of self-awareness with an ability to adapt with change and to manage adversity and failure. Only those who are aware of their weaknesses, strengths and desires, are willing to show high adaptability to changing situations, and are also able to show resolve to act fast and not be discouraged by the risk of failure will be truly positioned to succeed.