Three years ago, life as we knew it changed. Some of the people I manage at work today have never worked out of a physical office in their career. Remote work is the main way of working that they know; waking up in the morning, dressing up and hitting the road to work is an idea they cannot relate to. When COVID-19 happened, people expected the world to change in the most shocking ways, people predicted an apocalypse. For so many people, this was the first time they were witnessing a global crisis, they were either too young or not born during the other major crises of the 21st century – the 2001 9/11 Attacks, the 2005 London bombings, and the 2008 financial crisis (this link does a good job of breaking down the crisis to dummies). Thus, they did not know how to react to this crisis, this was also the first crisis that occurred in the advent of the most technological period of our time – technological innovations reduced the concept of space and time to a computer screen.
Back then in 2020, I was rather optimistic. I’d lived through the three previous crises I mentioned and one thing I remember was all the trepidation that followed the events in real-time and the predictions of doom, however, for every one of these events, the world came out stronger with even more advancements. Quite a number of people were keen on my thoughts about a post-COVID world and what the “new normal” would look like. Here’s what I wrote back then.
A Post-COVID World: One day you’re the Cock of the Walk, the next, a Feather Duster
Contrary to what majority of the world thinks, I do not think we will see a drastic change in our society after COVID (need to think a bit more about what “after” means, is there really going to be a world without the pandemic? I think so, the Spanish Flu was deadlier than COVID, as some would say, and yet, the world moved on so quickly without problems that it had to artificially create one for itself with World War I. So “after” here refers to a world where COVID is not the trending topic, the virus may not vanish but we would have found ways to live with the virus among us without any harm). Moving on to what will change in our society today, I am sorry to burst your bubble but nothing will change. When 9/11 happened, everyone felt Commercial flights will be history but what did we see the next year instead – increased flights. When the global economy crashed in 2007/08, people did not see the Real Estate sector making a bounce back, last I checked, it’s been one of the fastest growing sectors in the US. Cinemas will reopen and humans will soon flock in as usual, the beaches will soon get filled up, and churches will be filled to the brim with humans. Nothing is going to change, within the next one year, life as we know it will return. At least history has shown this before. However, I see opportunities for new businesses and ideas to take shape while some existing business models will struggle to heal from the dent this pandemic has caused. Here are some of my predictions:
- Healthcare Technology – any technology that is addressing or digitizing any section of the Healthcare value chain will be a hit. There will be loads of increased donor funding and government grants towards that area.
- Devalued Gig Economy – before now, the gig economy has been touted as the next big thing, especially with digital platforms like Uber bringing gig players together. COVID has shown that communality is not foolproof and is also susceptible to factors like health, hygiene, etc. So we will begin to see fewer investments in gig economy businesses.
- Local Production – countries and industries that saw their supply chain briefly disrupted as a result will begin to explore other ways to become self-sustainable and less immune to pressure shocks. If anyone can manufacture raw materials in any industry and deliver extra value, they will become the cock of the walk.
- Investments in Aviation – the aviation and tourism industry has been one of the worst hit since the pandemic and as a result, most assets have lost their value and become so cheap. If prior historical events are anything to go by, now is the best time to buy for the long term because that industry will surely bounce back. There are three critical levers to the global economy – transport, food, and security. People will always move around, societies will always be prone to crime hence the need for security and humans will always eat, which leads to my next point.
- Agriculture – one of the things we learnt during this period was the importance of Agriculture as an “essential service”. We have seen a sector that has shown itself to be pandemic-proof. Hence opportunities in Agriculture should be grabbed as that sector is about to play a big-time role in the near future.
Interesting. Out of five broad predictions, I think I was largely correct. Although, I am not so sure countries have done anything drastic to boost their local production. I know the US has been focused on producing chips locally but there has been no large-scale effort to increase local production. China is still leading that front. What seems to be happening is that businesses are now diversifying their production pool away from China into neighbours like India, Indonesia, etc. Uber, Lyft, AirBnB and other gig economy businesses have struggled since the pandemic, for all the reasons I mentioned above. Aviation has returned back to pre-pandemic heights and as always, Agriculture has been winning.
COVID has since killed 1% of the world’s population (7 million) ever since I wrote those recommendations so it did wreak some serious havoc and most families who lost loved ones will never be the same again. The biggest surprise for me out of COVID, actually two surprises were – we still do not concretely know the origins of this virus that devastated much of the world, then the politics and discourse around wearing masks and vaccines were really shocking, to say the least.
Predicting the future is a very dicey game, sometimes, the future defies logic and sound judgement but even at that, there are eternal clues that will always lead you home. One of the best ways to predict the future is to study the past. History is like a robot, it is cyclical and will always repeat itself.