Davos 2022 convenes today at a critical juncture for the global economy, which continues to deal with economic fallout from COVID-19 and, more recently, emerging geo-political conflicts.
Global businesses are grappling with these twin pressures but conversation is turning to recovery and the role technology and talent can play in propping up supply chains and service industries.
FT columnist Martin Wolf, attending his 23rd Davos, says the forum has always been a ‘barometer for globalization’, and the absence of China and Russia this year suggests de-globalization is the current theme.
“You get a very, very good sense of the concerns, the worries and the enthusiasms of the moment,” he says.
“I expect this to be a year of major worry and a lot of themes will be concerns about de-globalization, war and the huge rift between the West, Russia and China, and the management of climate change.”
Joining FT in a panel discussion, C Vijayakumar, CEO & MD at HCLTech, shared his optimism for globalization albeit with a different model:
“Every big corporation in the world is leveraging global supply chains in the services industry but we have also been very consciously localizing in the markets we operate,” he says.
The majority of HCLTech’s hires are local as the business moves towards a ‘nearshoring’ model. It plans to hire between 35-40,000 people this year alone.
“How do you really adopt a global business services model and create more value by localizing in geographies we’re present?”
Technology a ‘savior’
Like many companies, the answer lies in leveraging technology.
“One theme I hear is technology has been a savior and has helped them [global companies] overcome disruptions to supply chain and working formats,” adds Vijayakumar.
“Everyone is very keen to further the journey [in technology] in spite of all the worries and concerns because it is a fundamental strategic choice to make businesses more resilient.”
Cloud technology, which is inherently borderless, will inevitably play a big part in enabling new business and service models.
Vijayakumar adds: “You can’t talk about tech without talking about Cloud; 50% of tech spend in 2025 will be on the cloud, a platform that enables a resilient tech landscape and offers opportunities to innovate.”
Nurturing talent post-pandemic
Finding the talent to deploy new technology and business models is a challenge facing companies all over the world, however.
Inflationary shocks, exacerbated by COVID recovery programs and the war in Ukraine, have placed unprecedented pressures on global labor markets.
With 200,000+ employees worldwide, HCLTech is acutely exposed to these challenges. “Every service firm and manufacturing firm has been talking about the competition for labor and the fact that they have to look hard and pay more,” says Wolf.
“The hot labor market is a problem created by good thing,” he says, referring to the stimulus required to aid recovery from the pandemic.
For HCLTech, nurturing talent as young as high school age and retaining graduates is the solution to plugging the skills gap. HCLTech is also tapping emerging markets from Guatemala to Romania to Sri Lanka for additional talent pools outside India, as well as offering creative talent attraction programs.
These themes will no doubt resonate with many delegates at this year’s Davos – the first in-person event since 2020, under the headline theme of 'working Together, restoring Trust'.
“What I really love about Davos is that while there are good macro insights, the 1-1 sessions give a really good micro view,” adds Vijayakumar.
“These sessions are a window to the world and how stakeholders are thinking about these challenges.”