Indian leaders are nearly twice as optimistic as their global peers about how their businesses will perform over the next 12 months, states PWC’s 20th CEO survey. The survey had 1,379 CEO respondents from 79 countries, and 106 from India. The following are the key findings of the survey:
Optimism is at an all-time high
- 71% of India’s CEOs are ‘very confident’ of their organisation's growth prospects over the next year, as compared to 38% of CEOs all over the world. This is a remarkable increase from last year as well, when 64% of Indian CEOs were confident. Other regions fared as follows: Brazil: 57%, Asia-Pacific: 37%, China: 35%.
- A few important factors that have resulted in the high optimism of Indian leaders are favourable demographic profile, rising income levels, urbanisation, policy reforms, rising FDI etc.
- 80% of the CEOs from India said that they were inducing organic growth in business, whereas 69% said that were planning to cut costs and invest the same to boost growth.
But, uncertainties are aplenty
- Despite being optimistic, CEOs are worried about many things: availability of key skills (87%), uncertain economic growth (82%), inadequate infrastructure (81%), over-regulation (81%), the speed of technological change (77%) and protectionism (64%).
- Globally, 59% of the CEOs surveyed were concerned about protectionism; lower than that of their Indian counterparts.
- 38% of the Indian CEOs were of the view that technological innovations have ‘significantly impacted’ competition in their industry, within the last five years. 47% said that the next five years of disruptive technological advancement will have a ‘significant impact’ on competition.
- 77% stated that there is a need to create differentiation in their products and services by managing data better.
And Skills are Scarce
- 81% Indian CEOs said that it is important to have digital skills, and 66% are already undertaking digital training at their organisational learning level.
- With 87%, availability of key skills was the topmost concern on the minds of Indian leaders. While, 64% of them also said that it is ‘difficult’ to recruit people with problem-solving skills; 74% said that it was challenging to find people who are innovative and creative, and 66% admitted that recruiting people who are adaptable is ‘difficult’.
- Although 67% of the Indian CEOs surveyed were eyeing to increase their employee strength in the next one year, 56% were also exploring the benefits of machines and humans working together.
Shyamal Mukherjee, PwC India Chairman, has been quoted saying, “It is encouraging to see that CEOs continue to be confident of their revenue growth prospects given the volatility of the dynamic business environment in India. This shows that a transformational agenda is on the cards. Though disruptive innovation is a priority for CEOs in India, they are in constant need for talent with unique skill sets that could be leveraged in today's highly automated world.”
The findings of the survey resonate with the overall sentiment in the industry, which is witnessing significant activity and reforms. From the impending implementation of GST to regaining momentum after demonetization, and the very latest, a favourable monsoon forecast, it looks like things are really picking up for the economy. However, as the survey also points out, it would be a mistake to confuse being confident with being complacent. With automation and global protectionist sentiments as credible challenges, the need to focus on skilling the massive workforce of India is more pertinent that ever. Indian CEOs might be the most optimistic about their businesses in the world, but they also need to be most careful, as they have their task cut out for them: balance business growth with providing new-age skills, to insulate themselves from the impact of challenges ahead.