INDIA RISK REVIEW 2021

The year gone by will for long be remembered as one of the most tumultuous years for the world in living memory. India’s economy was already under considerable strain and was showing early signs of systemic fault lines. The arrival of the pandemic at the beginning of the year and its quick spread exacerbated the already fragile situation, pushing the economy towards a downward spiral and into a recessionary mode.

The economic shock and disruption caused by COVID-19 had a more telling and crippling effect on the unorganised daily wage sector and migrant workers, triggering a painful dislocation and social upheaval, causing much anguish and distress in rural India. In comparative terms, despite its dense population and fragile health infrastructure, India had till date managed the pandemic satisfactorily, especially so in respect of its fatality ratio.

On the geopolitical front, India had a major spat with China after nearly sixty years. Large, heavily armed forces of both sides are as of now locked in a tense stand-off. Any military miscalculation or foolhardy adventure by either side can quickly snowball into a sharp and escalatory conflagration. An objective strategic assessment would suggest that both sides are on even terms, with perhaps a slight tactical advantage to India, allowing it a stronger negotiating posture. Going forward in the next year, one does not foresee any significant changes in the prevailing ground position.

Any scope for de-escalation and disengagement can only happen at the highest political level of both sides. The chances of that happening soon are dim, as there is too much at stake for either side to show weakness. A stalemate in the near term is therefore more likely. India would have to be very alert once the campaigning season restarts in June, and both sides jockey for tactical advantage. One thing is for sure, that the clash had brought India and the USA closer together strategically and militarily. This relationship is likely to endure even under the Biden administration, as containing China by all possible means would continue to be the fundamental plank of US policy in the Indo Pacific.

The clash had also given an impetus to the QUAD grouping; and the recent joint naval exercises are a pointer to a seriousness of intent. In the coming year, more developments and growth in QUAD and QUAD plus can be expected. Indo-Australian relations, both military and economic, will see an upward swing as Australia and China appear to be drifting apart. The UK, having left Brexit, will look towards India for increased trade, and economic relations will be on the upswing. Indian economy is coming out of recession and despite all constraints, is likely to be the world’s fastest growing economy with anticipated growth rate of 8 to 8.5% and going on to 9 plus in the ensuing years. Once the pandemic is fully under control and an effective vaccine is deployed, one can expect things to be hopefully normal by the second to third quarter of next year.

Agricultural reforms introduced by the Modi Govt have met with much headwind. Even though the farm laws are technically good for the agricultural sector, sadly the government had brought them in a hurry and without building a reasonable consensus or communicating the benefits/ safeguards to the polity effectively. It is hoped that most of the contentious issues will be resolved. This though will involve very astute and benign handling, or else given the current mood it may spiral out of control.

Nearly 5 Indian states go for elections in 2021 with West Bengal being the most crucial, followed by Assam and Tamil Nadu. The results of these state elections will be like a midcourse referendum of the current disposition. A change of government in West Bengal would be a tall ask for the BJP but TMC would definitely be weakened and lose its grip on the state. Whatever be the final result, due to the high stakes and passions involved, violence during the run up and during elections is likely and would need monitoring.

2021 will be a very eventful year, especially in terms of economic recovery, and revival of the travel and hospitality sector. Schools are likely to open early next year if the current COVID-19 declining trends continue. Security scenario on the borders both with China and Pakistan will continue to be tense with distinct possibility of clashes resulting in casualties. A full-scale war or even a sectoral conflict is less likely as both sides are unwilling to escalate matters.

As we move forward, security professionals are likely to face dynamic and more evolving security threats worldwide. As leaders have been focusing on recovering from the impact of COVID-19, security concerns related to border conflicts with China and Pakistan, situations of civil unrest, technological risks and consequences of climate change will have its impact besides the non-traditional threats in both the physical and cyber realms.

OVERALL BUSINESS CLIMATE FOR 2021

For India, 2020 was a year of multiple reckonings. Between COVID-19, the lockdown and the pandemic’s economic consequences, the standoff in Ladakh, caused by the largest Chinese military mobilisation in memory, farmer protests on the outskirts of the national capital, and even cyclones were crowded out of news cycles.

In terms of geopolitical developments, regional tensions are expected to continue. Besides violent clashes between India and China at the Galwan Valley and a border dispute with Nepal, complexities persist with Pakistan. While India had managed to maintain its ties with Nepal, relations with China and Pakistan are likely to remain strained in the same manner. Tensions along both borders will remain top priorities for security establishments, with probability of more clashes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and continued cross border infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC).

The impact of the 2020 pandemic in India had been highly disruptive as the country had contributed the second highest number of COVID-19 cases.

While the market forecasts have predicted a drop of 18.3 percent, the Indian economy shrank to 23.9 percent year-on- year in the second quarter of 2020. According to the Ministry of Statistics, India’s growth in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020 had dropped to 3.1 percent. This downturn had been majorly caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic effect on the Indian economy. Nevertheless, India had remained at rank 63 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2020. The country had been one of the top 10 economies acknowledged for having improved on the ease of doing business due to the implementation of regulatory reforms.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its Financial Stability Report (FSR) for 2020 states that the financial system in India would remain sound. Nonetheless in the current environment, the need for financial intermediaries to proactively augment capital and improve their resilience has acquired top priority. Managing the pandemic and its economic effects will be the foremost priority in 2021. However, because of the pandemic, India had gone to its first technical recession since the government first started recording GDP in a quarterly manner in 1996.

TOP BUSINESS RISKS

GEOPOLITICAL RISKS

The relations between the South Asian neighbours – Pakistan, India and China have reached new lows in 2020, with tensions that will prevail in 2021. The India-China border clashes at the Galwan Valley have had a deep bearing on India’s approach in dealing its relations with China. While only minor incidents were reported traditionally along the border, possibilities of limited armed conflicts are expected across India-China border in the future. Besides continued animosity with Pakistan, India took a hard stance of ‘stop terror to start talks’ with Pakistan after the Pulwama attack in 2019, for India to resume dialogue. Pakistan had also criticised India for the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Jammu & Kashmir.

There have also been other geopolitical developments of relevance for the country with neighbours such as Nepal and Bangladesh. A territorial dispute caused due to India’s realigned map, published during the abrogation of article 370 and 35A, had led to a strong anti-India wave in Nepal. Although India-Nepal relations have traditionally been deep rooted, China’s leverage with Nepal during the rise of anti-India sentiments, had threatened India with Chinese interference and control over Nepal’s internal decisions. Similarly, disputes have been caused with the bilateral relations between India-Bangladesh due to India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Registry of Citizens (NRC). Bangladesh had also alleged lack of support from India during repatriation of Rohingya refugees.

After the abrogation of Article 370, the situation in Jammu & Kashmir had seen an improvement with a reduction in security threats and resumption in political activities. While deployment of additional security personnel and control in communication had contributed to the reduction in violence, there had, however, been a rise in the number of ceasefire violations along the LoC by Pakistan. Cross-border terrorism and anti-India terror groups persist as priorities in regional security concerns.

Traditionally, inter-state conflicts in India have been majorly caused due to water sharing disputes between states. Godavari and Krishna water-sharing dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and Cauvery water-sharing dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have resulted in standoffs. 2020 has also seen a significant increase in inter-state land border disputes especially in the states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya. These conflicts have been predominantly caused by aspects such as differences in political interests, ethnic outlook and culture. With state assembly elections scheduled in West Bengal, Assam, Tamilnadu and Kerala in 2021; some of these sentiments would be exploited in political canvassing and may result in localised agitations.

 

SOCIO-ECONOMIC RISKS

2020 has witnessed large scale civil disturbances across the country despite restrictions on mass public gatherings imposed during the COVID-19 lockdown. Social disorder and localised unrest have been majorly caused due to aspects such as issues in women safety, inter-religious tensions, demand for justice, intransigence of the government over negotiations by farmers groups, crisis faced by migrant workers, unemployment caused during the pandemic and caste-based violence. Haryana’s police were alleged of mishandling a gangrape in September at Hathras and triggered nationwide outrage with activists and public pressing various state governments on the issue of gender and caste-based violence.

In September 2020, the Parliament passed three key farm bills that have resulted in widespread protests by farmers across the nation. Political parties and agriculture/ farm bodies such as the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) have strongly represented that these new bills are in favour of large corporate houses in the agri- sector.

Protests have resulted in nationwide road blockade at major highways, railway blockade in the Delhi-Punjab-Haryana region, and protest marches to Delhi. Localised protests have also been staged in various cities, at government offices, offices of the ruling party and corporate offices of agri-businesses.

As farmers’ protests have been intensified, industry leaders have warned about disruptions in supply chains and logistics, impacting the economy and the same is likely to impinge on the process of recovery from the economic contraction caused during the pandemic.

Labour unions organised nationwide protests against state’s suspension of labour laws as the changes have been viewed with suspicion, favouring the management. Left Wing Extremism (LWE) groups who claim to fight for the rights of the local tribal inhabitants have been engaged in violent activities over remote areas of several states, notably parts of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Maharashtra. While there was a decline in the number of violent activities during COVID- 19 lockdown, the government of India has also implemented measures to combat LWE groups (also known as Maoists or Naxalites).

There is also a possibility of Maoists groups re-establishing their presence once the pandemic situation is under control. It is imperative that the security forces are entirely prepared to fight on any new strategic approaches planned by these groups. Instances of civil unrest opposing the privatisation of various government industries/ sectors; and anti-government demonstrations such as anti-CAA have resulted in dissent over decisions made by the government. These scenarios are expected to result in larger scale protests in 2021.

TECHNOLOGICAL RISKS

I ndia is amongst the top three countries in the world with the highest number of cyberattacks. In 2019, India faced around 4,00,000 cyber attacks as monitored by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In). According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in 2020, Indian citizens, government and business entities faced around 7,00,000 cyber attacks. Digital transformation has been a boon to the world however, as digital and physical worlds collide, organisations are expected to face exploitation of vulnerable resources by cyber attackers. Ransomware is a problem on the rise, a simple threat with some very large business implications. Specific ransomware attacks on pharma and healthcare sectors in India have been expected to witness a surge in the upcoming year.

Social engineering in a broader aspect is a malicious activities where an attacker manipulates the victim through human interactions thereby obtaining access to sensitive information. Cyber attacks through vulnerability exploitation, had become common where an attacker takes advantages over a programming or implementation failure. India has seen a 37% increase in cyber-attacks; as high as 36 million between January and November 2020, compared to 18 million attacks in 2019. According to the researchers from Kaspersky, there has been an increase in brute force attacks on Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) and about 1.7 million unique malicious files disguised as applications for corporate communication.

As banks and other financial institutions such as Paytm and PayPal increasingly rely on interacting with customers over cyberspace, the risk to the sector is said to be on an increasing trend. Cyber-attacks on financial institutions and their market infrastructures have become more frequent. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had reported in its annual publication that bank frauds have increased substantially during 2019-2020. Cyberspace provides an avenue for attacking infrastructure from anywhere around the world.

Further, cyber components make critical infrastructure susceptible to subversion, disruption, or destruction. While a new generation of electronically enabled components of water, electric or transportation sub-sectors such as aviation have incorporated an unprecedented amount of commercial networking technology into their systems, it is important to note that these structures have been designed to withstand physical and vagrant attacks.

Furthermore, data breaches on exposure of personally identifiable information (PII) that include phone numbers, addresses and other social numbers such as aadhaar numbers have created issues in access control over critical information. India has made an attempt to address the situation by bringing out a draft of the Personal Data Protection (PDP) bill that provides a Data Protection Authority (DPA) to effectively enforce the privacy law.

Thereby organisations have been mandated to follow strict standards in their data management practices. India has also faced broader categories of cyber attacks given the wide spectrum of state-sponsored attacks. These attacks most importantly target critical information on corporate and military networks. The situation becomes more complicated when the state-sponsored attacks utilise civilian infrastructure. While, directly attacking on government or military systems is harder due to the comprehensive defences, state-sponsored attacks are prone to impact businesses in order to extract money or information and cause disruptions. Integrating solutions by adopting globally recognised security standards are essentials of an organisation.

Social media manipulations have proliferated massively in the recent years. Despite the growing realization on circulation of fake news, it remains difficult to identify, block or ignore social media manipulations. There have been targeted social media campaigns, sophisticated forgeries, cyberbullying, harassment of individuals, distribution of rumours and conspiracy theories to cause damage to the target. As long as access to information remains important and the impact of social media remains high, social media manipulations are expected to continue as a threat.

While organisations perform security assessments over systems, employees have been forced to work on unauthorised systems while connecting remote during lockdown. Shadow IT, where use of IT systems, devices, software, application and services without explicit approval from internal IT departments have increased during the COVID-19 situation and they have posed serious risks to the forefront.

The need for organisations to actively monitor systems and network for any potential vulnerabilities have become an ideal responsibility. 5G technology is expected to be the most important network of the 21st century and the significance of securing the entire ecosystem of devices and applications remains as a tougher part. Fifth-generation networks create an expanded, multidimensional cyberattack vulnerability. A strong collaboration between data protection and privacy laws with the National Security Directive on the Telecom Sector is mandatory, enabling India to maintain its autonomy in the key aspects of software, hardware and network components while joining the 5G race.

In view of the alarming magnitude of cyber threats, India’s Union Cabinet in December 2020, introduced a framework titled ‘National Security Directive on Telecom Sector’ to prevent data theft and other virtual vulnerabilities which were threatening the national security. While cyber risks continue to increase manifold in the advent of 5G technology, maintaining supply chains, especially electronic components are required to prevent malware infections. While telecom is a critical underlying infrastructure for several sectors, the government will declare a list of ‘Trusted sources/products’ for the benefit of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs).

During the unprecedented times, scams have been adopted by attackers, circulating fraudulent URLs/ applications claiming cure, treatment and tracking of COVID-19. Soon after announcements were made on the vaccine rollout in December 2020, warnings were issued for the public to be aware of vaccine scams. As COVID-19 scams may witness a surge, it is imperative to rely on official sources.

ECONOMIC RISKS

India’s ranking in World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) reports have improved from 142 in 2014 to 63 in 2019. The Union Government has been making concerted efforts to improve its ranking on business competitiveness. The World Bank has attributed India’s improvement in the DB rankings to the reforms initiated in the country for simplifying processes such as starting a business, dealing with construction permits, resolving insolvency and trading across borders.

The World Bank in October 2020 estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was likely to contract by 9.6 percent in the 2020-21 financial year. According to the official data released by the National Statistics Office in the July-September quarter (Q2) of 2020-21, the Indian economy contracted 7.5 per cent from the same quarter last year. This was a significant improvement over an unprecedented 23.9 per cent year-on-year contraction witnessed in the April-June quarter of in 2020.

Although India continues to be in a technical recession, drop in the rate of GDP contraction signals a revival for the economy after a major plunge in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Union Government’s fiscal deficit remained above the annual target for the second straight month in August 2020, mainly on account of the impact of lockdown over revenue collections.

The government imposed nationwide lockdown in late March 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19. After six months of closure, the government lifted lockdown restrictions in a phased manner, since the shutdown had impacted the country’s economy. The lockdown restrictions halted economic activities in several sectors which eventually led to unemployment and impact on the overall revenue.

Tensions were heightened due to the border clashes with China resulting in questions over the quantum of trade between the countries. While manufacturing and pharmaceutical sectors are highly dependent on Chinese exports, any disruptions in trade may result in a substantial impact over Indian businesses.

While unemployment saw a surge during the pandemic, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), warned over shortages in skills resulting in vacancies of several openings. The government identified employment opportunities and proposed on funds to aid skill development to ensuring employment rate.

In the energy sector, the global health emergency posed by the spread of COVID-19 had come to India’s advantage. India’s oil import bill had fallen by close to 10 percent in FY20; as the increasing spread of COVID-19, and demand squeeze globally had depressed the crude oil prices to about 30 a barrel now, against a high of over USD 70 a barrel in September and again in January in 2020.

While other aspects such as corruption and corporate frauds remain as an area of concern, the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) had recorded several cases pertaining to bank frauds over investigations on forensic audit reports. Effective policies and compliance programmes on anti-corruption and anti- bribery have been recommended for organisations to overcome corruption.

INFRASTRUCTURAL RISKS

Over the last two decades, India has witnessed a significant growth in infrastructure across various sectors, resulting in an increase in investments. While these improvements have facilitated an uprise to the economy, there are challenges that need to be addressed on priority. The onset of COVID-19 pandemic expanded utilisation of internet-driven operations across the country. This has in return increased the vulnerability of cyber attacks and thereby several incidents of security breaches have been reported to have an impact on critical infrastructure.

India’s ability to ensure security relates to its ability to grow and expand its economy. Smart cities, banking, and finance sectors have been highly targeted as traditional cyberattacks have been expanding capabilities to target various aspects of banking such as cash dispensers (ATMs), PoS devices, connected kiosks, and mobile ATMs. While India is at the forefront in acquiring best possible solutions to overcome the challenges, an integrated cybersecurity platform-driven approach is a requirement to acknowledge risks from the areas of vulnerability.

Although the COVID-19 lockdowns reduced travel and transit risks for a few months, road accidents remained an area of concern. The burden of road traffic fatalities in India has increased over the past two decades. Road transport injury fatality rates in states and union territories have been influenced by factors such as infrastructure availability, road design and enforcement of law.

Driver safety technology that would serve as a navigation and monitoring system is most likely a requirement to mitigate risks associated with road accidents.

Travel safety in 2020 was interlinked with COVID-19 regulations, and aspects related to personal hygiene and social distancing protocols. While necessary precautionary measures have been ensured for all, air travel appears to be the safest option for traveling long distances. Besides relaxations in travel restrictions, the government has ensured improved GPS-based tracing applications such as Aarogya Setu to trace contacts of individuals testing positive for COVID-19. Though public transport systems have largely suffered during the lockdown for being non-operational, transportation is now resumed, enabling economic recovery.

While maintaining a strong security perimeter is an integral part of an organisation, incorporating methods to ensure a safe environment for the employees is the vital responsibility. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code) that received the President’s assent on 28 September 2020, prescribes a more stringent set of duties for employers such as maintaining higher standards in workplace safety, provide free annual health check-ups to some employees, legitimize recruitments through letters of appointment, and provide the requisite training on instructions for any potentially hazardous operations.

ENVIRONMENTAL & HEALTH RISKS

2020 has been a year with a number of challenges due to environmental anomalies. Cascading effects have already begun to show up in several aspects of the environment ranging from prolonged monsoon periods to increase in cyclonic activity beyond the season. Many of India’s major cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata are situated along the coast or in close proximity to the sea, thereby rendering business establishments in these cities to remain vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. 2020 has experienced its fair share of extreme weather phenomena in the form of floods, cyclones and heatwaves. India experienced three cyclonic storms of varying severity – Amphan, Nisarga and Nivar – that affected the coastline. Metropolitan cities in India such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai continued to witness inundation during the monsoon period, and unexpectedly heavy rainfall during October-November 2020. These environmental factors posed a dual risk along with COVID-19 in 2020.

Although restrictions in traveling and industrial operations stabilised the air quality during the lockdown, relaxations after August 2020 have brought air pollution levels back to harmful levels in several regions. During the later months of 2020, there was a drastic rise in the number of farm fires that took place in states adjoining Delhi. Worsening air quality, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR) has forced the Union Government to set up a permanent commission to follow measures to control pollution.

Water scarcity is projected to be increasing in India owing to the expected strong growth in population and economic development; they will increase the demands for freshwater exponentially. Water insecurity showcases itself in different forms: groundwater depletion, household water insecurity, extreme weather events, and exposure to declining quality of water. Deteriorating water quality is widespread in many of India’s water bodies. Discharge of contaminated water from industries has drastically impacted underground water quality.

Cyclones and other weather events such as drought and floods have been posing serious threats in India. Additionally, locust attacks during summer this year, in few areas of the country, had culminated into an agrarian disaster. The lack of long-term plans in the backdrop of accelerated unsustainable urban development has led to the recurrence of urban inundation in several parts of India. While this has become a seasonal risk, businesses should be able to plan on employee commute, analyse likely impact during heavy rainfall to stock basic supplies for business continuity. On a readiness aspect, mechanisms and alerting systems are required to be effectively in place to spread awareness and for mass employee notification tools.

Dealing with an unknown, fickle virus, and a pandemic that was always a moving target, India did better than most countries, and if studying the wider picture, it has actually coped remarkably well. Its whole-of-society approach, pushed by clear-headed political leadership and robust state capacity where this was gave it more reserves and instruments than even it realised in March 2020. The first COVID-19 case in India was detected on 30 January and the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a public health emergency of international concern. India went into lockdown almost two months later in March 2020. Testing capacity has increased over time and the government has been issuing a series of travel advisories and restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The rollout of the vaccine in India has taken place smoothly. While the initial days saw a few hiccups on the digital Co-WIN platform, they were rectified, and simultaneous manual logs started to keep track of those getting vaccinated. Logistical preparations and multiple simulations and run-throughs made the process seamless – a daunting task for a country of this size and population. Regular updates, information broadcasting, and tracking helped make the process of reaching 10.8 million beneficiaries vaccinated in just 36 days. Covaxin by Bharat Biotech and Covisheild by Serum Institute in India have been approved for use in India. Of these, 89.27% of total vaccinations till 22 February have been done with Covishield. More than a million people have already received a second dose of the vaccines – one of the fastest rollouts in the world.

India has emerged as a major supplier of COVID-19 vaccines over its partnership with Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses. While organising a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, the Indian government announced an elaborate ‘vaccine diplomacy’ strategy of providing vaccines to most of its neighbours and other developing countries. India’s vaccine diplomacy has reached 17 nations, including neighbouring countries as well as those in West Asia, Africa and Latin America in February. Digital platforms for vaccine distribution and administration (COVID-19 Vaccine Information Network Co-WIN) were prepared and tested in collaboration with the State and District level authorities. Business corporations have come up with suggestions for the government to approve using corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds for vaccinating their employees. Private sector entities have also requested the government to ensure interoperability of IT systems on seamless automation of vaccine traceability, temperature monitoring across storage, transportation and stock management. Arrangements to ensure preparedness have been made pertaining to administration on citizen registrations, slot booking, transaction management, vaccine centre, feedback management during vaccinations.

Due to the series of lockdowns initiated due to COVID-19, a sudden and radical change has occurred in the habits and lifestyles of the entire population, with a drastic reduction on any forms of socialisation. Physical distancing and self-isolation strongly impacted citizens’ lives, affecting eating habits and everyday behaviour. This has had an impact on the mental health and lifestyle choices of people as well. WHO has estimated about 7.5 percent people in India have been suffering mental illnesses majorly caused due to depression and anxiety disorder. Further, reports have pointed out shortages in the mental health workforce in India, that includes a reduced number of psychiatrists and psychologists.

OUTLOOK FOR 2021

The year 2020 was largely associated with the country’s response to the pandemic and the impact on various sectors, eventually disrupting the economic growth. According to the private sector and other forecasting agencies consensus, GDP in India has been predicted to rebound from the current technical recession in the next financial year. This optimism is based on consistent decline in new COVID-19 infections along with the high recovery rates. Overall progress in vaccinations globally has also remained as a sign over developments to the current scenario. Relaxations in restrictions on mobility, reforms in labour regulations (the new labour codes), reforms in agriculture and specific relief measures in several sectors are anticipated to result in progressive outcomes. These factors have increased the expectations on improvements in economic activities over the upcoming quarters.

Risks from geopolitical shifts are likely to continue as a major challenge for businesses in 2021. Civil disturbances and protests are likely to persist unabated in 2021 due to anti-government rallies, security threats, agricultural reforms, reservations for minority groups. Cross-border tension in Jammu & Kashmir is likely to increase due to rising border tensions and disturbed relations with Pakistan, even though the overall security situation is partially under control. Insurgency in North-East India and Maoist affected areas in central and western India are likely to reduce in 2021, over facilitation of tightened security forces.

While challenges caused by climate change are evident, the dynamics of the overall trend of extreme weather phenomenon remains a threat. Major cyclonic developments, heavy rainfall and urban inundation during the monsoon season, extreme heat waves during summers, water-scarcity and pollution shall always remain as potential factors impacting business operations and continuity.

In the COVID-19 world in India, every business faces, in some form or other, a trifecta of uncertainties created by the new risk landscape. Is their business facing a hinge moment – a radical discontinuity necessitating the reimagining and re- engineering of their strategy and product portfolio? Or are they witnessing no more than another turn, albeit steep, of the business cycle and that, once the vaccine is developed and distributed, the market will return to business as usual? Or will conditions necessitate a middle of the road approach – stay the pre- COVID-19 course but at the same time, speed up the pivot toward a new business model. Most business leaders in India are likely to adopt this third hybrid path; and accept that their businesses have been impacted, but not to the extent that they should give up on their basics.



 

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