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The Covid 19 Pandemic has slowed down an already weakened globalization process. Much before the Pandemic struck, nations worldwide were turning their backs on globalism and began to pursue nationalistic and by extension, populist policies. See for instance, the rise of strongmen authoritarians like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Erdogan, Bolsonaro, and Viktor Orban, who espoused Nation First rhetoric. Indeed, one of the reasons for Trump’s victory was the widespread, though largely factually incorrect, feeling that globalization has enriched the Few and left the Many impoverished.
Therefore, globalization was under attack much before the Pandemic happened and what it has done is to almost derail the process to an extent that otherwise globalist nations are also forced to turn inward. With global trade grinding to a halt and air travel limited to bubbles, there is every chance that multinational firms would start relooking at their global strategies. Moreover, given the fact that Covid was a direct result of our borderless world, even moderate and liberal elites might look askance at furthering globalism.
Having said that, writing an obit to globalization is premature as the world is too integrated and too interconnected for the process to be abandoned. Moreover, developing countries have benefited from it and there is every chance that visionary business leaders and astute politicians would find a way to emerge from the present quagmire and forge a path ahead to a Globalization 3.0 Project. Remember that the world recovered from the horrors of the Two World Wars when Globalization 1.0 was at its peak and even the Cold War could only dent it and the Fall of the Communist States unleashed Globalization 2.0.
So, it is my firm belief that sooner or later, globalization would make a comeback and emerge from the present hiatus. Moreover, technology has made Remote Work easy and while over the last two to three decades, it has ensured Remote Process Outsourcing, the present Digital Revolution has largely obviated the need for even limited Physical Interactions and Face to Face meetings. In addition, many leading beneficiaries of globalization, such as the Indian Software and BPO as well as Philippines based services firms had anyway started hiring local talent in the US and elsewhere, mainly due to the populist rhetoric of the last four to five years. So, what they need to do to remain global delivery centers is to leverage tech and digital modes of operation to the extent that truly Remote and Dispersed Delivery Models are the norm.
Having said that, there is more to do over and above working models and that is in the realm of combating Xenophobia and Racism that has emerged ever since the Pandemic struck. With conspiracies swirling over the origins of the Covid outbreak and with a distinct parochial mindset taking over, it is left to the ruling elite worldwide to assuage the heightened sense of paranoia that has become endemic in many countries. Indeed, if not anything, this is the time for bold action, and at the same time, not repeat the mistake of “talking down” to the masses in selling the pitch for Globalization 3.0.
However, a cause for concern is the Inward Looking approach of countries such as India, which owe their recent prosperity to globalization. The Atmanirbhar Policy (or self reliance) that Narendra Modi has been pushing could soon turn to a Self Fulfilling Prophesy wherein India turns its back on the world. On the other hand, Modi is too canny to abandon globalization in toto and his Vaccine Diplomacy (though heavily criticized for prioritizing global brownie points over local needs) is a case in point, where globalization is very much alive and kicking.
So, what we need now is a Smart Globalization Process where a Glocal Approach (the term coined by NYT Columnist, Thomas Friedman) which combines Global Thinking with a Local Mindset that can emerge as a viable alternative to the present imbroglio. By being Global in outlook and local in execution, firms and governments can have the best of both worlds and working in tandem with other global elites, a new push for the weakened global process can ensure a Win Win Situation for all stakeholders.
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