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Saurabh Varma – The Future has Found us

Investment Outlook , Published Feb 17, 2019

Saurabh Varma

Saurabh Varma

CEO at Publicis Communications, India.

India will also have to deal with the rapid transformation that AI will bring in, in terms of jobs which will be affected at an aggregate level.


In 2019 and beyond, three key global trends will shape human behaviour. The first being AI, that in turn will take over jobs and put pressure to reduce taxes and working days. Secondly, Health Tech will largely focus on genetics and genome with massive investments in that space. Thirdly, the Internet and Social Responsibility with focus on election integrity, fake news and data privacy.

AI will have three large implications for human beings. The first one is that there will be a lot of pressure on “Universal Basic Income” and jobs will vanish. They may not vanish at an aggregate level, but we will lose jobs specifically with regards to certain segments. The second big focus will be around “Negative Taxes”. As AI takes over, there will be pressure to reduce taxes, so people will have more income as they move forward. The third one will be around “4-day working” weeks.

If you take Health Tech, there is going to be a huge focus on genetics and genome, and massive investments will happen in that space. The concept of longevity and living longer will be a big theme not just in 2019, but also in the next few years.

In the third trend, i.e. Internet and Social Responsibility, one of the biggest areas of focus will be around ‘Election Integrity.’

Second will be around ‘Fake News’ and the third big trend in 2019 will be around ‘Data Privacy’ – there will be big brands that will collect data, but the pertinent question will be how responsible they are with the data that they collect.

From a communications perspective, the fact that we have access to so much data and such incredible technology, actually means that from a narrative perspective, it will change completely. Imagine, people will have the ability to shape communications, and we see this already happening in the gaming world, but it will also happen in an everyday scenario with regards to the communication we receive and how we interact with this communication. You will find everyday pieces of communication where you will be able to shape the narrative, e.g.: If you think about a film, you will be able to change the narrative in terms of the different kinds of endings which it can actually have.


Given that the old mediums of communication will become obsolete, the new mediums will give you the opportunity to interact with the narrative itself. The second thing is the understanding of the technology landscape and how it will make many industries redundant. One of the biggest issues that the CEOs are confronted with is around the concept of transformation. I think this narrative will become bigger in 2019. There will be more emphasis on digital business transformation and that is a big bet that we are going to be focusing on in 2019.

Technology helps you not just create the content but also distribute it across platforms in a media agnostic way.

From an India perspective, Digital Business Transformation (DBT) is going to be the big focus. Apart from DBT, another trend, which is here and now, is around content. One of the things that brands would want to do is to create rapid pieces of content. The biggest challenge we face in India is that creating content – theme based or geography based is no longer good enough. We have to move on to create content every single day and at scale. That means using technology that helps you create this rapid content for distribution. This is going to be a part of the mainstream narrative in 2019 and all networks will bring in technology which will help deliver on this trend. The BIG battle will be about owning a larger share of today.

In the old world, we created a piece of content and we lived with it. But times are changing and we have access to an incredible amount of data that lets you create personalised content. You take a piece of content and personalise it for the individual and make it relevant for his/her personal consumption. This means that the way you create your content changes. “Dynamic content” will play a major role as we move forward, along with distribution. Technology helps you not just create the content but also distribute it across platforms in a media agnostic way. So that is the big trend for India – Data, Dynamic Content and Technology. All these three large themes will change the communication landscape and the larger game will be played.


As certain sectors are impacted, we will start to witness our economy moving towards universal themes such as reduction in taxes, 4-day working weeks, work-life balance, etc.

From a brand’s perspective, the need to be relevant on a daily basis is really the largest narrative which is at play. Context will drive the content. It is no longer about looking at the market place on an annual basis to create an annual plan. It is about creating a system or process where on the back of societal changes, you are able to create content. So, the speed at which you create content will be key to a brand’s success. The fact that you have a larger share of today is what will become the new currency and the new metric for brands to stay relevant.

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