Top CEO priorities for 2024

As we enter 2024, CEOs' agendas are shaped by six core priorities. 

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As we progress through 2024, CEOs' agendas are shaped by six core priorities. From leveraging the power of GenAI to taking the next steps on their digital transformation journey, CEOs are navigating a complex environment. At the same time, India's emergence as a significant economic force brings both challenges and opportunities.

CEOs must also deal with continuously evolving geopolitics, making their businesses sustainable and understanding the needs and behaviour of the next generation of consumers and employees. 

In this article, we delve into these six priorities, exploring how they intersect with the Indian context and offering insights for global and Indian CEOs as they navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape.

Generative AI: Generating real interest

Given the explosive growth of Generative AI tools, used regularly by one-third of organisations in at least one business function in 2023, CEOs must be prepared. Despite ChatGPT being only over a year old, its release has sparked a craze in the industry, forcing CEOs to grapple with the opportunity - and challenge - of formulating and executing GenAI strategies. The expected business disruption is huge, marked by workforce cuts, a shift toward reskilling to address talent needs, and an increasing adoption only concentrated within a small number of business functions.

In 2024, generative AI is set to profoundly impact how businesses operate, prompting more organisations to recognise the necessity of deploying AI strategically. Key business functions include marketing and sales, product development, service operations and software engineering. 

However, turning GenAI experiments into a worthwhile return on investment requires CEOs to identify specific opportunities within their organisations, establish governance models, manage third-party collaborations and address significant risks, including social, humanitarian, and sustainability concerns.

Digital transformation: Moving beyond technology 

Digital has disrupted one industry after another over the past two decades. While retail and financial services were among the first industries to face digital disruption, they were quickly followed by healthcare, consumer products, transportation and industrial products. Consequently, businesses from large to small enterprises across industries have taken up digital transformation initiatives to digitise their core business processes, improve customer experience and redefine their business models.

After years of implementing these initiatives, organisations have reached the conclusion that digital represents a new way of conducting business. However, in an ever-evolving landscape, successful digital transformation requires more than just bringing a new technology and changing the tech stack.

Leading CEOs understand that digital transformation is less about digital and more about transformation. As a result, they establish clear vision and strategy for digital, bring in new talent, re-skill their employees, instill a digital mindset and leverage data analytics for decision making. By shifting their culture and attracting new talent, these companies unlock the value of their data to succeed in this new era. 

India’s ascend: Going for growth

As the global economy prepares for a slowdown, with projected growth at 2.4% this year compared to 2.6% in 2023, India stands out as a symbol of resilience, with the UN predicting its growth at a robust 6.2% in 2024. This consistent outperformance has positioned India as an exemplar among its peers for the upcoming year and over the past few years.

As 9 out of 10 Indian CEOs express strong confidence in the trajectory of the Indian economy, it is mainly because India is decoupling from global trends and carving out its path of recovery. With the government's focused efforts on boosting physical and digital infrastructure, there is a clear sense of multiplier effects across many sectors, especially those related to building materials, construction, and new-age digital businesses. These sectors are in a prime position to benefit from upcoming growth opportunities. In addition, multiple opportunities emerge from energy transition, sustainability and environment-related businesses.

Simultaneously, global corporations are progressively shifting their attention to India, drawn by the promise of diversifying their supply chains, benefiting from production-linked incentive schemes across multiple sectors, and leveraging the large talent pool and the burgeoning consumer base.

This combination of factors highlights the role of prioritising growth, identifying new opportunities and building new businesses. However, amid the optimism, CEOs remain vigilant about potential risks to this growth trajectory. While inflation has been relatively under control, it still stands as a critical monitorable, requiring CEOs to stay vigilant while they pursue growth opportunities.

Geopolitics: Navigating the bend ahead

The geopolitical landscape has significantly impacted India's economic and diplomatic priorities in recent years. The escalating tensions and the global war, particularly the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, have created supply chain constraints, leading to commodity inflation and financial market turbulence.

With 60% of its oil needs reliant on Middle Eastern nations, India finds itself in the Middle of geopolitical complexities. If the conflict escalates, repercussions could again imply supply chain disruption, spiking commodity prices and shipping times. In this volatile environment, strategically thinking ahead and adapting fast will be crucial for CEOs to protect their organisations from potential disruptions and seize emerging opportunities amidst geopolitical changes.

Greening future: The real deal

The rising awareness towards sustainability among customers and investors has made it intensely difficult for companies to ignore consumer preferences in 2024.

With 81% of Indian CXOs stating that they have increased sustainability investments in 2023, successful companies have understood that their role goes beyond profit and revenue generation; the aim is to enhance their reputation and long-term profitability.

While Indian firms have taken concrete steps to reduce their environmental impact, improve social conditions and strengthen governance practices, various challenges remain for 2024, including greenwashing, lack of talent and expertise and funding.

With India's expanding economy, all eyes are now on Indian firms to set a precedent for other global brands to lead in sustainable development after committing to achieving the Net Zero emission target by 2070.

GenNext: Connecting better

The workplace has undergone significant shifts in the past few years, with Gen Z emerging as a driving force. Also known as the "digital natives," their unique experience with technology, climate change, the global pandemic, and uncertainty regarding the financial landscape will shape the future of work. 

With 77% of Gen Z prioritising work-life balance, salary is not the only factor when choosing a career anymore. Driven by purpose more than any previous generation, 93% of members of Gen Z tend to gravitate toward companies whose management strategies align with meaningful initiatives and socially aware endeavours.

Organisations must accept and prepare for the shift toward these new dynamics, innovations, and cultures. Gen Z's undeniable and increasing relationship with technology prompts CEOs to adopt advanced tools and platforms that promote collaboration and communication.

On the other hand, CEOs understand that hybrid work, set up to accommodate diverse lifestyles, was not only advantageous during the global pandemic but is the new norm now requiring their attention. 

About the authors

Deepak Sharma is Cofounder and Director at Kanvic Consulting, where Ines Manai is an Associate Consultant.

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