The term “Jack of all trades” gained great prominence once. Then came the era of specialisation where you had to be “Master at just one thing”. Many companies adopted that mantra and did just one thing. We had Big Oil, Big Tech and Big Finance. Just stick to your own field of expertise, be good at it and reach the top. But now in business, we are entering a stage where you have to be a “Master of all trades”
Just look at the top companies by market capitalization. There is only one that has reached a valuation of $3 trillion: Apple. What is Apple? What is its specialisation? It used to make desktops. Then it used to make laptops. But now it is the premium smartphone company of the world. Along the way, it also made MP3 players and ruled the world with it. It is a hardware company, selling its own devices. It has become a chipmaker. It is a software company that powers its own desktops, laptops, and smartphones. Lest we forget, it is a services company. iTunes saved the music industry and now that model is followed by all music and film companies.
Microsoft remains the largest software maker in the world with its desktop/laptop Operating Systems and its office suite of everything you can think of. Finally thanks to Azure, it’s No. 2 in the cloud market.
On to the $2 trillion valuation club. What is Alphabet? Google is not only the No. 1 search engine but a monopoly. So is YouTube in the combined long-form and short-form video? It is only recently that TikTok has emerged as the world’s top short video maker. Gmail is a monopoly and could cross 2 billion users in the next year or so (YouTube has already crossed that number). Android is the Number 1 Mobile OS in the world. Google Earth and Google Maps are other top brands. Quantum computing. Cloud computing. Biotech. Autonomous cars. AI… Don’t ask what Alphabet is doing. Ask: What is it not doing?
Like Alphabet, it has got into everything with limited success. It has a string of failures. MP3 players (Zune), wearables, Terraserver (before Google Earth), Microsoft Portrait (collaboration), Groove Music (its answer to iTunes), Cortana Smart Speakers, MSN Messenger, and a string of mobile software-hardware projects which shut down. But still, Microsoft Teams and Bing are survivors while Internet Explorer did have a monopoly once. The Xbox had patches of great success. After decades (it was launched in 1975) Microsoft remains the largest software maker in the world with its desktop/laptop OSes and its office suite of everything you can think of. Finally thanks to Azure, it’s No. 2 in the cloud market.
On to the trillion-dollar club. Amazon is the largest eCommerce player in the world and its Prime is the largest paid membership of its kind. Amazon Web Services is the globe’s Number 1 cloud company. In the Streaming space, there’s Prime Video. (Incidentally AWS powers Netflix, Disney+, and Prime). The way Amazon is expanding its fleet of trucks, planes, drones, and other autonomous vehicles, it is clearly aiming to be the largest logistics/supply chain company in the world. It has the greatest amount of customer data making it a future player in AI, analytics, and Big Data.
The largest social networking site in the world is Facebook and it is touching 3 billion users. The largest picture-based social site (which later expanded to videos) is Instagram. The largest instant messaging service that most of the world uses is WhatsApp. Mark Zuckerberg separated Messenger from the main Facebook app and that’s in the billion users club. As if that’s not enough, Zuckerberg has put his bets on the metaverse, renaming his company Meta. The metaverse is expected to maximise XR (extended reality, encompassing AR-VR-MR) and cryptocurrency. Some time back Meta acquired the VR headset firm Oculus and is already into Diem, a blockchain-based payment system.
The final member here is Tesla, which is part of the Elon Musk group of companies. Tesla is not an electric vehicle but a Smart Car. Once it goes autonomous, it can become anything: A car, a truck, maybe even a plane. Once you remove the driver’s seat it’s a room that can do anything. In the future, the Tesla OS may power all smart vehicles, who knows? Musk is behind the battery with Tesla Energy. The Giga factories are rivaling power plants. SpaceX not only has the heaviest rocket in the world but gives satellite launching services to anyone who’s interested. If that’s not enough then we have Starlink satellite broadband. Add Hyperloop (transportation) and (machine-human interface) Neuralink to the kitty.
Everyone has to do everything
There was a time when you had strict demarcations like B2B (Business-to-business), B2C (Business-to-consumer), and B2G (Business-to-Government). That’s a thing of the past. The best example is Amazon.com and AWS which cater to small and big businesses, consumers of all kinds, and governments all over the world. The new mantra is B2E (Business-to-everyone) SpaceX has a Smallsat Rideshare Program where you can launch a satellite for $1 million. Note: There are close to 50 million millionaires in the world. Satellite launching is no longer the prerogative of governments and multinationals. Anyone can do anything.
Every company has to be on the cloud. Everyone needs some expertise in Artificial Intelligence. Every company has to use collaboration and offer remote working/onboarding. We have to master the hybrid: Hybrid education, hybrid entertainment, and the like.
Every company has to be on the cloud. Everyone needs some expertise in Artificial Intelligence. Every company has to use collaboration and offer remote working/onboarding.
One company that symbolises this in India is Reliance which is Big Oil + Big Retail + Big Tech. If you follow all the acquisitions that Reliance has done in the last few years, then you will find that each and every emerging technology that you think of has been covered. The economy always favored larger organisations that are gobbling up the smaller businesses. This became even starker during the pandemic era and will be supersized in the “Everyone does everything” era.
If you are an individual or a business, if you are not into everything, then you will soon find yourself obsolete. That is the stark reality going forward.
By Sunil Rajguru