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Why Blockchain Talent is Vital for FMCG Companies and How You Can Get Ahead

    Blockchain Technologies are becoming prominent faster than you expect

Somewhere in the second half of 2021, a CDO at a major European consumer products company brought up “Blockchain technology” in the context of their hiring priorities. I was surprised, because in my head, blockchain was all about cryptocurrencies. After all, Bitcoins were the best-known application of Blockchains when this technology emerged 12+ years ago. I soon realized that Blockchain technologies are expected to play a major role in shaping various functions such as E-Commerce, Payments, Marketing and Supply Chain Management across industries, including FMCG/CPG.

Since that conversation, a number of my discussions with CXOs and SVPs/VPs in FMCG/CPG companies have, to varying degrees, touched upon hiring Blockchain talent. Clearly, Blockchain has become a “technology of interest”, and visionary leaders are keen to get a head start by bringing onboard talent quickly. Blockchain technology finds application to multiple industries; therefore, when hiring talent in this field, consumer companies will compete not just with rivals within the industry, but also with players from other industries (and IT service providers).

I decided to write this piece to share my understanding of how Blockchain technologies will shape the consumer industry in the next few years, and also offer some suggestions around what leaders can do to make sure they don’t lag behind in this crucial building block of future competitive advantage.

In the last couple of years, Blockchain technologies have become more mainstream. The scope of application for this technology has expanded to include Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and a larger range of crypto assets that have greater governance than Bitcoin. The growing utility of Blockchain technologies also has to do with the rise of newer technology paradigms such as Web 3.0 and the Metaverse. Blockchain technologies are the foundation for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC); many governments have already commenced work to launch sovereign CBDCs. The global financial system too is likely to be transformed as fintechs adopt blockchain technologies; it will also play a role in national healthcare and tax filing systems of the future.

Till recently, blockchain was primarily seen as an example of “counterculture”; its applications were labelled as tools that were popular with those who saw themselves as rebels with a cause: which was to revolt against traditional society. But this is no longer the case. As business leaders, you must understand the disruptive potential of Blockchain technologies, and prepare to embrace it in your enterprise.

How the internet has evolved so far

Until about 15 years ago, the internet existed as “Web 1.0”. In this world, users could only consume content that was put out by providers- e.g., read articles or news reports on AOL or Yahoo. Web 1.0 was “Read only”. Social media ushered in “Web 2.0” by allowing users to create a wide variety of content and share it via the internet. Web 2.0 was thus “Read and Write”.

Over the last decade, Web 2.0 also allowed companies to gather information about users, and use the data collected to deliver “targeted ads” and recommend additional content for users to access/consume. Quite naturally, privacy and data protection have become front and center in recent years.

Web 3.0 is just around the corner

Web 3.0, powered by a slew of new digital technologies, will be a world of “Read, Write and Own”. In fact, this new paradigm is already upon us, powered by Blockchains, AI/ML and Virtual/ Augmented/ Mixed Reality. It will enable richer virtual experiences, more robust ownership of digital assets and superior verifiability of such ownership. Web 3.0 is evolving on the principle of decentralization (of data and control). This represents a massive shift from earlier internet paradigms where companies (such as Big Tech) owned platforms and customer data. 

Web 3.0 will give companies and individuals greater freedom to create digital assets and exercise ownership/control over these assets and their data. It will encourage the creation of private internet spaces where content is owned by the creators, with authorized users being given access to such assets/content via digital “keys” such as NFTs. These access rights are far more than a user id and password.

Consumer companies will need to be at the vanguard of embracing Web 3.0

Blockchain and Web 3.0 will be instruments of major transformation for business enterprises across many industries, including FMCG and Consumer Packaged Goods because they will transform supply chains and payments. They will also redefine how businesses engage with customers and prospects and reshape customer journeys and experiences. 

Blockchains will help make supply chains more secure by virtually eliminating the menace of fraudulent invoices, stolen inventory, counterfeit products etc. This will lead to new kinds of supply networks and new protocols for information sharing and management between suppliers, manufacturers and customers. Blockchain technologies are also expected to revolutionize the banking and financial services landscape by bringing in new levels of disintermediation and security, besides promoting superfast peer to peer payment mechanisms. NFT-wallet based payments may not be that far off! 

For FMCG companies, positioning their products as “different” and “better” has always been key. Businesses that embrace Web 3.0 will get a whole new opportunity to do so by providing customers with differentiated experiences. For example, when a luxury brand launches an exclusive range of products, it can use Blockchain technology to create NFTs; their top tier customers can get exclusive rights to explore these offerings and purchase them; over time, a larger market to buy/sell NFTs of various kinds will emerge. Even mass-market FMCG companies can attract customers to the Metaverse and enable NFT-based commerce. Early adopters will benefit more because they will have more time to experiment, learn from mistakes and fine-tune their strategies and operating models.

The task of hiring Blockchain/ Web 3.0 talent is fraught with unique challenges

FMCG companies that seek to harness the potential of Web 3.0 will face challenges around what technologies and standards to adopt. But of more immediate concern are a couple of people-related challenges: talent acquisition and retention. 

In addition to technical experts in the various enabling technologies like Blockchain and Metaverse, companies will need Blockchain Strategists who can envision different use cases for applying the technologies to your business. Hiring for each of these two roles has its own challenges. There is already a shortage of technical talent around “hot” areas like Data Sciences, IoT, Cloud and AI/ML; this is causing high levels of attrition and rapidly rising compensation costs. A similar scenario will emerge in the case of Blockchain talent. 

The hiring challenge for Blockchain Strategists will have even more layers of complexity. People who understand this space may not always be the typical “corporate profiles”, given that they may not have university degrees and may not have worked in a corporate environment for many years (if ever). Many of them will already have made significant sums of money given their pioneering status with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. 

Even when such talent is hired, the as-yet amorphous nature of Web 3.0 will necessitate a much higher degree of collaboration between Blockchain Strategists and the technical experts. A new kind of corporate culture will need to evolve, so that the right talent is retained in the face of poaching threats that will inevitably gather momentum as other companies embark on their own Blockchain journeys.

Some tips to help you address these challenges

Your current digital programs and capabilities will need to run smoothly even as you build Blockchain and Web 3.0 Proofs of Concept and scale them up over time across your enterprise. Therefore, what you need is talent that can work with your existing technology teams to start the process of testing these new technologies within your business. 

We recommend a two-pronged approach to address this talent requirement. The first is to identify in-house tech-savvy talent who have exhibited keenness to learn new skills and the willingness to take up new initiatives. It is a bonus if such people have already been with the organization for some years, because they will have imbibed the culture and built important people networks and personal relationships. The second aspect of your strategy should be to hire Blockchain experts to work closely with your CDO/CIO/CTO as part of a cross-functional team that is tasked with the responsibility for developing the company’s Blockchain/Web 3.0 strategy and implementation programs. 

In both situations, the people you choose will need to be given higher-than-usual levels of freedom. They will need to be empowered to engage with a range of stakeholders, participate in business strategy sessions, contribute to technology investment discussions etc. Where external hiring is being considered, you may also have to ease up on requirements such as formal educational qualifications and prior work experience. Allowances may also need to be made to ensure that the organization’s typical compensation structures do not become a hurdle to attracting talent- in fact, hiring for these roles may be a good testing ground for new compensation/reward models (e.g., based on outcomes).

Conclusion

Our interactions with business leaders from different segments of the consumer products industry have given LS International a ringside view of Blockchain technologies in the context of consumer businesses. Although the application of these technologies in this space is still at a nascent stage, we have developed a good understanding of how this business-technology paradigm is expected to transform strategy and operations within the retail and FMCG/CPG industry.

You can count on us to utilize the knowledge and insights we have gathered to help your company in its Blockchain journey. We can do so not just by identifying and hiring the best talent, but also by assisting your company address challenges such as employee retention, creating a culture where innovation thrives and enhancing collaboration between business and technology experts. Our experts are only an email or phone call away. 

To discuss how we can support your CDO/Business Heads/CIO in your Blockchain journey, write to lauren@ls_international.com. If it’s easier to speak, just call us on +34 931 760 239. We look forward to hearing from you. 

By Lauren Stiebing, Founder of LS International

LS International LLC

+34 931 760 239 / +1 (504) 270 1191

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