As part of our Future of Jobs (FoJ) initiative, FactorDaily on May 26 organised a roundtable in Bengaluru to explore what kind of opportunities will be created in the next three-five years by disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation and what skills we will need to stay relevant.
The roundtable sought to answer the question “What role will humans have in the Indian IT/ITES industry.” The speakers concurred that the future of jobs, like everything else, is digital, and that AI, big data and industrial internet are leading the change. They added that reskilling would be a considerable challenge for Indian IT companies, who will be required to shift their business models to address more India-centric problems as opportunities abroad shrink due to protectionism and many backend operations being automated.
The speakers concurred that the future of jobs, like everything else, is digital, and that AI, big data and industrial internet are leading the change
The event was attended by Anthony Thomas, group chief information officer at GE Global and GE Digital; Manish Kumar, CEO of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC); Krishna Kumar Natarajan, CEO and managing director of MindTree; Santanu Bhattacharya, senior vice-president at Delhivery; Prithvi Shergill, ex-chief human resources officer, HCL Technologies; Anshuman Das, founder and COO of CareerNet group; Saurabh Govil, president and chief human resources officer at Wipro; Richard Lobo, executive vice-president of Infosys; Mahesh Venkateswaran of NSDC; and Rishi Das, CEO of CareerNet group.
There is no doubt that AI and automation will bring about new levels of efficiencies. According to an Accenture study that analysed 12 developed economies, AI has the potential to double their annual economic growth rates by 2035. But this also means that jobs will be lost. GE’s Thomas said that nine out of 10 children who start school this year will be doing jobs that don’t exist today.
According to him, digital is the future. He added that the industrial internet market is estimated to be worth $225 billion by 2020 and could potentially become a trillion-dollar industry. “The future of jobs is automation; the future of jobs is in replacing robotic jobs (repetitive jobs) with robots,” he said.
Richard Lobo of Infosys, one of the top employers in the Indian IT sector, said we need to keep in mind that many existing IT sector employees in India are in the early stages of their careers, and will see two or three cycles of reskilling. “Some of the new skills one will need to have are big data, creative learning and virtual reality,” he said.
“The future of jobs is automation; the future of jobs is in replacing robotic jobs (repetitive jobs) with robots” — Richard Lobo, executive vice-president of Infosys
This situation poses a challenge not only for employers but also for the government, whose role in reskilling people to prepare them for the future has become very important. Nasscom believes about 40% of the tech and BPO workforce in India needs to reskill themselves over the next five years. For a sector that employs nearly four million, that means 1.6 million need to learn new skills. Kumar of NSDC spoke about the agency’s National Skill Qualification Framework, which measures resources’ value on a scale of 1-10 (one is for new entrants to the workforce, with 10 being for PHDs).
“We’ve noticed that from one-seven (levels) skill learning takes place, upwards from their academic education, and skill development takes a parallel trajectory. The government, through a grant model, supports skilling at levels three and four,” he said. According to Bhattacharya of Delhivery, things will get polarised before they get better. He sees a class of jobs that will be high-end and low-end, but the mid-level jobs will “start getting hollowed out.”
Mid-level jobs are management and tasks that are being done at a reasonably high cost but are repetitive in nature. The good news is that these very technologies that will cause job losses and require people to reskill present huge opportunities in the emergence of the platform economy. “India being a assisted economy and with more platforms coming in… a lot of jobs that otherwise would have required high level of skills are becoming accessible,” said CareerNet CEO Rishi Das.
“Ninety percent of the country’s technology is going into solving western problems, but as of today, most of these issues have been codified and solidified. We have 1.2 billion consumers, and that is a potentially a two trillion dollar-plus economy” — Santanu Bhattacharya, senior vice-president, Delhivery
“The challenge is that there is no vertical growth. Take the example of ecommerce, where a large number of jobs were created via bikers, packers, etc, but no vertical movement is coming in. The silver lining going forward is that more jobs will be created in the financial services space… quality white-collared jobs,” said Das.
Bhattacharya added that we should use technological developments to solve the “large social problems at home.”
“Ninety percent of the country’s technology is going into solving western problems, but as of today, most of these issues have been codified and solidified. We have 1.2 billion consumers, and that is a potentially a two trillion dollar-plus economy. Even though we are a price sensitive economy, our numbers makeup for that,” he added.
About FactorDaily’s Future of Jobs in India initiative
The Future of Jobs in India initiative seeks to make sense of technology disruptions for job seekers and job creators through richly reported stories, columns and interviews that give you incisive views into the future. The FoJ Summit series brings together thought leaders and disruptors to debate ideas and share learnings on what the workplace of the future is going to be like.
The FoJ Summit and coverage series is being organised by FactorDaily in association with CareerNet group — a leading recruitment process outsourcing, talent acquisition and human resource consultant.
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Photographs: Nikhil Raj and Rajesh Subramanian, FactorDaily