The Changing World and what is Next for Businesses

This blog is authored by Ms. Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM

The headwinds of change are incredibly powerful and unless negotiated well, they can disrupt businesses or even whole industries to the point of extinction. It doesn’t have to sound this ominous of course and for those who are prepared to change, the direction of the wind can work to their great advantage even.

First and foremost, what’s required is a talent overhaul. This is a global challenge which has to be addressed and is not restricted to India alone. In 2014, the share of digital revenue (Indian IT) was about 4 per cent, today it’s nearly twenty and by 2030 it’s estimated to be ~ 40%. On the one hand, there’s a phenomenal increase in digital and on the other, there’s a decoupling of incremental revenue and net additions to the existing workforce. Many of the old jobs will go away only to be replaced by new ones which will require a much higher application of cognitive skills.
The Indian IT industry has about 5 lakh digitally trained people. The trillion dollar digital economy which our Hon’ble PM has envisioned along with industry titans, will easily require an additional 1.5 million such people with niche talent in deep tech in the next 3 – 4 years. This figure will comprise people in need of reskilling and upskilling. The NASSCOM Futureskills study encapsulates this great change through a 10-70-155 matrix. That is, 10 emerging tech (AI, IoT, Analytics, Cloud, Blockchain among others) are already birthing 70 new job roles which will require 155 skills (new ones). A massive change indeed!

The re-skilling responsibility is such that it has to be jointly shouldered by enterprises and employees alike. After all, if by 2022, 54% of employees will be required to re-skill then it’s in interest of both parties that we get on with it immediately. To be fair, large companies already run their in-house learning platforms and the mid-sized & small ones are working with partners to seek a path of least resistance (at least in theory). Also, shared learning platforms like the NASSCOM-catalyzed “Futureskills” are ably addressing the gaps. Given the size and complexity, the experience isn’t likely to be frictionless.

Let’s come to data, next. A 2015 NASSCOM-Mckinsey study had estimated that global GDP doubles every 12 years but data traffic does so in only three. Volume and velocity was always there but now in the last few years, we’ve added variety as well to add a whole new dimension. Moreover, structured data is at best 20% and the remaining is mostly unstructured. The challenges are two-fold. One, it’s about capturing the mountainous heaps of unstructured data real-time and two, being able to cull out insights with the aid of emerging technologies – particularly AI & Analytics. It doesn’t end here. Far from it – things actually start with a fresh perspective.

Differentiation is about having the wherewithal to take decisions based on data. For decades on end, leaders have relied on “gut feel” and they’ve been right too in their time. Now, conventional thinking is being turned on its head where room for error is practically negligible. Inter alia, modern day leadership is characteristic of decision making based on data-driven insights. Even if “gut feel” indicates otherwise.

This obviously puts data in pole position in the proverbial value chain and likened to oil even. But, as a society are we doing enough to safeguard our most valued asset? Well, it has to be answered at two levels. One, from an organizational standpoint where data resides. And two, individuals must always remain cognizant of the information they share online. The “I agree” button should only be activated after the clauses have been read and understood. At least one can make this appeal to the educated section of society.

GDPR is already operational. While dealing with EU-based companies, stakeholders will have to always ensure that they adhere to the legal aspects. Non-compliance will attract punitive measures which can simply make entities go kaput! In India too, a positive step has been taken. The Data Privacy Bill has been tabled and we await its passage in parliament at the earliest. For India to sustain its image as a trusted global partner, then it’s imperative that this Act comes into play immediately.

I want to also emphasize on speed. It’s actually ubiquitous. Take for instance innovation, which in the past was wont to witness 3 to 5 year cycles. Today the time frame has crunched to about 18 months and is likely to reduce even further. Let’s look at trust. In the past, brands were assiduously built over several years but the latest unicorn in India, is a case in point about the changing environment. It achieved this status in all of 24 months. Consider this: in two years’ time (from inception) an entity goes on to be valued at a billion dollars! Equally, an inferior customer experience can be absolutely scathing. Half a misstep and it spirals out of control particularly in social media where feedbacks can be unforgiving, even vile. Speed is here to stay and has to be handled with utmost care.

Lastly, I want to address this fear-mongering narrative on job losses and machines replacing humans. A robotic apocalypse is not likely to happen anytime soon so let’s focus on the opportunities instead. We will continue to have more intelligent machines which will augment humans which in turn will increase productivity manifold. True, some jobs will never come back but let’s prepare for the trillion dollar opportunities that lie ahead. Sample this: AI alone will yield a 15 trillion dollar market opportunity in the next decade. Can we afford to miss this by drumming up what has-been?

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