The struggle to stay relevant

It’s been a veritable bloodbath this year. Cisco is firing around 7% of their workforce and Microsoft , HP and Intel have also announced that they will be streamlining their workforce. In India, IT behemoths like Wipro, Infosys, IBM and others have also announced that they are looking to automate many roles and make middle and lower level employees redundant.

While there is a lot of outrage amongst employees about how it is unfair to remove jobs or fire people, they fail to understand that this is just part of the usual technological upgradation cycle. Be it the introduction of spinning jennies which disrupted the lives of cotton weavers, to industrial automation which led to the firing of thousands of factory and foundry workers, every technological innovation has an effect on employment.

To stay ahead of the bloodbath which will happen in the Indian IT and industrial sectors, it’s important we turn towards new skills, soft or technical. Students should move away from joining engineering and look at focusing at UI/UX and design courses. They could also look at understanding how the application of automation and artificial intelligence/ data science is going to change existing roles.

For example, if we look at the traditional role of a business analyst in many organisations, it requires understanding an industry and then analyzing and representing data to identify insights and drive business decisions. However this can also be accomplished by artificial intelligence and IBM Watson and Wipro Holmes are already attempting the same. So it’s essential we understand what are the drawbacks of AI / data science so we can build up expertise which will be relevant and complementary for organisations.

Another key area for India to focus should be hardware design and manufacturing. While the Make in India initiative has just started, it should be a priority to convince major semi conductor companies to start R&D and manufacturing units in India. States should look at not just providing land and tax benefits but also pair these companies with educational institutions ( IIMS / IITS/ IISERs) to increase the no of research publications from both students and researchers.

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If we were to compare China and India, we lose not just in terms of access to organisations like Intel/ Samsung but also in terms of research conducted. Similarly if we are to take the lead in research in AI/ Data science/ Deep learning, it will be a great opportunity to create a rival ecosystem to Palo Alto, which will in turn drive investments and create opportunities for Indians, whether it be in terms of jobs or in terms of career growth.

 

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