Automation to create enterprise job opportunities in India

Contrary to popular opinion, automation will not cause mass unemployment, but will only disrupt labor markets in the short-term, say experts. 



Whether it is the robotics used in manufacturing or the artificial intelligence being deployed in complex IT systems, workers are very concerned about losing their jobs to automation. The fears, having existed for more than 200 years, started with the Industrial Revolution and continue to resurface almost every decade with new technological advancements.

History is rife with such repetitive automation dreads. The arrival of computers in 60s and later PCs in the 70s triggered same qualms over potential job losses. Yet statistics point that technology has continually served by generating more professions than it disrupted. The fact is that in order to stay competitive and meet the demands of this age, businesses have no choice but to invest in technology so as to enhance their productivity, which in turn causes more jobs to flow in. Here, top academicians of India explain how automation will lead to an era of human-machine partnerships, which will change the workplace entirely. 

The focus should be on developing competencies in order to be relevant in coming times time."


                    Abhishek Goel, Organizational Behaviour Expert, IIM-C

Although automation may not cause mass unemployment, it will surely quicken the current trend of disturbing labor markets just as technological change did in history, and require workers to adapt by learning new skills. “With all this technology coming in, like machine learning and artificial intelligence, the very definition and the way jobs are understood today will undergo change,” says S Raghunath, Professor of Corporate Strategy, IIM Bangalore.

Future of IT employment in India

It is to be pointed that although IT lay-offs have been reported in India, the 150-billion dollar IT industry’s demand for skilled workers in the areas of data analytics and artificial intelligence has been rising, according to NASSCOM. It is predicted that Indian IT job seekers may have to shift from low-skilled jobs like installing and maintaining servers to more creative problem-solving skills such as optimizing codes for various IT requirements and machine learning models. 

“In India, there are a lot of opportunities but a shortage of skills. There's no reason to raise cry about the jobs that machines will be doing, as automation will lead to new possibilities,” says Professor Sadagopan, Director of International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore

Read more: Mass layoffs plaguing the IT industry, NASSCOM denies

Abhishek Goel, an organizational behavior expert at IIM Calcutta is optimistic about the opportunities for the Indian workforce. He believes that the sheer number of the skilled workforce can surpass the challenges of disruption and automation.

"There will always be some form of human ingenuity and creativity needed to solve problems. We should think of such solutions which are not just bootstrap but also scalable. The focus should be on developing competencies in order to be relevant in coming times time," Goel says.

“It's time that our country provides education which is linked to what’s happening with technology and we upgrade the entire education system."


                      Dr. S Raghunath, Prof-Corporate Strategy, IIM-B

The Automation Paradox

Economists have been trying to bust the fears of automation, arguing that it surges productivity, which causes the fall in prices and creating demands for products and services. The high demands then pushes the need for more employees. For example, when ATMs were first introduced, it was anticipated that they would replace all bank tellers.

Later on, when ATMs radically improved the productivity of banks, more branches were opened to meet customer demands, which instead resulted in the hiring of more bank employees. It is estimated that automation may only partially replace current jobs, instead of fully replacing them. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute states that only less than 5 percent of today’s jobs are likely to be entirely replaced by automation. 

"I think it's time that our country provides education that is linked to what’s happening with technology and we upgrade the entire education system," says Prof. Raghunath of IIM Bangalore.
Workers with tech skills will always be in demand but also require continuous on-the-job learning to stay in tune with digital disruption. Experts believe that the chief impact of automation may not be to eradicate jobs but to reinvent them—optimizing the responsibilities and the abilities necessary to perform them.