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2035, Rise Of The Machines

The workplace of future will be vastly different. Humans and machines will come together and act as a team

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India has come a long way in my lifetime. Since liberalising the economy and opening up trade in 1991, India has more than halved its poverty rate, and is now the fastest-growing economy in the world. The latest United Nations report predicts Indian gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 7.6 per cent in 2017, far outpacing its regional neighbours.

Over the next two decades, the Indian business landscape will dramatically change, fundamentally transforming the way people work. With more than 65 per cent of the population under the age of 35, millions of young Indians are growing up in a digital world, providing the country with a powerful talent base to build a future of innovation and entrepreneurship. Already, entrepreneurship is on the rise in India. In 2014, there were only about 3,100 startups in the country. Today, there are more than 19,000.

With entrepreneurship comes disruption of traditional businesses, where companies are being upended by new, nimble competitors overnight. To survive, Indian businesses and workers need to quickly and constantly change and adapt. I believe that there are great things on the horizon for India and that the country will flourish in this new world. However, the environment will be vastly different. Here are three changes we can expect in the 2035 workplace:

The Digital Life
Digital will be embedded in the DNA of all companies. Technology is changing the way businesses are run. Today, businesses run at a faster rate than ever before, and this will only accelerate in years to come. We have reached a point today where business leaders across industries and geographies have accepted that embracing digital will be key to future success, and many are already investing heavily in this transformation. However, most organisations will fail to get it right.

Genpact research indicates that around 67 per cent of all digital investments yield suboptimal results. The primary reason for this waste is that companies focus too much on the front office and neglect the middle and back. For many businesses, this can be a fatal mistake. The ability for companies to attack digital end-to-end will continue to separate the leaders from the rest in the future.

In 2035, the business landscape will be drastically different. The majority of today’s large incumbents will be distant memories: it is projected that about 75 per cent of the current S&P 500 will fail by 2027. The companies that are left will be the ones that have embraced this new, digital world. Innovation will have completely erased the boundaries that we know today, collapsing organisational silos and creating one unified experience across organisations. A digital thread, powered by data and the ability to use data intelligently, will run throughout companies, allowing information to flow seamlessly throughout all operations. Vast amounts of aggregate data will enable businesses to solve complex problems with ease and make better decisions by “learning” from the patterns and behaviours of decision makers, employees, and customers. This will transform the workplace experience, making it much more collaborative, efficient and productive.

Machines To Rescue
Humans and machines will become inextricably linked in future. In the world of 2035, where digital will be inherent to a company’s operations, the way we work will be fundamentally different. End-to-end digitisation will impact employees at all levels — from the manufacturing floors to the corner office — and I’m optimistic that these changes will be beneficial for everyone.

Man and machine will be teammates, not adversaries. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already fundamentally transforming the way we work, combining the best elements of humans and machines. By 2035, AI assistants will be the norm, helping employees better delight customers and improve the bottomline in ways that we can hardly imagine today. This partnership between humans and machines will be especially important for the Indian workforce. Already, the IT/ITeS industry makes up for almost 10 per cent of the total Indian economy. As AI continues to advance in the coming years, we can expect the demand for skilled IT professionals who can design and work alongside these machines to grow significantly. Workers with the right expertise will play a critical role in mining data, as they will be needed to identify the right data sets and then feed them to machines, enabling them to learn. Machines can only be as smart as their human counterparts.

The Path To Success
Speed, agility and a hunger to learn continuously will be key to success. The pace of the digital evolution is too rapid to predict where it will lead, meaning that both companies and people need to stay agile, nimble, and open to change. In this environment, the jobs and skills that are relevant today will be outdated tomorrow. The World Bank estimates that automation will eliminate as many as 69 per cent of Indian jobs, as top industries contributing to the economy are largely fuelled by low-skill human labour, such as the textile industry, agriculture, and transportation.

While technology will make many of today’s jobs obsolete, it will also pave the way for new, higher-paying jobs in areas such as engineering and data analytics, where man and machine work as a team. A skilled workforce is essential to the equation, as people are needed to build and code machines. To prepare for the future, we need to invest in reskilling initiatives and robust training programmes that will enable the Indian workforce to pivot their skillsets with the market. Otherwise, these jobs will go unfilled.

However, reskilling is not a one-time affair. Workers will need to constantly stay up to speed with new digital systems to stay relevant for the future job market. Legacy systems of today will be obsolete in just a few decades. Nimbler, more agile systems, and the processes that support them to drive fast innovation, will no longer be nice to have, but prerequisites for future success. Further, workers will need to have very specific knowledge around the industry in which they operate, how people in that industry behave and the way that processes in that industry work. This domain expertise, combined with the right technology and data, will enable complex problem solving at a great speed.

In our rapidly changing world, it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the next two or three years, let alone two decades. These are times when we need to fail fast. Those who innovate quickly, recognise mistakes, and self-correct will be able to stay ahead of the competition and thrive in 2035 and beyond.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

N. V. ‘Tiger’ Tyagarajan

The author is president & CEO, Genpact

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