Get All Access for $5/mo

This Expert Explains Why India's Workforce Needs to Upskill in Next Five Years With the new technologies on the ground like Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, India moving forward with skilled workforce

By Baishali Mukherjee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics – 2017 Leveraging artificial intelligence and robotics for sustainable growth March 2017, a report by ASSOCHAM and PwC states - Advances in AI have garnered extensive interest from the private and public sectors, with the field now being seen as a potential disruptor in the mass production of consumer goods and other labour-intensive activities from which human potential can be freed for higher endeavours. AI has subtly made inroads into the daily lives of Indian citizens. Leading IT service outsourcing companies have begun thinking, talking and (a few) launching AI platforms. But these are just small steps towards achieving the ultimate goal of AI—namely replacing human intelligence.

Massive IT layoffs, disruptions created by the introduction of AI, robotics, machine learning and digital marketing are indicative of gigantic changes in industry dynamics and demands for skills. To delve deep into the challenges, opportunities and new emerging industry trends, Entrepreneur India got in touch with A.P. Ramabhadran, CEO of Manipal ProLearn, the professional learning unit of Manipal Global Education Services Private Ltd. Ramabhadran shared insights on skill upgradation, evolution of job roles, skill requirements for mid-level employees and many such significant industry trends.

IT Layoffs Paved Way Skill Upgradation

Ramabhadran feels that the solution for IT layoff was always in the problem. "The ever-evolving IT sphere witnesses an influx of new technologies every other day, which leads to two things. Firstly, professionals constantly need to tune their skills based on the new technological demands. Secondly, the rise of automation has created several new large opportunities. Also, the continuous growth of captives in India has led to new opportunities for skilled and reskilled professionals," he explained.

He maintained that the rise of Process Automation will lead to a shift in hiring requirements in the future and the focus will shift towards hiring highly-skilled employees since the benefits of Robotic Process Automation are too huge to be ignored now.

Source: NxtGen Industry Whitepaper

"If I were to provide the solution for the problem in one word, it would be "upskilling". Evolution is the name of the game, and upgrading to the latest and relevant skills is the way forward," emphasised Ramabhadran who also feels that the IT headcount reductions were actually a blessing in disguise.

He further asserted that the job market was never really affected and the opportunities were always there, and they were looking to be seized by professionals with the right skills.

"The statistics prove this too. As you can see, the figures look healthy in terms of the revenue that IT Business Process Management (BPM) is going to generate, as well as the number of professionals who will be employed in the future," shared the expert.

Source: NxtGen Industry Whitepaper

India's Workforce Needs to Upskill In Next Five Years

It is a given that new technologies call for newer skills. Gone are the days when professionals were revered for possessing a single specialized skill. Today's evolving job market requires professionals who possess a multitude of skills, and even that is not enough, as these skills have to be updated constantly to keep up with the changing times.

Explaining the gravity of the need for upskilling, Ramabhadran shared this interesting fact - As per a NASSCOM report, 40% of India's workforce (about four million professionals) need to upskill within the next five years to stay relevant, owing to automation and changing industry demands.

In addition to this, as far as the entry-level professionals are concerned, I can't stress enough on the importance of them receiving the right knowledge and training required to be job ready. If you have a look at the statistics, the percentage of employability even among the elite institutions isn't that great. That being said, industry-academia collaborations will definitely benefit all the stakeholders involved.

Source: NxtGen Industry Whitepaper

Multi-skilled Talent Posing Threat to Mid-level Employees

Skill requirement is also very much important for the mid-level employees and the main factor here is to ensure that complacency does not set in. Most mid-level employees count on their experience to see them through the incoming wave of technological advancements.

However, according to Ramabhadran, the reality turns out to be a lot different from what people hope for. "In this case, the young, multi-skilled talent is posing a threat to mid-level employees who haven't made the attempt to upskill. And the situation looks glum unless these mid-level employees decide to buckle up. HfS Research, a US research firm, has predicted that nearly seven lakh low-skilled Indian employees will lose their jobs to automation by 2022," he warned.

That said, Ramabhadran also shared a solution to this challenge. He opined that the mid-level employees must partake in self-learning initiatives. "Not only will this help them keep up with the ever-changing requirements, it will also help them facilitate career switches at critical times," he advised and added that that digital training in several formats across the various stages of the employee life cycle is of immense help.

AI, Robotics, Machine Learning, Digital Marketing - Which has More Takers?

The demand for artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists in the country is expected to see a 60% rise by this year alone. The reason for the demand lies in the increase in adoption of automation technologies and tempting pay packets on offer. For example, a professional with 2-4 years of experience in the field commands a salary of INR 15-20 lacs per annum, while the range is between INR 50 lacs-1 crore per annum for those with 8-15 years of experience.

The statistics below further validate the fact that emerging technologies like AI and machine learning will be at the forefront of the digital boom in the upcoming years.

Source: NxtGen Industry Whitepaper

Ramabhadran considers it safe to say that all four sectors - AI, Robotics, Machine Learning, Digital Marketing - have a considerable number of takers in their own right. "The robotics sector is on the rise as well. There are plenty of startups which are offering robotics enthusiasts the chance to showcase their innovative capabilities in the field. In addition, robotics, in general, has found increasing applications in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical, packaging and FMCG sectors," he notified.

Last, and possibly the largest demand-side driver is the digital marketing sector which is on an incredible upward trajectory and will continue to remain so in the near future as well. The digital boom has forced marketers to jump onto the digital marketing bandwagon. Consequently, research studies estimate the growth of digital marketing in India at 25% to 40% annually on an already large base (compared to AI and ML). The industry has a lot of potential and the future looks bright for digital marketers.

Upskilling Drive Is Taking India By Storm

Looking at developments on the national front, the Central Government recently partnered with NASSCOM's future skill platform with the aim to upskill 40 lakh IT employees in the country. The focus areas include artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Internet of Things, big data analytics, 3D printing, cloud computing, and social as well as mobile technologies. These are also the sectors with the most promising growth opportunities in the coming future.

"Our mission at Manipal ProLearn is to supplement the entire upskilling drive that is taking the country by storm," informed Ramabhadran, an IIM Ahmedabad alumnus who has worked with organizations like P&G, Whirlpool, and Hutch over the past 30 years.

"By providing holistic upskilling solutions in various fields such as digital marketing, design UI/UX, Cloud Computing, Machine Learning, Data Analytics and Full Stack Training, we seek to uplift the IT professionals who find themselves stuck in the doldrums of the IT layoff saga. We understand that mid-level professionals also have work obligations, hence the use of the digital EduNxt platform, simulators, experiential and application-based case studies, industry-led webinars enable immersive and relevant learning in either virtual mode or in an "on-campus mode'," he elaborated.

Source: NxtGen Industry Whitepaper

Ramabhadran is optimistic about the future and considers it to be bright with plenty of opportunities to be seized. "It won't be easy though. There needs to be a complete overhaul in terms of the training initiatives at the industry and academic levels. So, even though this is one of the largest HR challenges the IT sphere has faced in recent times, I certainly believe that we can pull through together by upgrading our skills accordingly. Remember what the Mahatma said: "Learn as if we were to live forever!" he concluded.

Baishali Mukherjee

Former Freelancer

Side Hustle

Top Secrets to Starting a 6-Figure Etsy Side Hustle That Earns Passive Income, According to 3 People Who Did It

Etsy remains a popular ecommerce platfrom for sellers — and can be incredibly lucrative for those who know how to use it.

Business News

Amazon Is Making a Major Change to Its Packaging: 'Easier to Work With'

Opening an Amazon box is about to look a lot different.

Starting a Business

3 Essential Skills I Learned By Growing My Business From the Ground Up

Discover the most effective (and cheapest) way for founders to learn team management, efficient decision-making and other essential leadership skills.

Business News

SoftBank CEO Says AI 10x Smarter Than Humans Could Be Here in a Matter of Years

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son spoke to shareholders during the company's general meeting on Friday.

Business News

Amazon Is Thinking About Charging Extra for AI Alexa

"Hey Alexa, how much are you going to cost?"


Qualcomm Bullish About Expanding IoT, FWA & Chip Business In India

The American chip giant company has been globally shipping tech products from India; now focusing on creating products and solutions for Indian market