After tackling the third industrial revolution that is digital in nature, it is time for India to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution. Soon to be a reality for labour-intensive countries like India, the next industrial revolution will require a major skilling up of many of our 1.2+ billion citizens. With a huge demographic dividend of under-35’s having a long working life ahead of them, unlike most mature economies that are seeing a decline in their populations, the future of many generations will be dictated by how India responds to this challenge today.
The fourth industrial revolution will see emergence of new technologies and increased automation, which could relegate many professions of today. Despite the IT sector shaping into one of the world’s biggest – post-liberalisation in the early 90’s – and achievements in the space technology and services industries among others, India still remains a nation with a big base of unskilled and semi-skilled labour at the bottom of the pyramid.
The ‘Make in India’ programme aims to tap into this labour pool, besides vying to become the next manufacturing hub after China. However, manufacturing is a sector that will see the maximum disruption in its ways of doing things. Automation will make inroads into this industry globally like never before and coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT) will lead to emergence of new jobs and thus, newer skills. Though the ‘Skill India’ programme is expected to be of help, India needs a major revamp of the existing education system.
Naysayers say the fourth industrial revolution will result in job losses but optimists say it will create many more jobs in the long term than it will take away initially. While that may be up for debate, there is no denying that the old ways of doing business in several industries will make way for the new. It will also result in demand for newer skill sets and upskilling of talent. Cultures that are adaptive to change will thrive while others would struggle.
In the business world, industries like automobile, transportation, medical, consumer durables and electronics are expected could see major disruption, besides manufacturing. This is not to say that all the remaining sectors would continue unaffected by the fourth industrial revolution. As and when the transition starts, the implications are expected to be harsher on populous countries with a low-skilled or semi-skilled labour force.
India, too, has a choice: to ride the oncoming wave or go adrift. In other words, either gear up the emerging economy by evolving solutions unique to India or risk losing successes achieved during recent decades. My sincere hope is that India will not only reach the bus stop but also board its bus and not end up missing it yet again.