Future of work: Indian businesses thrive on digital

Quick and accelerated digital adoption by Indian firms has helped them grow faster than their Asian and Western peers

Manish Bahl, assistant vice-president, Center for the Future of Work, Asia Pacific, Cognizant
Manish Bahl, assistant vice-president, Center for the Future of Work, Asia Pacific, Cognizant

By Srinath Srinivasan

A rudimentary analysis of how India Inc responded to the pandemic in 2020 reveals that digital transformation has not only ensured good growth for Indian large cap IT service companies and the Indian subsidiaries of the big tech multinationals, but also for all businesses in various other sectors as well. According to a study by Cognizant, only 36% of companies in India (against the regional average of 44%) experienced slightly negative to a very negative impact on their business performance in 2020. Further, the study says that businesses in Asia Pacific and the Middle East knew the real purpose of digital tools and made great strides in understanding what the human-machine balance of work should be.

“Although the digital revolution is 74 years old, it’s kicking into second gear now,” says Manish Bahl, assistant vice-president, Center for the Future of Work, Asia Pacific, Cognizant. “Indian companies are most bullish on embracing digital ways of working as 52% of them agreed that the pandemic had accelerated the adoption of new, digital ways of working practices,” he adds.

The study collated responses from 4000 senior executives (1200 from Asia Pacific and the Middle East, including 160 in India) across 23 countries and 14 industries. From the Indian sample, it was found that nearly 12% of the total revenue comes from digital channels, which is also the highest among Asia Pacific countries. “By the end of 2023, they aim to take their digital-driven revenues to 17%,” shares Bahl.

Based on the study, Bahl also forecasts some key trends in the way work will evolve, skills that will be on demand at work and major factors that will impact work in India. According to him, the top three forces that will have a strong impact on work in India by 2023 are hyper-connectivity, concerns about security and privacy relating to business practices and process automation. “Human-centric skills will continue to gain prominence,” he says. This includes, skills such as decision-making, analytical , learning , strategic thinking and communication, which will become more important in 2023 than they are currently. “Jobs will become more specialised, we will work faster and work will require greater technical expertise,” he further adds.

“The work ahead will be all about striking a balance between machine-driven and human-centric work. Even when machines can do everything, it will still be people who are the ultimate X factor,” says Bahl. The emphasis on human centrism is based on the prediction that machines will not replace humans but will blend in to do the heavy lifting. Bahl predicts that machines will pick up jobs like sifting through large data sets, evaluation of options/recommendations to take decisions and execution of routine, rules-based decisions.

By leveraging digital, organisations can augment their processes, according to Bahl. This will lead to them enjoying benefits like making more informed, accurate, intelligent decisions, cost savings, increased output, improved asset and inventory management and customer experience. “To augment business processes, companies are leveraging three important technologies, namely, AI, sensors/ IoT and Big Data/ analytics,” he says. The study reveals that 68% of all respondents have embarked on an AI initiative. “Bringing AI out of the lab and into the lines of business is imperative for value realisation,” says Bahl.

The new digital ways of working and carrying out business however come with a cost. Cyber frauds, digital terrorism and winner-takes-all economy are the top three concerns raised by respondents, the study states. However, Bahl believes that the positive impact of AI on workforce and society outweighs the dark sides. As with AI, development in security is taking place in parallel as the technology evolves.

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First published on: 25-01-2021 at 02:45 IST