Digital skilling: How trinity of govt, edtech startups, tech businesses is helping MSMEs grow online

Updated: March 5, 2020 2:00:49 PM

Skilling, Labour, Talent for MSMEs: SMBs constantly struggle to attract and retain digitally-savvy talent. This heavily impedes the rate at which these businesses can adopt digital solutions and drive business benefits.

The government’s focus on enhancing digital skills in the country has continually grown.
  • By Nikhil Arora

Skilling, Labour, Talent for MSMEs: India is forging ahead as the world’s fastest-growing economy, with startups, entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) powering this economic development. While digital adoption among these businesses has helped drive this incredible growth, per a recent survey, Indian entrepreneurs, especially those with small and medium businesses (SMBs), view failures to keep up with technological advancements as a major growth challenge. They recognise the advantages of adopting digital technologies in terms of efficiency and market growth but get easily intimidated with rapidly evolving solutions in today’s digital age.

It is also common knowledge now that SMBs also constantly struggle to attract and retain digitally-savvy talent. This heavily impedes the rate at which these businesses can adopt digital solutions and drive business benefits. According to a recent study, 85 per cent of Indian businesses consider reskilling their existing workforce for digital adoption, to be critical for their growth. This is because, business leaders today understand that working with intelligent systems with algorithmic and artificial intelligence capabilities requires extremely technical skills like complex reasoning, problem-solving, and interpreting data that go beyond simple technical capabilities.

Government Push for Digital Skilling

Since announcing the Skills India initiative in 2015, the government’s focus on enhancing digital skills in the country has continually grown. A true testament to this is the Union Budget 2020, wherein the government announced an allocation of Rs 99,300 crores to help improve the country’s overall education system, including Rs 3000 crores for skills development – especially highlighting its focus on building skills in new-age technologies.

In fact, in December 2019, the government approved Rs 436 crores to expand the Future Skills platform — a year-old initiative focused on upskilling workers across different industrial sectors. Since 2018, the program has already trained over two lakh IT professionals, and will now accept workers from other industries looking to upskill themselves in emerging technology areas like AI, cybersecurity, and blockchain.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is also running sector-specific initiatives in areas like Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM), Information Security & Awareness, as well as basic digital literacy.

Growing Edtech Sector 

India is seeing the emergence of a vibrant education-technology (edtech) sector that can help SMBs bridge the digital divide with online courses across data sciences, cloud solutions, digital marketing and more. These edtech companies are leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver personalised training programmes that adapt to learners’ existing skills and learning goals. Online training platforms are also able to leverage best practices from leading institutions across the world, to deliver non-traditional skills like problem-solving and complex decision making.

Also read: Delayed payments: Only these many MSMEs recovered their dues; majority cases pending with these buyers

Some of the most recognised names in this sector, including UpGrad, Coursera, Udemy, SimpliLearn, among others offer personalised, certified programmes, helping professionals upskill themselves through content from academia, as well as industry subject matter experts. They offer outcome-based solutions for businesses to undertake workforce upskilling in a planned manner, with blended learning models that include mentoring, labs and projects along with online modules.

Private Sector Support

Government initiatives alone are not sufficient to bridge the growing skills gaps in the country. What we need more is active participation by the private sector towards digital skill development, to help support India’s budding entrepreneurial ecosystem. For instance, technology major Cisco recently launched a networking academy with an aim to train 1 million students by 2025 through 583 academies set up nationwide. The programme curriculum is available to certain schools, colleges, and government-run institutes. More recently, Cisco and Accenture have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) to bolster digital skills development and collaboration across the country through Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs).

Tech giant Google also launched its Developer Students Club (DSC) a Google Developers program which helps students from all undergraduate or graduate programs who have an interest in growing as a developer to learn mobile and web development skills. Through DSC and various other initiatives in India, Google is making world-class mobile developer education accessible to millions of students and developers.

Undertaking digital reskilling of the workforce often involves balancing time and opportunity cost. Entrepreneurs can start by using a combination of outsourcing, flexi-hiring and longer-term training in-house to help ensure that digital business needs can be met. Additionally, there should be more efforts towards increasing and strengthening public-private partnerships in this space, as a persistent digital skills gap is a real threat to the sustained growth of businesses, and by extension, the economy. Finally, the government’s focus on upgrading higher education to bring in greater skills focus is a step in the right direction; embedding digital skills in early learning is critical to help make our youth future-ready.

Nikhil Arora is the Managing Director & Vice-President of GoDaddy India. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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