View from India: India poised to become world’s fifth-largest economy

According to the report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) Consultancy’s 2018 World Economic League Table, India is poised to become the world’s fifth-largest economy in dollar terms. Looking ahead, the forecast suggests that Asian economies are anticipated to dominate the top 10 largest economies over the next 15 years.

As the country’s economy shows signs of a positive growth at a global level, one can expect innovation, opportunities and disruption in a cross-section of verticals. Renewable energy is one such vertical, as there’s a definite move towards creating clean power and lowering carbon footprints. The Solar Energy Corporation of India has already attracted various state governments like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra that have come forward with bids for wind-power projects. Each state has made a bid of 500MW for installing Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS) connected wind-power projects. Wind is a clean fuel source, as wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions.

It’s a known fact that wind energy can produce more electricity than required. Consequently, in such situations, this energy can become a source of income generation as it’s sold to energy-deprived regions through power purchase agreements (PPA). The electricity produced from wind is free of cost, thereby doing away with the cost involved in producing electricity the way it’s normally done. Let’s not forget this can become a means of job creation, whose portfolios include manufacturing, installation, maintenance and supporting services.

This is the reason why the Ministry has come forward and invited bids for another 4000MW capacity of ISTS connected wind-power projects in the present fiscal. 

The accent continues on alternative forms of energy. According to a 2017 press release from CRISIL, it is estimated that inter-state transmission system (ISTS) projects present a Rs30,000 crore refinancing opportunity for the bond market over the next three years, as 14,000 circuit km of under-construction lines come on stream. The credit risk profile of operational ISTS projects is strong because of assured cash flows, low operations and maintenance (O&M) and low counter-party risk. This appeals to bond investors, as is evident from bond issuances of Rs5,000 crore for operational ISTS projects over the past couple of years. “Such refinancing will help lower cost by around 100 basis points. Also, the tenure of funding will get extended to 15 years or more, which would improve the financial flexibility of projects. It will also free up capital for banks that can be used for lending to other sectors,” said Sachin Gupta, senior director, CRISIL Ratings.

Besides renewable energy, data will unlock new streams of revenue. Data is acknowledged to be the ‘new oil’ and the vast swathes of fast-moving, unstructured and complex streams of data is being leveraged by industries to make businesses more agile, boardroom decisions better informed and answer questions that have previously been considered unanswerable. The big data opportunity will be seized more acutely in times to come even in areas like energy, food, medicine and the logistics space to optimise customer usage and create customer value in order to outsource all services in the supply chain.

Going beyond big data, unexplored dimensions in the academic front are waiting to be lapped up.  “At IIIT-Hyderabad, we believe that computer science and anthropology as disciplines can achieve heightened potential by working in tandem,” said Nimmi Rangaswamy, visiting associate professor, Kohli Centre on Intelligent Systems.

The International Institute of Information Technology-Hyderabad (IIIT-H) - an autonomous research university well known for its cutting-edge applied research - runs several courses and academic programmes bringing together the liberal arts, humanities and computational sciences. Bringing a social anthropologist onboard ups the ante for a fruitful research partnership with engineering and the social sciences. “My research project on the ‘Sociology of AI and Work Automaton’ purports to explore the impacts of cutting-edge scientific research on professional and work life and offer new insights about the coming together of human-computer interaction in everyday life,” added Rangaswamy. 

Recent years have seen the growth of scientific disciplines engaging with socio-cultural questions: data scientists algorithmically defining musical genres; computer scientists modelling social ties and cultural strength in social networks building theories of cultural influence and flow, developers of algorithmic music recommendation systems at various internet streaming services are but a few examples that are seeing a confluence of computing and culture.

Also, routines and tasks will be taken over by computers and smart machines, but the occupation still remains within the hands of the individual. Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) will perform repetitive tasks and many mundane activities will be handled by robotics. Robots will also perform unusual tasks. In 2017 we’ve already carried a report of video capturing a robot performing aarti at a facility in Pune during the festival of Ganesh Chartuthi. The robotic arms were designed by Patil Automation Ltd.

Moving on, it means that there’s a greater challenge for mankind to delve into newer avenues. Individuals will have to tap non-routine and cognitive roles which are expected to open up new opportunities. The in-demand skills are about human capabilities like adaptability, problem solving, creativity and leadership. We need to admit that software cannot imitate passion, character or collaborative spirit. Hence an anticipated forecast would be a collaboration of skills with technology, which leads to innovation thereby helping organisations succeed in competitive marketplaces.

According to PwC’s 20th CEO survey released in 2017, with the rise of automation, how to achieve the right mix of people and machines in the workplace will become the critical talent question of our age. “As digitisation and artificial intelligence take deeper root in the workplace, companies in India will have to increasingly focus on achieving the right cognitive re-apportioning between man and machine. In order to successfully navigate this changing workplace model, we will need strong leaders who can make sense of ambiguity, maintain trust with employees and put in place the right culture and values,” explained Padmaja Alaganandan, People and Organisation leader, PwC India.

The relentless march of automation will transform the role people play at work. Different skills will be needed, roles will disappear and others will evolve. Some organisations will need fewer people, but others will need more. We will see a rebalancing of human capital as organisations adjust. Innovation and the creation of skills can be encouraged through the right training and development, the right creative environment and the right performance management approach. Success in an automated world will mean people and machines work together, rather than one replacing the other.

Other developments will unfold. Looking at things from the buyer-seller sentiment, in future, brands representing various industries will sell a mindset to consumers. For instance, auto companies will sell mobility and not vehicles in the future. Likewise, wind companies will sell grids and not turbines.

This mindset is expected to change the buyer-seller landscape in times to come and the growth will continue to be consumption-led as forward-thinking retailers need to gear up for the same.

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