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View from India: Prepare for the future with cutting-edge skills

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The adoption of frontier technologies has urged 'Corporate India' to upskill and reskill its professionals. CEOs are also realigning their outlook, as the corporate landscape undergoes a tech-driven rejig.

India is at the cusp of a significant transformation, as outlined in KPMG’s India CEO Outlook 2019 report, 'Agile or Irrelevant: Redefining Resilience'. To tap into emerging opportunities, CEOs in India identify that it is imperative to bring in a change from within. They realise that the future is digital and there are no two ways about it.

The digital ecosystem is bringing in a paradigm shift in the way customers interact with various businesses and vice versa. Disruptive technologies are providing CEOs with powerful ways to bridge the gap between various office functions, bringing in digital transformation and significantly increasing their customer engagement.

The report throws insights on the increasing importance of disruption. This is something that CEOs are recognising in order to be resilient and agile. Fast-paced technological disruptions, changing customer preferences and shifting internal priorities will keep CEOs on their toes, thereby compelling them to institute and implement the four pillars for building an agile organisation i.e. innovation, cultural change, dynamic leadership and customer focus.

Apart from investment in innovation processes, organisations are also focusing on fostering a culture of innovation, with four out of five CEOs in India (80 per cent) wanting their employees to feel empowered to innovate, without worrying about negative consequences.

Hence, it is imperative for CEOs to play an active role in developing and promoting an innovation strategy within the organization. Companies must have the right leadership to be resilient. They also must focus on the alignment of front, middle and back-office functions, upskilling of workforce and integration of the existing IT infrastructure.

To master resilience and act with agility, CEOs need to drive change from within. Their foremost priorities must focus upon enhancing digital capabilities (both in terms of technology and workforce) and building cyber resilience.

The connected enterprise approach, comprising alignment of office functions and integration of IT infrastructure, will become one of the top agendas for CEOs in India. Besides, CEOs recognise the importance of cloud-based solutions for addressing issues concerning the fragmented digital infrastructure and transforming the way of working. Thus, one can safely conclude that CEOs in India (78 per cent) are much more confident of the increasing use of cloud technology than they have ever been in the last three years and are less concerned about migrating all of their business data to the cloud.

The digital ecosystem is bringing in a paradigm shift in the way customers interact with various businesses and vice versa. Disruptive technologies are providing CEOs powerful ways to bridge the gap between various office functions, bringing in digital transformation and significantly increasing their customer engagement.

In short, it’s all about a digital transformation brought about by frontier technologies. A host of opportunities abound. According to a July 2019 Nasscom report, 'HR Summit: Press Deck', the global digital transformation market is expected to grow from $445.4bn in 2017 to $2,279.4bn by 2025. India's digital economy could rise from the current $200bn to $1tn by 2025.

While these figures are encouraging, they do come with their own challenges. The challenge lies in keeping pace with the projected growth. This can be resolved by having a skills-ready workforce, which will give organisations a competitive edge. However, by 2022, no less than 54 per cent of all employees will require significant re-skilling and up-skilling.

Another forecast indicates that by 2021 there will be a demand for 230,000 professionals with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics (BDA). Nevertheless, statistics reveal that only 90,000 university students will be sufficiently skilled to take these jobs. It’s important to keep pace because of the four million jobs in the industry today, approximately 60-65 per cent of jobs are expected to change over the next five years.

It is very clear that along with mainstream skills, digital skills are the need of hour. Digital skills will find applications in diverse fields such as project management, cyber security, digital marketing, end-user computing and business intelligence and analytics. Machine learning, data science and mobility are other options. Undoubtedly, the Indian IT-ITES has been growing in excess of 20 per cent year on year. Yet organisations plan to invest in skilling to build a digital workforce and boost their double digit growth.

What does it mean to build a digital talent base? The options are vast and diverse. For instance, cloud computing professionals can land in many cloud-related jobs that include applications, infrastructure, management and automation. Cyber-security experts can do application security, end-point security and network security.

AI and BDA are other promising areas. Staff can look into aspects of data storage and engineering, machine learning and natural language processing.

IoT experts can focus on designing IoT platforms, sensors, network platforms and architecture and communication gateways. Those well versed in the social and mobile segment can conceptualise mobile applications and services for different mobile platforms.

The demand for digital talent is projected to grow significantly, at 35 per cent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023.

There has to be a collaborative and collective effort to meet the demand for digital talent. A move in this direction should begin with universities and colleges. Besides updating the curricula, universities and colleges need to conduct faculty training programmes and invest in infrastructure. It’s also essential to work closely with the industry to improve the readiness of graduating students. Other than that, organisations need to upskill the existing IT workforce.

For its part, Nasscom has launched an initiative titled FutureSkills. This is an industry utility programme for skills development in 10 emerging technologies, 10 professional skills, over 70 job roles and over 155 technical skills.

The immediate objectives include transforming 100 universities to supply digital talent, upskilling four million professionals by 2025 and driving the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to STEAM (encouraging young minds to innovate) process of transformation and ensuring its implementation across the industry. Through this, Nasscom aims to be recognised as Digital India’s partner (a Government of India initiative). Nasscom aims to build on the Government’s mission to make every citizen digitally literate.

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