The Road Ahead: Future Of Business In India With AI And Automation

By Rajesh Kumar R, Vice President – Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), Mindtre

Rajesh Kumar R, Vice President – Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), MindtreIt is no secret that India’s digital transformation has become the template for emerging economies across the globe. Businesses across industries are re-imagining their processes and operations, looking to leverage new-age technologies such as AI, automation and machine learning to facilitate greater business agility and create higher value.

AI adoption in the BFSI sector, for instance, currently stands at 36 percent and is expected to soon increase to 70 percent. The demand for AI and allied technologies has also increased significantly in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, cybersecurity, retail and automotive.

India and AI: Government policies and growth opportunities

The government deserves its share of plaudits for facilitating the continued evolution of the business ecosystem through progressive initiatives. The NITI Aayog is planning a national program focusing on AI-based R&D and applications, while the Department of Telecom will support the creation of a native 5G Test Bed at IIT Madras. These initiatives are creating a tech-led environment that is conducive to the large-scale adoption of advanced technologies.

It is estimated that the technology’s application within the enterprise ecosystem can create additional economic value worth hundreds of billions of dollars within the next 10-15 years. More importantly, this value creation will not be limited to just one or two sectors.

“The future we are looking at is the one where AI and allied technologies guide India and Indians onto a path of growth and success”

Take, for instance, the Indian agriculture industry. According to a 2017 report, the sector created employment opportunities for almost two-thirds (59%) of the country’s total workforce in 2016. Its contribution to the national GDP in that year stood at around 23 percent. Despite this, the country seems to be perennially poised on the brink of one agriculture-related crisis or another.

Why? Because an overwhelming percentage of Indian farmers still practice outdated, non-scientific methods of farming. Farming practices in India are also extremely resource-intensive. This has been a cause for concern for sustainability and environmental experts – particularly in light of the imminent pan-India water crisis, as well as the growing desertification and land degradation.

AI-enabled solutions can step into the picture here to address the sector’s challenges. Farmers can use IoT sensors to analyse and monitor their crop and soil health in real-time and undertake prompt measures to remediate any emerging concern. Solutions based on machine learning and data analytics can also notify them about the optimal weather conditions for sowing the seeds, as well as prepare them for potential pest attacks on their crops. AI-driven solutions can also optimise the sector’s supply chain – something that could significantly increase the country’s overall agricultural output.

The benefits of AI are not just limited to one sector but can be realised across multiple industries. For example, given that future “wars” will be fought largely in the digital sphere, ensuring that Indian citizens, organisations, digital infrastructures and data are well-protected from internal and external cyber threats. It is emerging as a top priority for the government. AI can help with that by facilitating proactive threat identification, response and remediation.

Challenges to AI adoption in India, its impact on the workforce and the way ahead

These deployments are just a few of many examples that underscore the disruptive power of AI and allied technologies. However, despite the technology’s impressive potential, the adoption of AI in India faces certain challenges – the biggest amongst which is a distinct dearth of skilled professionals in the domain. A 2018 report revealed that as many as 50,000 AI jobs lie vacant in India due to the lack of skilled professionals. The prohibitive costs of developing in-house capabilities in AI and allied technologies also prevents many organisations from leveraging these new-age tools.

It is also feared that AI and automation could end up replacing humans in jobs that have traditionally been the latter’s. This possibility is now a reality; AI and automation are already taking over human jobs. The World Economic Forum estimates that these technologies will displace 75 million jobs globally by 2025. The same WEF report, however, also highlights how AI and automation will only take over low-skill, lowvalue jobs and replace them with 133 million new high-value, high-growth opportunities – a net gain of almost 60 million jobs.

These jobs will be available to professionals with evolved skill sets, necessitating an urgent up-skilling of the nation’s workforce. This change will have to be driven from the grassroots and sustained across the academia and industry. AI must be introduced as a topic of study to equip the next generation of learners with basic familiarity about the concept. Higher education institutes need to revise their curricular to incorporate dedicated courses about AI and allied technologies, such as machine learning, data science and automation. Organisations will also have to invest in the skilling of their human workforce to prepare them for the AI paradigm.

Stakeholders will also need to work towards helping the existing workforce, as well as the next wave of professionals to become more familiar with AI and related technologies. The idea is to not just create specialised domain experts, but to also nurture skillsets amongst non-technical users that can help them leverage AI-driven solutions to solve current and future problems across multiple spheres.

Doing so will create an ecosystem where AI and allied technologies will no longer be arcane topics. With more skilled professionals in the domain, there will also be an increase in the number of AI use-cases and innovations. This will make the technology more accessible, with benefits trickling down from the business ecosphere to the mass consumer.

This, then, is the future that we are looking at – a future where AI and allied technologies guide India and Indians onto a path of growth and success. Leading tech companies are already working towards this vision. It is about time that other stakeholders took on a more active role in the imminent AI revolution.

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