The two day summit kicked off yesterday with ‘The Digital Takeover’ as its theme.
The Confederation of Indian Industry’ (CII) Big Picture Summit has kicked off in the national capital. With ‘The Digital Takeover’ as its theme, the two-day event has started with the context setting address from Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO, Viacom18 and chairman, national committee on Media and Entertainment, CII.
Respected colleagues, friends and dignitaries on the dais – Sri Amitabh Kant Saab, Sri Vempatiji, Shri Ramesh Sippy Saab, Shri Amit Khanna, Smt. Amita Sarkar – and our well-wishers in the audience. Thank you very much for making it to Delhi for the 2017 edition of the Big Picture Summit.
The theme for this year is ‘The Digital Takeover’. In my honest assessment, this is an extremely provocative theme – and one that can mean different things to different people. I can imagine some of my colleagues from the broadcast sector feeling upset – after all they represent the largest chunk of the revenue and profit pools that make us a125k Cr to 135k cr behemoththat we are. I can also imagine what some of my younger colleagues who are already social media influencers thinking – this theme is passé, the takeover was complete a few years ago! I know there are others who will be more balanced in their thinking. I don’t want to pick a side at this stage. This topic itself has loads of nuances that need to be addressed – and I’m certain that no definitive side can be picked. I am hopeful that over today and tomorrow, the panels will help you think through the theme for the event and form your own distinctive understanding of where we stand today and the direction in which we are likely to head tomorrow.
That being said, I wanted to take this occasion to share with you the first thought that came to my mind when I came across this theme. To me it sounded like the onset of the digital takeover that is likely to lead to greater automation and fewer human jobs. Talk about tangential thinking, but this is a topic that I have been thinking a lot about over the last few quarters. You might be wondering what this has to do with Big Picture and our industry, but let me try and connect the dots.
You see India has aworkforce of 460 million. As per several estimates, the working age population growsby 15-16 million every year. While we have this massive workforce that’s growing, we also have to remain competitive as globalisation and trade grow. There is also a large trend of automation of jobs wherein machines are being used to perform ‘routine’ jobs or tasks that are repetitive; plus, they can do these in a cheaper and better way.Clearly in the next 5-10 years we are going to see both these forces taking each other head-on. Some people can argue that this will take even longer in India because labour is relatively cheaper and others will argue that it will be felt sooner because we will lose our competitive advantage as developed countries manufacture more without labour. Irrespective of the side you find yourself in you cannot find fault with the fact that while this fear may playout sooner or later –eventually, it will. Fact is, that Indian policymakers displayed a great deal of foresight by making a reference toUniversal Basic Income– wherein every Indian gets a fixed subsidy - in the Economic Survey earlier this year. Personally, I found it very progressive to at least put the issue on the table – contrary to what people think it’s probably more important for India than it is for developed countries because of the sheer size of our workforce. People are debating about its costs etc. but if you think about the government’s success with the ‘Givitup scheme’where the creamy layer is giving up its LPG subsidies, the cost of UBI could also be reduced with some innovative behavioral economics.
Now you might wonder why I am going on and on about our country’s workforce and labour market challenges when we have gathered here as leaders of the M&E industry. You see our sector directly employees anywhere between1.1-1.2 million Indians. In the next 5 years, we will add~ 1mn jobs,basis conservative estimates,thereby playing our role in assuaging the challenge.If we achieve breakout growth, that number can also touch 5mn.However, I would like to draw your attention not to the number of jobs but to their quality.
The skills required to thrive in our sector are the bedrock of most ‘non-routine’ jobs.Creativity, story-telling, emotional intelligence and cognitive ability– all skills that M&E professionals can be proud of are the ones that are automation proof. These are also the skills that can be transferred to other sectors –making us a part of the solution. Of course, we too will face our share of the burden. Some roles will be automated – and the media organization might look very different in 2027 – but our core will still be automation-proof.
This is truly a complex challenge and a promising opportunity. If we get it right the generations to follow will harvest the fruits of our efforts. To get it right, all constituents of our society need to come together and set the stage.
The government needs to continue its support to our sector so we can grow at double-digit speed and add more, future-proof jobs. A lot has been done and a lot more can be done. The policy framework for the new labour economy – which is a gig-based, independent artist economy - needs to be laid.
The private sector needs to be more ‘creator-friendly’ or ‘freelancer friendly’. This means having the right kind of tools and technology to spot and empower talented individuals and then compensate them in a transparent manner. Imagine leveraging blockchain technologies to manage royalty payments. Some work is already happening in this space but the question really is can we do more? We also need to hire more individuals who can help create and leverage these tools and technology. Take for instance, programmers and data specialists. These are not easy to find and retain. As an industry, we need to respect them more if we are to attract them. Industry bodies can take the lead and be evangelists in this space. It might set the stage for all of us to follow.
Non-profit organisations and educational institutionsneed to ensure that the right kind of training programmes are provided that are scalable, low-cost and wide in reach with a quick turnaround time. Arts education, including liberal arts programmes, need to be dialed up wherein students can look at studying music and computer science or film-making and finance.
This is the only message I’d like to leave you with. In a future where the labour market will undergo several changes – and more changes – our sector might hold the key to creating afuture-proof, agile, dynamic workforcethat can take its skills and drive impact across industries. I have immense faith in our sector and the promise it holds. With the right kind of impetus and co-ordination it can truly power India as we take on the mantle of aVishwa Guruin every sense of the word. We have a tendency of placing revenue milestones for the future – and it might even be the right thing to do. I however believe that we’re better off aspiring for a larger goal for ourselves – one that places us at the centerpiece of aresilient, modern and equitable society.This is the only ‘takeover’ I aspire for.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your time and attention.