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March 06, 2018 Tuesday 03:42:44 PM IST

LIFE IS MORE THAN A JOB

Cover Story

We need more rainmakers than weathermen. How will the next generation survive in an age where computing power as measured by Moore’s Law is set to reach the processing power of the human brain which calculates at the rate of 1016, circa 2023, and robots, capable of learning on their own, read emotions and interact with people? A world where innumerable machines, gigantic and Nano, will be connected to each other, powered cordlessly via fifth generation airwaves, generating vast amounts of data every second? Nano technology, 3D printing, and drones will irreversibly alter the industrial landscape. Imagine all of these being mediated via blockchain technology which will create mayhem in banking, insurance, and accounting.

 

A World Economic Forum Report statesthat35% of the top professional skills today will be replaced in the near future. Despite these predictions, even with increasing automation and digitisation, jobs involving complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity will come out as the top three ‘indemand’ industry skills of the future as Artificial Intelligence enabled, machine-learning capable FinTech ‘Bots’ emerge to dominate the business landscape.

 


Possibilities are scary with studies stating that 67% of the jobs in the United States can be automated currently and a World Bank Report stating that 69% of the jobs in India are susceptible to automation.

 

Job market apocalypse? Not so quickly yet, for once can expect affirmative checks and balances.

 


Truly what can the new-age workforce do to keep themselves gainfully occupied and realise their true potential to be harbingers of prosperity for themselves, the community, and for our long-ravaged environment?

 

The first should be the recognition that change is inexorably gaining in on us at lightning speed. No one can resist it; we can only adapt to it as quickly as possible. Only then do we begin to be proactive rather than reactive.

 


A business-friendly pedagogy in tune with a constantly changing economic environment could be the ideal. We need a schooling system that incorporates the learning of language, communication, and life skills while imparting subject matter knowledge.

 

The ideal learning environment nurtures curiosity and collaboration, with the aim of teaching our young to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Such a paradigm shall encourage them to find solutions to real-world problems.

 


INNOVATION IS KEY

 

Future success belongs to those who can see emerging patterns and identify trends in relation to unfulfilled needs in society. A classic example is that of User Interface and User Experience testing that has considerable scope as companies test the market about the acceptance of a product or service before they commit vast amounts of resources to make and market them.

 


Geriatric care is another field with tremendous opportunities, be it in housing, arranging medical appointments, and medical purchases and delivery. Expert care givers rake in a premium with a waiting list for their services. Online medicine delivery companies are finding both clients and investors aplenty. Identifying a key problem and building a business proposition around it is the key.

 

An extreme example of value creation is that of Japanese company Soft Bank, which, in 1999, invested $20 million in the then unheard-of ecommerce company Ali Baba, giving them a 30% stake in the latter. Ali Baba is today worth $152 billion, ironically dwarfing Soft Bank’s own market valuation of $91 billion!

 


Ali Baba and Amazon are today the world’s biggest retailers without owning any of the products or services they market. All of them work on trust on a peer to peer basis.

 

So, how did Uber become the global giant in passenger transportation and win the title of the world’s most-valued startup at $71 billion without owning a single vehicle? Uber started out with its founders having difficulty finding a taxi ride on a snowy evening in a Paris suburb. In the freezing cold, they came up with the idea of starting an app to hail taxis and the rest was history.

 


How did Airbnb become the heavyweight in the hospitality industry, bigger than the next five iconic global hotel brands put together, with the total number of accommodation listings topping 4 million and hosting over 2 million guests a night in 191 countries?

 

The story of Airbnb began with two unemployed design engineers, renting out the airbeds in their apartment to raise the money they needed to attend a design conference in San Francisco where the hotels were all full up. It is now a business valued at $31 billion, making use of the already available residential resources in the community.

 


POWER OF CREATIVITY

 

Many people in the western world are now earning a considerable part of their living expenses being Airbnb hosts and Uber drivers. In fact, there are companies training people how to be better Airbnb hosts, with data analytics companies assisting entrepreneurial hosts with information on the best sites to start a new one.

 


Closer home is Practo, the medical appointments booking site, which has attracted multimillion dollar overseas funding. Founded in 2008 by two National Institute of Technology graduates Shashank N.D. and Abhinav Lal, the healthcare startup has come a long way and today has offices globally. So, you can book a doctor or get a diagnostic lab appointment by categories, such as area, date, timing, and fee, at the click of a button.

 

Furthermore, there are online sites that enable you to book a priest, pujari, or mullah to conduct religious ceremonies at the time and place of your convenience.

 


Payments gateway startup, Cashfree, has signed up with employers to make online salary advance payments in minutes for their staff who need it at short notice, thus freeing up company resources. Sab Rent Karo, another startup, enables renting of just about anything to set up home or business in a new city, especially for people on short-term contracts.

 

Online rental of power tools and other appliances, designer clothes, jewellery, and books is mushrooming in the ‘shared’ economy. Many startups now offer domestic help services from arranging plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and

drivers, attracting venture capitalist funding.


 

Popular Bangalore-based self-drive car company Zoomcar has been able to attract investor funding worth a few million dollars, while French ride-sharing start-up BlaBla Car has many takers in India, enabling the driver to make a decent earning out of unutilised capacity on to-and-fro trips.

 

Grallo, which started as a concert ticket booking engine, has added on facilities, such as transportation to venues, hotel bookings, and air, bus and rail bookings to attend concerts.


 

Thrillophilia, an online adventure tourism company, has now expanded internationally from its humble origin in India. Hyper local delivery companies have taken services to another level with local area specialists dealing in select items, making guaranteed deliveries within half an hour. They are now being approached by the larger ecommerce companies to partner with them to enable their deliveries and save on staffing costs.

 

Local delivery company Swiggy, boasting of international funding, makes deliveries from businesses to consumers for as low as Rs.7 ($.010). In the long run, successful companies will be the ones that are totally service oriented and have simplified their services to such a level that they become part of the entrepreneurial lexicon.


 

For creative entrepreneurs, funding is available now as part of the Startup India Initiative and at the State level. Truly, the choice is up to the future generation to bite the bitter-sweet bullet of entrepreneurship.



Thomas George


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