We have lost over 400,000 people globally due to COVID-19. Prevention and common sense, though, have been interpreted differently by the world leaders, and the abrupt lockdowns, unplanned restrictions, limitations of a serious stimulus package and the threats of the contagion, which have forced the already looming recession in India into a depression that is currently an escalating global problem. A depression is a major downswing in the business cycle; one which is characterised by sharply reduced industrial production, widespread unemployment, a serious decline or cessation of growth in construction and great reductions in international trade & capital movements.
Amidst this crisis lies opportunity. While none of us are an exception to this downturn, it also presents to us options of implementing changes which we never thought feasible or realistic. The key ingredient to this change and us inching back to normalcy will be automation and how organisations seize this moment.
With a mass exodus of labour and unavailability of skilled workforce, the case to implement more automated systems and processes in all sectors has never been stronger. Add to that the draconian laws that will become worse as protectionist agenda arises from the polity. What will be crucial is how organisations view this change and take decisive steps in that direction.
Traditionally, India has always been a labour-intensive market, where often the cost of employing the labour tends to be cheaper than automation. It is a classic case of CAPEX vs OPEX, where organisations chose to have a steady fix outflow on labour costs over implementing automation that need a much larger commitment of capital.
Drastic times call for drastic measures and my urge to organisations will be to focus on committing budgetary allowances towards projects that involve automation and directly lead to de-risking of processes or the activities over the long-term. This will ensure that they are well protected in their endeavours to serve their customers whilst negating the risks of labour shortage that we all are facing today.
I still firmly believe that a cohesive man and machine environment with automation still has a place in this world, and apart from de-risking highly skilled activities or inefficient processes, this will not create an impact on the number of people being hired. What will change is the skill-set of the people we hire and that we, as organisations and industry bodies, need to focus on investing into cultivating these skills to create the workforce of the future that are equipped to handle such automation around them.
Ultimately, the India story will revive when the lowest economic spectrum of the society feels secure enough to start spending. For the same, a steady income source generation can happen only via industries. I am confident on the Indian entrepreneurial spirit to find innovation amidst this crisis and create a new phase of a growth-focused India.