Escaping automation-led redundancy in the Indian IT Industry

Rakesh Shukla, Founder & CEO, TWB_ | Thursday, 14 September 2017, 07:37 IST

Is automation coming for your job?

Recent data points towards half a million employees being made redundant over the next 5 years due to automation. Is it true? And what can the IT industry, companies, and employees do about it?

The first half of the next decade will bring a lot of pain to the Indian IT business as automation sets in and we go through the transition from people to technology + people. But the real opportunity is still available to people, as the enterprise still craves more human-centric skills at scale that cannot be fed into AI platforms. These are challenging times, but the change brings with it, opportunity.

The Impact on Indian Industry

India’s services industry is set to endure the largest negative impact with a 14% decline in its workforce. India is set to lose 640,000 low-skilled positions by 2021, which amounts to a decrease of 28%. This is largely because of the repetitive nature of India’s outsourcing service.

At the same time, though, India is expected to create 160,000 positions, or 14% growth, at the mid-level. But with 640,000 low-skilled jobs at risk, being offset by just 160,000 mid- or high-skilled jobs, this will be a net job loss of 500,000 through 2021.

Three things for the industry to do

1. Work with the education system to create the right talent: The industry must create a workforce with knowledge of computer science as against just coding, mathematical, analytical and statistics skills, communication skills, and a working knowledge of business intelligence tools.

2. Change onboarding processes: Most onboarding focuses on developing narrow skill sets that most employees should have learnt at the college level itself, when they should be focusing on creative thinking, and more managerial skills, including critical decision-making and problem-solving.

3. Innovate: Indian IT has seen inflection points before. 2000 AD brought with it Y2K and its scenario of possible doomsday but the IT industry innovated to catch the internet trend, and, subsequently, the inflection called Digital. The industry has however always been customer-led, and consistently avoided investment in innovating on basic technology creation.

Re-skill or Perish

The industry focus has to move from hiring to re-skilling, and re-skilling quickly. As a whole, the industry is hiring fewer fresher graduates. Given the macro environment, people are hiring more onsite. And while jobs at the bottom of the pyramid are the first to get automated, there are still ways to stay relevant as an Indian IT professional.

Three things for employees to do

1. Move up the IT development value chain: If you have the background and experience, please develop the skill and expertise to grow into data analytics, engineering design, cloud, digital automation.

2. Move across the value chain: There are functions outside of software development where you can leverage your IT skills and create value, so do consider business, sales and marketing management, etc.

3. Move into adjuncts: There are several non-IT sectors that are thriving currently, but are starved for professionals with technical backgrounds who can thrive on creative and communication processes, such as content development, education, among many others.


It is not as if all jobs and business is being lost. There will be new jobs created in the future to focus on higher value work, and this will require the workforce to evolve their skills to take on roles with higher degrees of complex problem-solving, creativity, and emotional intelligence. It only means that companies and individuals that resist innovation and rest on legacy skills won’t be around in half a decade.

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