Upskill, reskill, reorient
Job cuts and fewer hires need not spell doomsday if one can upskill or hit the entrepreneurial track.
In the last few months, both my fledgeling media startups have received a sudden spurt of job applications. Old video editor colleagues who were laid off a few months ago and are still to land a job, some acquaintances who have recently been handed the pink slip, are all looking for work…any work. Ever since the 2008 recession, layoffs in the media industry have been the new normal. No one flinched when over 100 people were shown the door at a national daily, some months ago. That same daily is now, once again, firing editorial staff in the name of cost-cutting and efficiency. A leading English news channel also laid off people as they transitioned into mobile reporting. Some of the staff that were let go were a few of the most hardworking, diligent, and sincere journalists that I have observed from close quarters. The worrying trend is that not only are layoffs becoming more commonplace in media, but it has caught up with other sectors too.
Amazon India, Aircel, Idea-Vodafone, Shopclues, Cognizant – from startups to telecom behemoths, layoffs have been reported from all. Due to the change in US policies post-Trump and the increasing irrelevance of human capital vis-à-vis automation, the IT sector has been hit the worst with over 56,000 job losses reported in 2017. A recent survey conducted by a career transition company, RiseSmart, highlights the trend of "jobless growth" in India, wherein the economy is indeed growing but that is not translating into jobs. While the layoff bloodshed is intermittent, hiring has not happened robustly enough to smoothen the carnage. This ailment of jobless growth, however, is not unique to India alone.
Talent search firm, Head Hunters India, forecasts 200,000 job cuts in the IT sector every year, while global advisory company, McKinsey & Company, apocalyptically predict that over half of the IT workforce stand to become irrelevant in the next three to four years. With over 12 million people joining India's workforce annually, job creation should be the government's top priority. This jobless growth throws up a gloomy picture; but, don't throw in the towel just yet. In some positive news, the second quarter of this fiscal could witness heartier hiring trends.
It is also important to remember that changing job trends will happen from time to time. Remember the dotcom boom and the number of opportunities it created? Technological evolution demands that human resources too keep up. While it is true that Artificial Intelligence and automation can render several people jobless, it's also true that people skilled in AI and machine learning will also be in demand. The going will get tough, but with newer avenues will come innovative opportunities. An open mind, the ability to adapt, and the willingness to upskill will remain key. As Madhur Singhal, Managing Director of Praxis Global Alliance tells me, a positive aftermath of the current scenario is that there are signs of changes in our education system and student assessment frameworks. These augur well as the younger generation is already being equipped for the future with a different kind of training, right from the primary level.
The trend of automation creating job redundancies is a reality and the only way forward is to upskill oneself. Re-skilling and reorientation of jobs would be another way of fighting the debilitating blow of job losses. And if all else fails, perhaps this is the best time to venture out on your own. The stage has never been better set to embark on that long-cherished entrepreneurial dream. The startup scene in India has been receiving a tremendous boost from the government and with encouragement coming in from investors and incubators, the timing couldn't be better. US-based workforce solutions company, Manpower Group, says that small businesses across the globe will lead in job creation; no wonder then that startups like mine evince interest among job-seekers. Small businesses proffer stability, greater job satisfaction and better growth opportunities. So, all brand conscious snobs, you better wake up and smell the coffee!
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)