Employment generation – a grand challenge



At the launch of his new book “Rebooting India” in February 2016, Nandan Nilekani listed 12 grand challenges that can be solved by technology start-ups. He gave examples such as Aadhar – already solved by his own team as a start-up running within the Government.

One grand challenge not mentioned in Nandan’s list is employment generation. Over the last 20 years, the software and IT industry created a lot of jobs. Will our industry continue to create jobs even in future? It does not seem like it if we continue with business as usual. However, the promise of a great career is creating a lot of engineers, not just in the cities but even in smaller towns spread all over India. So on the one hand we have these huge aspirations getting built in Bharat (that is the non-urban India) and on the other hand the jobs are only in big cities that are becoming more crowded and harder to live in.

Here’s the simple solution. Why do these services have to be delivered from big cities? With today’s infrastructure and talent pool available, they can be easily provided from the smaller towns. The economics for this small-town model seems almost a no-brainer – the clients benefit due to reduced costs, the professionals benefit from being close to home and family, a better quality life and more savings. And as we all know, if the economics is working, the model will succeed – sooner rather than later.

In fact, we have seen this when off-shoring started in India. There were all kind of questions – quality, infrastructure, communication. But ultimately offshoring became the norm for many services. I was myself part of the Indian success story for one such service – software testing.

History shall repeat, this time with the small-town model. Today, the youth in the small towns use the same technology as in the cities – the same mobiles and the same apps. The infrastructure has all the necessary ingredients – power, internet and most importantly, colleges. Happily, not the urban infra nightmares of traffic jams and hour long commutes!

The key is delivering services better from the small towns than they are delivered today from cities! Eventually for the model, the cost benefits and the social impacts are implicit – hygiene factors rather than differentiators. The quality and reliability of service will make this model a winner.

Some such services are technical helpdesk, software testing and content creation. For example, – our team in Rajgurunagar, our first small town center, about 50 kms from Pune, is providing SAP helpdesk services to one of India’s largest auto manufacturer. These are technical services that are not only valuable to the customers, but provide a growth path to the aspirations of the small-town youth.

This is the next logical step of offshoring – to Bharat, instead of to Philippines or Thailand! And just like in off-shoring, for some services, the small town model will become the norm. Why would any CIO want to consider helpdesk from the larger towns at higher costs, for example? This is bigger than just our company and our business. It excites me to be part of this whole new model. Welcome aboard everyone, who wants to join in.

This is my first blog at Ideas to Impacts, and I hope it gave you a good flavour of our ideas that can really make a positive impact both on industries and societies. But the model can go even further that that with start-ups! About that in my next blog.

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