Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18 and Chairman, National Committee on Media & Entertainment, CII has addressed the 6th edition of CII Big Picture Summit in Delhi in presence of Sri Amitabh Kant Saab, Sri Vempatiji, Shri Ramesh Sippy Saab, Shri Amit Khanna, Smt. Amita Sarkar and other dignitaries.
Vats, started off with his sentimental attachment with CII Big Picture Summit as he started off his career in Media Industry six years before that coincided with his first attendance to 1st edition of CII Big Picture Summit.
He delved in to the theme for this year is ‘The Digital Takeover’ by calling it as extremely provocative theme and one that can mean different things to different people. He passed on the outcome of the theme that will be discussed in the panel in the next two days and reiterated his views saying,“I wanted to take this occasion to share with you the first thought that came to my mind when I came across this theme. To me it sounded like the onset of the digital takeover that is likely to lead to greater automation and fewer human jobs. Talk about tangential thinking, but this is a topic that I have been thinking a lot about over the last few quarters. You might be wondering what this has to do with Big Picture and our industry, but let me try and connect the dots.”
Moving deeper into his thought process that went beyond the theme, Vats reiterated the need for balancing between the growing work force and automation technology, “As per several estimates, the working age population grows by 15-16 million every year. While we have this massive workforce that’s growing, we also have to remain competitive as globalization and trade grow. There is also a large trend of automation of jobs wherein machines are being used to perform ‘routine’ jobs or tasks that are repetitive; plus, they can do these in a cheaper and better way. Clearly in the next 5-10 years we are going to see both these forces taking each other head-on.”
He has his admiration for the govt’s initiative in this direction and stated, “Indian policymakers displayed a great deal of foresight by making a reference to Universal Basic Income – wherein every Indian gets a fixed subsidy – in the Economic Survey earlier this year. Personally, I found it very progressive to at least put the issue on the table – contrary to what people think it’s probably more important for India than it is for developed countries because of the sheer size of our workforce. People are debating about its costs etc. but if you think about the government’s success with the ‘Givitup scheme’ where the creamy layer is giving up its LPG subsidies, the cost of UBI could also be reduced with some innovative behavioral economics.”
He went further on country’s workforce and labour market challenges and related it with M&E Sector by offering possible solutions for the same by saying, “You see our sector directly employees anywhere between 1.1-1.2 million Indians. In the next 5 years, we will add ~ 1mn jobs, basis conservative estimates, thereby playing our role in assuaging the challenge. If we achieve breakout growth, that number can also touch 5mn. However, I would like to draw your attention not to the number of jobs but to their quality.
“The skills required to thrive in our sector are the bedrock of most ‘non-routine’ jobs. Creativity, story-telling, emotional intelligence and cognitive ability – all skills that M&E professionals can be proud of are the ones that are automation proof. These are also the skills that can be transferred to other sectors – making us a part of the solution. Of course, we too will face our share of the burden. Some roles will be automated – and the media organization might look very different in 2027 – but our core will still be automation-proof.”
Vats termed it truly a complex challenge and a promising opportunity that might help the generations to follow to harvest the fruits of our efforts and reiterated the need to get it right and all constituents of our society need to come together and set the stage.
While expressing his expectation from the government he said, “government needs to continue its support to our sector so we can grow at double digit speed and add more, future-proof jobs. A lot has been done and a lot more can be done. The policy framework for the new labour economy – which is a gig-based, independent artist economy – needs to be laid.”
He called upon the private sector and said, “The private sector needs to be more ‘creator-friendly’ or ‘freelancer friendly’. This means having the right kind of tools and technology to spot and empower talented individuals and then compensate them in a transparent manner. Imagine leveraging blockchain technologies to manage royalty payments. Some work is already happening in this space but the question really is can we do more? We also need to hire more individuals who can help create and leverage these tools and technology. Take for instance, programmers and data specialists. These are not easy to find and retain. As an industry, we need to respect them more if we are to attract them. Industry bodies can take the lead and be evangelists in this space. It might set the stage for all of us to follow”.
And for NGOs and Educational instititions he said,“Non-profit organisations and educational institutions need to ensure that the right kind of training programmes are provided that are scalable, low-cost and wide in reach with a quick turnaround time. Arts education, including liberal arts programmes, need to be dialed up wherein students can look at studying music and computer science or film-making and finance.”
Finally, he left the message saying that, “In a future where the labour market will undergo several changes – and more changes – our sector might hold the key to creating a future-proof, agile, dynamic workforce that can take its skills and drive impact across industries. I have immense faith in our sector and the promise it holds. With the right kind of impetus and co-ordination it can truly power India as we take on the mantle of a Vishwa Guru in every sense of the word. We have a tendency of placing revenue milestones for the future – and it might even be the right thing to do. I however believe that we’re better off aspiring for a larger goal for ourselves – one that places us at the centerpiece of a resilient, modern and equitable society. This is the only ‘takeover’ I aspire for. “