Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Opinion | Transformation through tech can drive jobs growth

The potentially slowing rate of global growth and India’s continuing growth trajectory present both opportunities and challenges. As our country of over 1 billion people prepares for this year’s interim budget later this week as well as for the upcoming general elections in May, a focus on development-led governance and inclusive growth will be key.

There are expectations that agriculture and social sectors may see higher budgetary allocations and ameliorative measures in the wake of some natural calamities and less than optimal crop performance/output in certain parts of the country.

On the other hand, the world expects the best of us. From the expected 7.5% growth rate in 2019 to 7.7% in 2020, there is much to look forward to and prepare for. For us to retain and possibly improve our recent ranking as the fifth largest economy in the world while taking India to a $20 trillion GDP, we have to convert present opportunities into reality and that too fast.

As some states rue over jobless growth, while some others are concerned over a drop in tourist footfalls, we need to address the elephant in the room. Creating jobs has to be linked to the creation of economic opportunities where none existed. Technology here has played an enabling role in opening doors to new industries and new roles most notably in fintech, foodtech, rideshare, e-commerce deliveries and logistics and now in hospitality.

When regulations and realities of business go hand in hand, a lot can be achieved. Mainstreaming the application of technologies to all industries whether it is restaurants, hotels, heavy engineering, handlooms and handicrafts or logistics and transportation for things as basic as automating invoicing and payments to complex tasks like inventory control and management can not only help skill building on shop floors but also create more entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals and startups to service these needs while adding to the efficiency of operations. Digital India has made the right overtures by reducing leakages and building greater accountability. More national, state-level and local enterprises need to embrace the digital revolution.

While the contribution of the formal economy of salaried employees is more easily identifiable, there is a growing upswing in the informal economy of entrepreneurs. So for every data point around how 11 million people who may have lost their jobs last year, the contribution of the informal economy of professionals as well as the transportation sector itself accounted for 14 million economic opportunities over the same period. The economic growth in 12 of the Reserve Bank of India’s 17 non-special states beat India’s economic growth of 6.7% in fiscal 2018, but it did not open more avenues for jobs. Eleven of these 12 states saw a fall in growth in otherwise employment-intensive sectors. In contrast, opportunity creation in the informal sector is booming even at the street level.

The more pertinent questions then become whether we are able to incentivise entrepreneurs—micro, small or medium, whether we are enabling regulations that assist the growth of enterprise and facilitate vocational training and skill building over traditional learning. The answer to continuous/relentless job growth lies in finding solutions to these issues.

India sees over 15 foreign million tourists annually. Buoyed by domestic demand, we have the opportunity to empower local tourism as well as business and personal travel while also looking to build on international footfalls. All of this is possible when we marry great convenience and quality with the right price. Therefore, the affordable hospitality opportunity map for India extends far deeper from just the metros and popular tourist destinations to even the tier 2 and tier 3 cities of India including the likes of Prayagraj for Kumbh, Bareilly for overnight business trips from Delhi and Karnal for a weekend trip to meet relatives.

Several countries including China and Indonesia have realized the potential of expanding the use-cases of domestic travel through the right price and product with the result that the local hospitality industry and its associated local industries of travel, food and tourism are booming in largely undiscovered cities.

There is no reason why India can’t take advantage of the billion-dollar opportunity as well.

Some ways to harness this can be through simplifying existing rules, streamline state government guidelines that govern the management and supervision of hotels, bed and breakfasts, homestays, etc., across the country.

Every year about 4.75 million people are stated to enter the workforce of our country. It is virtually impossible for traditional industries to absorb this annual wave of young people looking for job opportunities. If not addressed urgently we are creating a social problem that will become virtually impossible to address and if remained unresolved can lead to severe ramifications.

Technology and technology-enabled and -driven enterprises can go a long way in being able to create new industries, products, services and most importantly, new roles that can take advantage of this demographic dividend.

We have to ultimately solve for the rights of each individual citizen, the larger good of society and earn our rightful place in the community of nations.

Aditya Ghosh is chief executive officer, India and South Asia, OYO.

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Updated: 30 Jan 2019, 11:05 PM IST
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