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ET GBS 2020: A huge opportunity for India Inc from disruptions

ET GBS 2020: A huge opportunity for India Inc from disruptions

India Inc can seize huge business opportunities from rapidly accelerating disruptions across the world, but it needs to be alert and agile like top technology firms as companies face the risk of becoming fallen stars like Nokia and Kodak, chief executives said at The Economic Times Global Business Summit.

The nature of disruption has changed, Hero Enterprise chairman Sunil Munjal said in the course of the lively panel discussion where top business leaders discussed a wide range of topics including the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the impact of artificial intelligence on businesses and employment generation, and corporate preparedness to face disruptive changes.

“Disruption is not new, but what you have to watch out for is the pace. The pace has changed dramatically,” Munjal said during the discussion where the panellists also included upGrad founder and chairman Ronnie Screwvala, CG Group chairman Binod Chaudhary, BCG Asia Pacific chairman Neeraj Aggarwal and Apollo Hospitals managing director Suneeta Reddy.

Disruption does not create equal opportunities, said Agarwal. “Every disruption creates big opportunities for the strong to get stronger.”

The panellists also debated the impact of technological changes and artificial intelligence on jobs, but the general view was that these technologies were vital for India. They would change the nature of jobs, not eliminate employment.

Reddy of Apollo Hospitals said technology had not reduced jobs in the healthcare industry, which faced a big shortage of manpower. She said more people would be needed to look after the increasing number of elderly people in India.

Munjal said India had a huge potential to provide products and services to 600 million people whose consumption was close to nothing. “There is a big market out there waiting to be served,” he added.

Chaudhary said companies should provide low-cost services to tap this opportunity.

Screwvala said technology was a key factor in driving disruption and businesses. “We all have heard of the phrase, ‘what comes first, the chicken or the egg’. Today we ask what comes first, technology or the consumer? Technology is the enabler and the consumer follows,” he said.

The panellists also debated the disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak and the impact it was having on supply chains, travel and other aspects of economic activity around the world.

“Events like corona are disruptions nobody is prepared for,” Chaudhary said, referring to worldwide scare and impact.

“If China is in trouble, no single supply chain that is not affected. We need to put our best foot forward,” Munjal said, referring to the opportunities created for many countries to construct new supply chains after the disruption by the coronavirus.

He said disruption could pose extreme possibilities, positive or negative, for the entity that faced the change. “You are either a disruptee or a disrupter. And the current disruption that is happening right now mostly represents technological change. And the pace at which it is changing is coming at us like a wall. It’s really like a road roller. Either you are sitting on top of the road roller, or you are the road,” said Munjal.

Agarwal said that just like the industrial and information technology revolutions that the world had already seen, another revolution in the domain of biotechnology was in the offing, which would be no less disruptive than previous far-reaching changes that the world had seen.

“If you take the longer-term view, the world GDP normally doubles every 25 years. The world GDP today is $90 trillion. So, we have another $90 trillion being created in the next 25 years. And a lot it will be driven on the backbone of technology,” he said, adding: “It can mean a lot of destruction. It can meet a lot of disruption. But it can also mean humongous opportunity.”

Reddy said the business of healthcare and hospitals had gained handsomely from major technological changes. When Apollo Hospitals commenced operations a quarter of a century ago, patients on average would spend nine days after being admitted to a hospital for treatment of a disease. The patients are now discharged in only three days because of wider adoption of advanced technologies in medical sciences, she said.

On the impact of artificial intelligence, Agarwal said it might create a shortage of skilled workers and a surplus of less-skilled workers.

Screwvala said artificial intelligence had attained a negative connotation in the general discourse because many people feared the consequences of this technology and its feared impact on employment. He, however, said artificial intelligence, on the balance, was a very positive thing and that countries did not have a choice about it.

Screwvala said there were other aspects of artificial intelligence which were much more important. “I think artificial intelligence has an even bigger power. It is able to set perceptions, influence minds of billions.”

Agarwal said people needed to reskill to adapt to disruptive changes. “People will have to do four jobs in a lifetime. The era of one job for a lifetime is gone,” he said.

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