India has an estimated 468 million employees in its workforce, with almost 90% of them working in the informal sector, according to the latest NCAER report, and the Human Development Report (HDR) 2020 states that barely 1 in 5 Indians in the labour force are “skilled”. Of 162 countries, India stands at 129th position. In addition, agriculture and the informal sector account for a large portion of India's labour force, with approximately half of those employed earning less than Rs 225 a day classified as "working poor".
The report was released by the United Nation Development Programme and these numbers are a cause of concern for India, which requires a skilled workforce to drive its burgeoning economy. The government has been coming up with various programmes and corporate tie-ups to expedite the skilling India mission.
Significance of training and skilling in the emerging workforce ecosystem
Manufacturing companies are slowly moving to India as the second most desired location after China. Earlier this year, the Govt. of India announced that India would be one of the top five countries to be recognized as a global biomanufacturing center by 2025. Intel announced its plans to build a semiconductor manufacturing plant in India just a few weeks ago. It is possible that some of the gains were a result of the Union Cabinet's approval of a 76,000-crore policy stimulus package for the country's semiconductor and display manufacturers.
Due to the abundance of cheap labour and other crucial factors such as a strong consumer base, India is increasingly being identified as a potential global manufacturing hub for hi-tech production due to its enormous potential.
Thus, a question remains, how can India strengthen its manufacturing business, and what role can Web3.0-based Metaverse play in facilitating such a pivot?
An introduction to web 3.0
What is Metaverse? Metaverse refers to a combination of multiple technologies - including virtual reality, augmented reality, social media and artificial intelligence. If you’ve gone on a virtual tour of a cityscape or chatted with a dynamic bot on WhatsApp, the seeds of Metaverse have already been planted in your mind. By expanding the canvas of the internet through a combination of many new and developing technologies, Metaverse presents an opportunity like never before. In a country like India, this technology could be leveraged to rapidly expedite our government’s socio-economic goals.
Whether it’s upskilling our blue-collar workforce for jobs of the future or even strengthening the re-skilling of our executive education market - there seems to be consensus that Metaverse could be the answer to many of our problems. Many economists have spoken before about the challenges of India’s labour-centred workforce when battling with global economies of scale. By empowering students and workers through immersive technology, skilling on Metaverse can shift our workforce towards a creator and producer orientation.
However, is India ready and primed to go fully digital?
In just 2020, 53% of India's total population had achieved internet access and smartphone penetration. This number is only expected to grow to 96% and reach critical mass by 2040. Further, the Indian payments industry has seen a tidal change in the realm of digital payments post demonetization.
Even if just half our population of 1.2 billion has access to smartphones, the internet and digital payments - India presents the biggest market opportunity for any digital giant around the globe. Now, what does Metaverse mean for the various layers of our education and economic system?
- Layer 1: Upskilling India’s blue-collar workforce
According to the Human Development Report, 2020, the skilled labour force in India is just 21.2%. This is why India’s most immediate priority should be to leverage newer technologies like Metaverse to upskill our workforce, and this is where technologies like AR and VR can be useful.
By leveraging the immersive nature of Metaverse, young workers in Tier 2-3 towns of India can now get a virtual tour of an automobile shop floor or a manufacturing plant in the palm of their hands. Farmers, instead of tilling and toiling on the land, they can learn how to use agricultural technology to support their work in the fields. Automobile companies can design virtual courses on managing manufacturing work-flows in factories.
Energy companies could design a course on fixing solar energy panels. Marketing companies could train workers on how to create promotional social media content. The intersection of benefits between different MNCs will generate a lot of open-source content that will be helpful and add to a bigger pool of skills. Through this, young workers can start learning crucial skills for the future through virtual workshops in a bid to transcend the vicious cycle of generational poverty and enter the formal workforce.
- Layer 2: Re-skilling India’s corporate leaders
How do corporate leaders’ re-skill themselves to prepare their organization for the new digital world? How can they learn AI, Blockchain and their implications on business? What is the kind of training our corporate leaders are given in house? How do 40-year-old white collar executives prepare for promotions or lateral entries into new jobs? This is a long-standing point of discussion in the Indian economy - the lacuna of which can be addressed by Metaverse.
Various education platforms are addressing this need but they can establish their leadership and further accelerate in the executive education segment by preparing virtual and immersive modules to train white collar executives on newer technologies and corporate strategies. By using technologies like AR and VR, these courses and modules can simulate immersive management crisis situations while also relaying important strategies and guidelines. The corporate economy is dynamic and constantly changing. In the absence of meaningful re-skilling, many traditional companies and family run businesses in India run the risk of being left behind unless it updates itself.
By providing a dynamic and lean technology which requires minimal resources to implement, the scope for Metaverse is certainly ambitious and infinite. As you can see, a lot of moving parts have to come together to enliven and facilitate this broader vision. But if you look at the history of our country’s economic growth, that has been true for every landmark event. How is this one any different?