There is a cloud of crisis on livelihood on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April-June 2020, the world lost almost 400 million full-time jobs due to the pandemic, according to statistics released by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The pandemic continues to result in job losses and pay cuts and will lead to many jobs becoming redundant while at the same time, push the creation of newer jobs.
How can different industries reimagine jobs in order to future proof them? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Manu N Wadhwa, CHRO, Sony Pictures Networks India, shares her thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted the entertainment industry and its impact on jobs and skilling.
Between April-June 2020, the world lost almost 400 million full-time jobs due to the pandemic, according to statistics released by the International Labour Organization (ILO). India and other South Asian countries have collectively lost 110 million jobs in Q2 of 2020. What do you think are the implications of this for the Indian economy?
The pandemic is singlehandedly the most unprecedented event the world has witnessed in the last century. In India, the nation’s GDP contracted 23.9% in Q1, the first time in 40 years, and unemployment rates rose as high as 26%. A report by the Asian Development Bank estimates that India’s youth will lose over 6.1 million jobs in this year as a result of the pandemic. There is a huge supply shock across world economies, including India, and the shutdown of manufacturing, automobile, and other industries rendered an exodus of over 660,000 migrants to their hometowns due to the lack of jobs.
With global industries eyeing India as a potential manufacturing destination, the government must adopt a war-like attitude to build self-reliant, global manufacturing, and supply chain hub to recover from the pandemic. In this endeavor, governments must revisit statutes on contractual and gig labor and enforce provisions for their wellbeing, for migrant labor to have a fighting chance in the new realities.
From an HR perspective, some trends will emerge and will be the mainstay for a while, such as:
1. The rise of Entrepreneurship & Gig Economy: I foresee a spike in self-employment and freelancing, as talent may not like to tie themselves to traditional institutions for jobs, given the sense of perceived security going away. If this be the case, I am excited to see how industry giants compete with hyper-localized services in the most remote locations, and how diverse, boundary-less talent from the gig economy - whose utilization stands at 13% - can deliver to their full potential.
2. Reskilling for Livelihoods: Naturally, when the lockdown began, people struggled due to an imbalance in demand & supply and the lack of transferable skills across industries. As a nation, I believe that cross-skilling is the way forward. Currently, India’s formal skilling efforts are at a dismal 4.69% compared to world economies. This is exacerbated by outdated syllabi taught in educational institutions that hinder job readiness among the youth. The launch of the New Education Policy, with liberated provisions on methods and making education more real-time and experiential, will possibly bridge the skill gap & expectations and create future-ready self-reliant workforce of India Inc.
3. Enhanced focus on health & wellbeing: The pandemic has created a new world order and has brought health, sanitization, and mental wellbeing of the workforce as a key differentiator in people practices. Allied industries, in this space, will see a massive demand – both on consumption as well as skilled workforce requirement.
Q2. The highly uncertain recovery in the second half of the year will not be enough to go back to pre-pandemic levels, even in the best scenario, warns the ILO. How do you think the entertainment industry will be affected?
The creative and cultural industries are some of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. India’s M&E space, which we all know is a major cultural and social trendsetter, grew ~9% (2019) to reach INR 1.82 Tn, and was estimated to reach INR2.42 Tn (US$34 Bn) by 2022 at a CAGR of 10% (pre-COVID).
During the lockdown, our content consumption patterns have witnessed seismic changes with a viewership jump of over 76% across platforms. With people confined to their homes, entertainment consumption rose notably within the at-home segments of television, online gaming, edutainment, and over-the-top (OTT) platforms. While the movie world faced massive challenges with theatres and malls completely shut down, this too provided an opportunity to the industry to create a niche in the form of mini-multiplexes within the comfort of our home screens. More than a dozen premieres scheduled for theatrical release happened on various channels and OTT platforms.
Of course, the lack of ad revenue has impacted the entire industry – television, radio, print, events, gaming, out of home entertainment – but that is a by-product of the entire economy being impacted too.
With the recently unveiled Unlock 4.0 guidelines, we can bring fresh content on the table, whilst actively mitigating its costs via our revenue channels.
Once we overcome the short-term hurdles caused by the pandemic, here is how I see the M&E industry evolve:
• Rise in OTT and gaming: Digital media has already overtaken film as the third-largest segment of the M&E sector. This trend is accelerated by the pandemic, due to audiences now favoring on-demand, easy access, OTT content. As habit-formation may build apprehension for audiences to step out and visit theatres or other forms of outdoor entertainment, this trend is unlikely to die down soon.
Online gaming is the fastest-growing M&E segment, with an uptick of 31% consumers in the last year alone. It is estimated to grow to INR187 Bn by 2022, with a CAGR of 43%. SPN caught onto this trend way back by introducing second screen interactivity and gaming on our OTT platform SonyLIV. This time, owing to the lockdown, we conducted virtual auditions for our upcoming KBC season via SonyLIV, and, the results are astounding: not only did our participation jump 42%, we saw over 31 million initial audition entries. It has set a precedent and we intend to replicate this to all our non-fiction formats e.g. Indian Idol. It is also a testament to the fact that Indian M&E, which was largely dominated by live and recorded acts and performances that were replicated across channels, is now being challenged by other forms, thus opening the doors for a wider talent spectrum.
• New content formats: The lockdown has boosted people’s creativity, with short video formats, user-generated content, and influencers becoming increasingly popular on social media. I believe that with dwindling attention spans of the new-age consumer and declining interest in linear television due to government regulations, such formats of entertainment will serve to provide serious competition for mainstream entertainment, at least in urban spaces.
• Re-imagining outdoor entertainment: As people grapple to rebuild lives post-pandemic, entertainment may take a backseat as a secondary choice. As a result, outdoor events, theatres, and other forms of outside entertainment may continue to experience lesser footfall and lags owing to increased apprehensions. They will have to evolve as entertainment destinations, with innovations that are more virtual and enable minimal to no contact.
• Embedding technology: As entertainment becomes OTT and virtual, companies that provide assisted engagement using AR and VR, leverage technology for efficiencies in the supply chain to reduce turnaround time to bring new content formats to market and create cost efficiencies will emerge winners in the long run. Advanced home entertainment technologies, new instream modes, and interactive advertisement will be the new disrupters that shall be available much sooner than envisaged. Additionally, tech enablers, such as telecom, internet, cloud, and other companies will also see a boost as entertainment becomes more diverse across the country.
In the post-pandemic days, there may be jobs that get lost forever. Which jobs do you think in the entertainment industry are more prone to these risks?
Like in every other industry, the pandemic has enabled individuals across the board to connect directly in a virtual format. This has brought about an interesting trend: people no longer utilize gatekeepers, additional layers, or middlemen layers to reach out to those they wished to contact.
In the industry too, with a rule of minimal members on set, the no. of additional workers, jobs that can be easily resolved with automation, especially on sets will decrease and this may, in a way, impact production costs.
“I also believe that in formal organizations, we may relook the role of the middle manager, and aim to build flatter, fluid structures where employees work in tribes and occasionally take on leadership roles for select gigs.”
The pace of digital transformation across organizations and industries has also got accelerated and things which seemed possible in the next 5-7 years will see the light of the day in a way lesser timeframe. Thus, more manual roles in the value chain will get impacted. As Yuval Noah Harari states in his book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”, re-skilling and repurposing of roles will be so critical due to fast-paced technological advancements. Organizations and academia must evolve to provide agile reskilling efforts so that the skills of the labor force are not obsolete.
On the other hand, there are some jobs that can become more important than ever. In fact, a new category of jobs may emerge altogether in the post-pandemic days. What do you think are some of these jobs to be?
“I think that the future of jobs, from an M&E lens, will revolve around three things: Digital, Data, and Diversity.”
Digital – The Efficiency Revolution: With the advent of Industry 4.0 and an accelerated digital transformation due to the pandemic, I expect to see the rise of multidimensional professionals with cross-industry expertise who build sustainable solutions with technology. Think coders as HR professionals, or AI enablers who aid virtual shoots and slashing production costs in turn. As careers no longer remain linear, such individuals stand a greater chance to excel as professionals that cater to the end consumer and end consumer alone.
Data – The Sense Maker: Traditionally, the M&E industry has little to no means of tracking offline audience measurements – it may be through sampling audience viewership, or estimating footfalls, and the resulting solutions to tackle consumer interests often result in being generic. Some aspects of SEO and algorithms to cater to user tastes are already in place, especially for digital entertainment. I believe that this practice of Big Data Insights will also percolate down to linear and offline formats, solely for delighting our end consumers.
Diversity – The Imagination Lead: I envisage a future war on boundaryless talent from across the globe that not just brings in-depth knowledge of content, but are able to think outside the box, to provide entertainment that caters to the end consumer and end consumer only.
As employers, employees and economies transform amid the COVID-19 times, it is essential to identify the jobs that will be in demand and help the current and future workforce prepare for them. What do you are the skills that are going to gain prominence post-pandemic?
The transformational shift that businesses, and in turn HR, have undergone, will only continue to accelerate as technology, agility and inclusion come to the fore.
The New Normal will create an era of Super-specialist and Super-generalists. While Super Generalists possess agility, a learning acumen, and collaboration skills, and virtual leadership, Super Specialists’ forte lies in niche skills of consumer awareness, data science, and technology.
Overall, the skills that will matter in the future are:
1. Consumer centricity: Understanding the need of the end consumer to provide custom content offerings, reliance on Big Data to provide unique insights, coupled with in-depth content formats and knowledge, will pave the way to build long-lasting relationships with audiences that will come back for more.
2. Tech savviness and data literacy: Employee comfort with tech tools will be important in a big way, as offices go virtual and organizations rely on Big Data, IoT, robotics, and AI to deliver data, insights, and results. The 2020 India Skills report by Wheebox suggests that prospective employers actively view skills such as data science and analysis, digital marketing, robotics process automation, human-centered design, and compliance.
3. Ingenuity and agility: Agility has truly gained center stage across industries in India – firms that earlier took a staunch stance against work from home formats are now embracing it with wide arms. At SPN, once such example has been the movement of our post-production facilities, a machine and data-intensive department, almost completely to the cloud. Such solutions ensured that we could continue to deliver on content just like any other day.
4. Critical thinking, leadership and EI: As I stated, the gig economy will grow post-pandemic, and I believe that organizations currently have or will have more fluid teams with certain members helming them at different times. It is here that skills such as collaboration, effective leadership, ability to disambiguate information, and truth from fake, as well as emotional connect with members will emerge as highly coveted traits.