Industrial development has been a hallmark of Indian commerce. As we move towards Industry 4.0, it is time we recognise the efforts that have gone into taking us there. It is also important to acknowledge the challenges we face in this adoption and how we could seek to address them.
Not just the Internet of Things (IoT), we are now in the age of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where interconnected processes make measuring efficiencies and redundancies easier. Processes and accountabilities are streamlined for automated functions. Error margins keep getting smaller as we spend more time during research and development, rather than corrections during execution.
In such a situation, Industry 4.0 is dependent on a skilled workforce that understands the need for such automation and is willing to learn to move to tasks requiring their capabilities to think ahead instead of addressing a task. A prime contribution to Industry 4.0 has been the co-advancement of technology, ground-level internet connectivity and the growth of a workforce sector dedicated towards building up the infrastructure needed for such 4.0 implementation.
Lastly, changing attitudes of a new-age consumer which is looking for a product and user experience on a solo medium, thus making data analytics and interpretation the norm instead of a specialized function in mass-experienced goods. This new consumer lifestyle has also been instrumental in bringing forth Industry 4.0 from manufacturing, to service, to entertainment, to edibles and much more.
Once in the line of implementation, making Industry 4.0 a challenging reality in India is the systemic lack of initiative across decision-making entities on both sides of the spectrum. And the reasons for these come down to a handful of high-impact action points. Firstly, while growing, there is a general lack of an effective skilled workforce which will bring 4.0 to life.
This is because of fears of jobs getting redundant, and due to lack of awareness of sectoral mobility by this last-mile workforce. These are problems which can be countered if this workforce accepts, and the authorities develop continuous career upskilling programmes helping such resources with continued technology-enabled jobs in the future. A second problem Industry 4.0 faces is a lack of innovation due to a status quoist approach from the authorities that be.
A product innovation is much more important than a fad-oriented vanity innovation. With product and automation-oriented innovation going through bureaucratic processing that stifles intent, intensity, and ingenuity of the piece, it is not surprising that many practical innovations are lost in red tape. But the most important reason Industry 4.0 is struggling in India is government apathy. Burdened with electoral considerations and a bureaucracy known for keeping a strict control on information flow, while one may understand that there are effective reasons for halting an activity, these are not reasons to halt progress.
The Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ initiative has become a veritable mission statement for Indian commerce and industry to wake up and smell the coffee. The steady change in attitudes, public discourse, and the professional interventions which sectors have taken to implement Industry 4.0 are welcome, but these are baby steps.
Needed now, is the urgent intervention of initiatives like Skill India, and more, to enhance their curriculum in not just enabling people to do a job, or know about diverse types of jobs, but also to be able to bring in continued innovation and sustained implementation of internet or internet enabled technology to increase individual accountabilities and revenue potentials. As we steadily move to Industry 4.0 it is not just the intent but the impact that must count.
Arjun Bajaaj is chief executive officer and founder of Daiwa Televisions. He’s also the director of Videotex International Private Limited.