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Automation a Big Threat to IT Industry: Vishal Sikka

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Automation a Big Threat to IT Industry: Vishal Sikka
This year, the annual meet of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos, Switzerland, took place at a time of great turmoil in many industries. Speaking to NDTV at Davos, Vishal Sikka, CEO of Infosys, said the IT industry is also facing a big threat brought on by disruptive technologies like automation and artificial intelligence.

"The traditional IT companies are facing the same disruption that everybody else in the world is," he said. (Watch)

Mr Sikka said through automation, more and more manual tasks are possible to be done automatically.

"Automation is taking out bigger and bigger bytes of work that was happening mechanically or manually like IT administration, infra management, business process operations like support and service desk kind of functions."

From IT services perspective, Mr Sikka said the new technological changes like automation are however "a tale of two cities".

"There is a sense of anxiety there. At the same time there is a tremendous sense of optimism. It is a tremendous opportunity to transcend and be a creator of automation. We can be the great services company that can be the enabler of the great change that is ahead of us."

Mr Sikka said in the third quarter, Infosys was able "to save within the traditional delivery organisation about 1,100 people worth of work through automation. In BPO alone, not including these 1100, the savings were 650 peoples' worth of work."

However, Mr Sikka said automation will not have a "zero-sum effect" on jobs.

"The people that we displaced because of automation can go on to more value-adding and more creativity requiring sort of jobs."

Speaking about the impact of these technology changes on hiring plans of IT companies, Mr Sikka said hiring might not be impacted in absolute numbers but could in relative or percentage terms.

The solution is to "educate people with skills of tomorrow". Citing an example, Mr Sikka said in 14 months Infosys trained 71,000 people in design-thinking.

He also said that margins of IT companies will not necessarily get impacted as automation raises productivity.

Speaking in a broader context, Mr Sikka said automation is a tremendous opportunity for India in the knowledge work.

"When people talk that the jobs will go away it is a narrow view of the problem. There will be jobs. If we create access to education and inspire people to be entrepreneurial and the innovative the future will belong to us."

At Infosys, "we are in the race to get this done as fast as we can. The best is ahead of us."

But whether Infosys was fast enough, the future will tell, he added.

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