Yogini Joglekar: As the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Indegene, Mr Gupta, what are some of the paradoxes you have observed in the healthcare industry?
Manish Gupta: We at Indegene work at the intersection of the life science and technology industries. As you can imagine, both these industries are going through very significant changes. These are industries relying on science-based innovation. You can see more and more drugs coming into the oncology space to cater to previously unmet medical needs. Newer technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and big data are impacting the industry in very significant ways. And pretty much every senior leader believes that the coming five to ten years will witness bigger disruptions for which the industry is probably not even prepared for. From the human capital perspective, the industry will continue to face a significant downsizing. At one point of time the peak number of medical representatives in the United States used to be 100,000. Today, that number is between 60,000 to 65,000. Similar statistics prevail in the Europe. On the other hand, newer technological interventions are creating multiple new roles like the Chief Digital Officer or the Patient officer. These roles are built on digital technology and science and are focused on very specialised domains like patients and care management. There is need for newer skills in the healthcare industry at present and while this sector is undergoing a lot of challenges and upheavals, it is also ripe with tremendous opportunities.
Now moving on to Professor Chandrasekhar Sripada. As a Professor of Strategic Human Capital at the Indian School of Business you have been the Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) across various sectors. How do you perceive the emerging challenges that human capital is encountering across industries?
Chandrasekhar Sripada: As we are talking about paradoxes, let me throw some light on the paradoxes prevailing in the domain of human capital in India. India is the hub of human capital. It houses the largest assembly of millions of English speaking, well educated work force. About 12 million people enter the work force every year. We would be the youngest country in the world in near future. Hence the term ’demographic dividend’ is very relevant to our country. Then where does the paradox lie? I see three paradoxes.
- I always say ‘water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink’ which implies that we have lots of people, but most are not sufficiently skilled to work in the new technology driven economy. There are lots of people with degrees and qualifications who are not competent enough to take up and sustain jobs in the new economy. Hence, the gap between the sheer abundance of people and the lack of skills constitutes the first paradox.
- The next challenge lies at the firm level where there are many managers but very few leaders. And we all know that there is a significant difference in the two roles. You have to make a major emotional and intellectual leap before you leave your managerial self behind and take on a leadership role.
- Coming to the third paradox, we have many technically competent managers who are good at planning and applying technology but fewer people managers. But the sheer task of bringing people together and doing things together and building ecosystems (instead of just solo playing) poses new challenges which necessitate a different skill set.
There are paradoxes at all three levels with people lacking skills, managers lacking leadership and engineers and technologists lacking people management skills.
With Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning disrupting the industry, what kind of roles do you think would require human intervention?
Manish Gupta: As Professor Sripada rightly suggested, human capital is the biggest asset for a country like India. Over the next five years as industries move towards applying AI and ML for automating a lot of their processes to achieve efficiency there will still be the need for specialised people to come and apply these models. To cite a real-life example, we have been doing medical writing, medical authoring for a long time now. We have medical experts who write authored documents for various purposes. This is very specialised human task. But nowadays we have been automating a lot of these processes. But at the same time, we need experts to enable such automation. The term which has gained currency in the world of AI at present is HITL or Human in the Loop. On one hand, you start automating things, but you also have humans in the loop who are making this automation possible. We are also training the same people to become medical data scientists who, through deeper analysis can identify the problems or areas where automation can be applied. And this is just one small example. These kinds of newer roles can emerge, and India can play a very significant role in supplying people with such skill sets.
Considering many students in business schools are worried about AI and ML taking over their jobs, what should be the role of premier institutions like the Indian School of Business (ISB) in keeping humans in the loop?
Chandrasekhar Sripada: I think ISB has a lot to contribute. Our programmes are designed to train humans to take on leadership roles. Whenever technology reached its next level of sophistication there has been a fear about job losses. But even in this current context, where AI and ML are creating havoc, we all must know that they are not actually taking away as many jobs as they are creating newer ones. And this trend needs to continue. There will be repetitive tasks that can certainly be given away to the new slave called technology and humans can still remain the master. The new technologies are powerful sets of tools which can take away the drudgery from work and can enable the human race to spend more time, intellect, judgment and intuition on decision making, that is ethical and responsible. If people have to engage with such elevated thoughts, they need sounder education, deeper foundations. Courses in business schools should be designed in a manner so as to shape individuals into true leaders of future. They should be capable of understanding and navigating in the multi–stakeholder world amidst plurality of thoughts. They should be educated to engage in multiple perspectives and help businesses take decisions that are sustainable.
What kind of traits are you looking to build in business leaders emerging from India?
Manish Gupta: At the current juncture, we need leaders who can really keep their eyes and ears open and learn from their environment. They should expand their knowledge by exploring different domains and assimilate and translate such learning into useful value propositions for the industry. The second crucial trait at present is the ability to deal with uncertainty. We need leaders with an entrepreneurial bent of mind who are more comfortable in handling uncertainty. These are the two important attributes in addition to the standard leadership traits that we would need in any global leader or manager.
Chandrasekhar Sripada: ISB as a school responds to industry. Therefore, if industries need more leaders who can foster innovation and craft more unique value propositions, we obviously would invest in building those skills. Our education will continue to build leaders that will blend sound analytical and critical thinking skills with great social, moral and ethical responsibilities. They will be answerable to the community, answerable to what they say triple bottom line which includes the people, planet and profits and not just profits. We strive to build those who look at the future and who are able to help businesses thrive through the chaos and disruption that is going on. Foundationally, I think leadership education is deficient on one main front which is “learning to learn”. In future we all need to hone our skills to teach people how to learn. Learning to learn hopefully is that next frontier that we all have to look at.