The Rise of the Age of 'Entrepreneur As A Service' & the End of Jobs as We Know it

Ranjan Phadke, Vice President & Global Lead - HR Digital Organization, Digital Talent Strategy & HR Analytics, EXL Headquartered in New York, EXL fuses its expertise in AI, Machine Learning and Data Analysis to help clients gain a competitive edge with respect to organizational operations and streamlined functionality.

‘Apps such as Uber and Airbnb are job killers’, ‘Bot's and AI will make people redundant and there won’t be jobs for humans’. These statements and many like them are a constant feature now, from water cooler conversations and conferences to articles in business magazines. This happens every time an innovative new platform or app is launched. And yet, there is no large-scale evidence so far that people will be out of work or livelihood. People have gone on to upgrade their skills or take up work where the phenomenon of automation has not hit. The only thing that is apparent is that lifelong or decade long employment with one company will not be a reality, and there are no protests that we have seen against this.

Media Hype but No Protests on Ground: Cost
With the amount of coverage the topic 'jobs lost to a robot' has received, it wouldn't be wrong to expext a widespread protest. The 'cost'of adoption of automation, uberization, bots and any other latest technology is still prohibitive. It is dawning upon large corporations that the cost to deliver on the latest technology is going to be massive. Those companies that can invest, will, and have always done so. There are thousands of organizations out there who cannot invest in expensive technology but can certainly invest in people. Also, the world and economies are not equal and just as the last age of industrialization and massive factory automation has taken time to reach all, so will this age of AI and Bots. The penetration of internet access, though growing, is still far from universal and access to high speed internet even more so. The next time you see a video of an Amazon or Alibaba warehouse with robots moving packages, ask yourself if every invest in such technology at the cost that its available for today? Amazon and Alibaba have the money to invest and they will, just like GM, Xerox, IBM, GE had resources in the past and others did not.The simple economics of job creation shows that apps such as Uber and Airbnb have in-fact helped sustain jobs and bring livelihood to people. Anyone with a spare room can now earn an income. With Uber and Lyft, at best some cab company managers were displaced, but the drivers that make up 99 percent of the workforce of a cab company benefited.

The rise of the Age of 'Entrepreneur as a Service'
There are many apps and platforms which have given rise to what we can call as the age of 'Entrepreneur as a Service'. From being a driver, accommodation provider, language tutor, fashion adviser, fitness trainer to a baby sitter, or making professional courses, anyone can now pitch their skills. While earlier entrepreneurial spirit was largely limited to anyone starting their own company or enterprise, now it is open for all who have any skill. This space is now expanding rapidly to an area where you will see it in a subset that can be called 'Creativity as a Service'. SnapSquad which allows anyone to hire a photographer anywhere in the world, WIX which helps anyone create stunning webpages or websites in a matter of hours and Experfy which is a marketplace of curated experts who provide solutions in the field of Data Science, AI, IoT, Blockchain, RPA - you name it, are all examples of what I categorize as 'Creativity as a Service'. Any job that you can think of can probably now be found as a 'service' on these platforms.

Since the days when Napster was a bad word and the music industry felt it lost its livelihood, to today the same concept now being used extensively, appreciatively, allowing the emergence of jobs for life, as a 'service' or- 'Entrepreneur as a Service'.

Democratization of Skill Enhancement
'Upskilling' is as standard as having fries in your Big Mac Burger meal. No one ever stopped doing it. So why say it now? Most large organizations invest in their people and try to keep them updated through various means. Earlier it was a mass of certifications like six sigma, leadership skills and the like and now it will be AI, IoT, Blockchain, Digital Transformation and almost anything that you can prefix 'digital' to. The large IT services organizations, particularly in India are going wild about this but fail to talk about how they got themselves into this situation.

"With the democratization of skill enhancement through various apps and platforms, it has become more the individual's responsibility to stay updated and upgrade their skills"

hired en-mass and trained people in software development languages to support their pipeline of projects and there was a deflation of skills where a software engineer did not need a similar sounding degree but anyone from a Commerce graduate to an Arts graduate could be trained in their massive corporate training & development centers. Now we all know you can't turn anyone into a Data Scientist. There is a definite minimum Math and Logical ability that is required which isn't common. But they will try their best! We will also see a mass of individuals becoming 'RPA' certified. This will be the new army of people who will claim to automate any process in the world.

However, the difference this time is, we don't require company training centers to 'upskill' anyone. With the democratization of skill enhancement through various apps and platforms, it has become more the individual's responsibility to stay updated and upgrade their skills in the hope that they remain relevant in the job market. For instance, DataCamp is an app that can help anyone with good logical and math skills to become a Python expert in a matter of months which can create employment opportunities in Data analysis. Additionally, the mass of openware courses made available by the top universities such as MIT, Harvard, Stanford adds icing to the cake of learning & upskilling.

The Hype vs. Reality

Put any job or profession that you can think of in any of the charts above and you will notice three things;
1. The scale of entrepreneurial skill required and how some jobs which meant 'employment' earlier, now fall more and more in the 'Entrepreneur as a Service' bracket.

2. The scale of creativity required vs. jobs that are mundane.

3. The scale to which one won't require a professional degree but rather just gain the skill by being trained online or through some other medium.

You can use these three graphs to map the change in requirements of any job, today or for the future and what will be apparent is that an individual's career is going to outlast the life of a company. In the end it is an individual's responsibility to upgrade their skills and be relevant and earn a livelihood. The responsibility of providing you with a job is not that of a corporation or the government. The corporation is in business to make a profit. The government can at best create an environment suitable for job creation. Getting a job and keeping it is an individual's responsibility.

The story of Singapore is fascinating in this context. How does a country continuously move up the economic value chain and still generate jobs with incremental increase in the standard of living? From being the port of choice for shipping related commerce, to a banking and financial services hub, to now taking top spot in the global 'digital competitiveness ranking', Singapore's steady advancement, increased standard of living, creation of employment by just continuously moving forward and creating an ecosystem through best in class universities, stable economic conditions and being always ahead of the latest hype, has meant less than 2 percent unemployment.

This leads to evolution, always has and will never change.