Webinar report: Skilling and employment post COVID-19: National Perspective


FICCI organised a webinar on “Skilling and employment post-COVID-19: National Perspective” on Friday, July 10, 2020, as part of the ‘FICCI Thought Leadership Dialogue Series’. The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled economic activities across India and the globe which had an immediate impact on the global market and thereby affecting various sectors and regions.

Panelists in the discussion were, Mr. Dilip Chenoy, Director General, FICCI; Ms. Shobha Mishra Ghosh, Assistant Secretary-General, FICCI; Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship; Mr. Peter Betzei, CEO and CSO, IKEA India; Ms. Parineeta Cecil Lakra, People and Culture Manager, IKEA India; Mr. Ben Zandy, CEO – Airports, Adani enterprises Ltd., Mr. Ajith Pai, Chief Operating Officer, Delhivery; and Ms. Nivruti Rai, Chair FICCI Skill Development Committee and Country Head, Intel India, Head.

In his opening remarks Mr. Dilip Chenoy, Director General, FICCI,  mentioned that the webinar was the second in the line of discussion under FICCI thought leadership dialogues to deliberate on sector-wise post-COVID-19 scenario. Describing the future, he compared the after-effects of COVID-19 pandemic to World War II and said we will see many huge shifts in the way we work, skill, and teach. Since every crisis comes with an opportunity, he was hopeful that there would be positive changes in many industry sectors such as manufacturing and retail.

The session was coordinated and moderated by Ms. Shobha Mishra Ghosh, Assistant Secretary-General, FICCI. To set the context, Ms. Ghosh shared three ways in which COVID-19 had impacted the industry and the economy. This includes a sudden halt in production due to lockdown,  supply chain, and market disruptions that have impacted cashflows and created financial instability and the need to re-engineer and re-imagine business models for many and while for some it has provided an opportunity to innovate and grow.

The panelists represented Retail, Aviation, and Logistics sectors; they shared their recent experience and views about how COVID-19 will radically transform the industry and have a long-lasting impact.

Mr. Peter Betzei, CEO and CSO, IKEA India

“The home has become much more important today. With a new level of engagement, working from home, and spending time with kids. Home has become predominant. It has become a restaurant, playground, office, and this is the new normal”, said Peter Betzei, CEO and CSO, IKEA India.

Mr. Peter added that being in a home furnishing business, affordability for retailers will be important with quality and sustainability. With the circular economy gaining importance, the way you manufacture and the display has to be done with a positive impact, said Mr. Peter.

Mr. Peter opined that one should not make long term plans now. But rather look at what the customer needs. Use innovative ways to meet your customer with social distancing, digital consulting with the customers.

“We are collaborating with suppliers and consumers to learn, stay agile and fast turnaround.

Safety of co-workers, suppliers, and customers will remain supreme to grow the business in the new environment”, added Mr. Peter.

Skilling and employment post COVID-19 - FICCI Webinar ReportMs. Parineeta Cecil Lakra, People and Culture Manager, IKEA India

“The business is hit. Let go of the methods that would not work. Many things are unknown but together we can navigate the situation”, said Ms. Parineeta.

Soon when the pandemic broke out in India, Ikea took the responsibility of co-workers and customers.

Top of mind trends today:

  1. Rapid digitisation across Industries
  2. Upskilling and reskilling and figuring out new selling channels
  3. Positive behavioural pattern and leadership skills of adaptability, agility, and resilience, along with new ways of staffing in the retail sector.

What lies ahead is the new normal. From a people perspective, hard and soft skills will emerge, disruption will be a part of the reality, talent exchange will be a pattern, constant workforce development will also be required, opined Ms. Parineeta.

Ms. Parineeta also added that the future would need a healthy collaboration, workforce staffing collaboration, sharing from excess and surplus.

Mr. Ben Zandy, CEO – Airports, Adani enterprises Ltd.

“Future of aviation belongs to India with reskilling and upskilling”, said Mr. Ben.

Strong growth indicators show that India will be the third-largest global aviation market by 2025. With economic shift and India being the fifth largest consumer market by 2025, We must get ready by shaping up the infrastructure like 18 airports to be privatised in the PPP model, said Mr. Ben.

We must revitalise aviation and make sure airlines survive post-COVID-19 for business continuity. Aerospace management will boost domestic activity. India will become a hub for Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul industry. As India has responded much better than the globe during any previous crisis and therefore, the recovery program will be quicker than the globe, asserted Mr. Ben.

The domestic market will recover and we have to adapt to the new normal to have contactless experience. Digitalising is the need of the hour. Technology, automation, AI will bring in efficiency and push innovation and this demands policy interventions. Structural reforms are important to invite new businesses to India. Currently, the focus is only on engineers, but we need Level 1, 2, and 3 education and training for productivity. Adani will have an Aviation Academy, which will become an international hub in India, said Mr. Ben.

Mr. Ajith Pai, Chief Operating Officer, Delhivery

“Delhivery is India’s largest supply chain company that uses technology and Data Science.  During the lockdown, we worked with authorities on how the workforce should deal with different kinds of deliveries, like containment zone, non-doorstep delivery for essential products”, said Mr. Ajith.

The differentiator is a technology for logistics. Things becoming volatile and the ability to re-adjust it is more dependent on Data Science. Now lockdowns are local, which means different times for shops to open, and thus affecting the facilities and manpower, shared Mr. Ajith.

He also said that people will remain the largest asset to the logistics sector. Delhivery has about 4000 employees both direct and indirect. Employers have to ensure three things – respect, clean environment, and security which are needed for entry-level jobs to make it aspirational.

Related article: Skilling and employment post-COVID-19: National Perspective – Read More: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/skilling-and-employment-post-covid-19-national-perspective/

Ms. Nivruti Rai, Chair FICCI Skill Development Committee and Country Head, Intel India, Head

Ms. Nivruti started by introducing the Minister and continued to share some points on the theme.

  1. Online and digital technologies take over most of the fields like the e-health, e-retail, e-education. Communication and networking will also be influenced by technologies
  2. Manufacturing should be ramped up which would need government support. Also, skilling is important for the sector.
  3. Construction, other industries will be made more automatic, speed, and quality in production must be improved. We must skill our youth for this. But the question is how?
  4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills at the lowest level are also possible (for example, identify the activity through color code in a scanned medical report)

Two research reports released during the webinar:

  1. Rehabilitation of migrant workers in India (immediate, mid-term and long term action by the government and industry)
  2. Skill and Jobs – pre and post-COVID-19 perspective with a special focus on the Manufacturing sector

Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship

“Migrant workers’ counselling is essential, and communication plays an important role. Many schemes have been launched for migrant workers for immediate employment and skilling through RPL and short-term training”, said the Minister.

Business houses have always played a crucial role in coping with the challenges of the pandemic. The industry should take care of migrant workers. Like in some of the states the migrants were taken care of by the industry but in many states, the industry did not do so even for 2 months.

The humane approach is needed by the industry and they should collaborate and empathise with the government’s schemes, opined Mr. Pandey.

“We have to focus on new jobs that demand technology skills and demand-driven skills.

Industry body like FICCI has a big role to play in Aathmanirbhar Bharat, it is not just a slogan but we should realise the dream of our Prime Minister”, said the Minister.

The discussion concluded on a note of positivity, hope, and growth as Ms. Shobha Mishra Ghosh quoted the Dalai Lama, “resilience leads to re-discovery” and re-emphasized on the need for resilience, adaptability, and flexibility.

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