In June, multinational technology consultancy Infosys opened its Brilliant Basics experience design and innovation studio in London’s creative hub Shoreditch. Company president Ravi Kumar spoke to Verdict about the part it will play in his vision of the future of work, which is design-led, exploits AR, VR and 5G and incorporates lifelong learning.
The technology skills gap has been threatening companies’ ability to compete for years. Infosys president Ravi Kumar believes that as the next generation of solutions becomes mainstream, digitally-native companies will fill roles with humanities rather than IT specialists and keep everyone upskilled.
Verdict: What skills are you hoping to bring to London with the new Brilliant Basics centre?
Ravi Kumar: We already have a pretty big office in Canary Wharf; this one is specifically a design studio. About two years ago we bought a small boutique company called Brilliant Basics, which is a design-led experience company. We powered the entire organisation with the Infosys ecosystem around it. In the last two years we have been very successful in building up capabilities jointly and now we have moved into this new office.
We want to help large enterprises to design better experiences so that they stay relevant to the times, and don’t get paranoid about new-age companies. To do so, we need design studios like this, where we have living labs immersed in technologies. You can iteratively design and build world-class experiences for clients, be it for employees, suppliers or consumers, and that’s what the journey is about.
Verdict: What is Infosys’s approach to training?
RK: Infosys is a company that has culturally evolved through life-long learning. We have the largest corporate training university in the world in India and we’re building the similar training infrastructure in different parts of the world.
Our approach to design and experience is we’re going to hire from colleges and a schools locally in the UK and we’re going to train them and make them productive in this space. We’re not a company which sets up in a big city and hires who’s available. We are a company which turns up in a big city because there’s an academy ecosystem around it. We hire from those colleges, we train them and then we make them productive on the workforce.
Every time you hire someone from school or college, you need eight to 12 weeks of “finishing school” I call it, to make them ready for work. We reimagined the future of work, workplaces, workforce and workspace. We’ve reimagined technologies; reimagined experiences. So a lot of our client employees also work out of this space.
Verdict: What AR & VR applications can you see for your client base?
RK: AR has not taken off up until now because the evolution of technology is not fully there – you cannot put the AR or VR gear on for more than 10 or 15 minutes, it’s too uncomfortable. But as AR technologies evolve, my sense is the application of virtualising a thing will become much more real.
For example, if I have to do field service of a consumer good I bought, you don’t need a technician to come home to fix it, you could use an AR/VR experience to get a technician to see your device and visualise it and then help you to fix it.
Verdict: What work are you doing with Tech UK?
RK: We’re working on a variety of areas including skills and new technologies. We’re actually a pioneer in capability building, identifying technologies of the future, and building capabilities around it. I’ll give you one example: autonomous technologies is used in driverless cars today, but autonomous technologies can be used in any industry.
You’d never imagine driverless cars in mining, in factories, in farming. Our strength is to take technology and apply it to businesses and leverage it.
Verdict: The UK has a growing technology skills gap and an ageing population. Are you looking at reskilling older workers as well as recruiting students?
RK: AI and automation are going to take away the jobs of the past and create a lot of jobs for the future. But we’re sitting in a job paradox in the world; 75 million jobs of the past are going to go away and 122 million jobs of the future are going to be created by 2022 according to the World Economic Forum.
This is such a paradox. We have thousands of people who are looking for jobs and thousands of open positions available which are not filled; this essentially means there is a deficit of people. The single biggest thing to be done is reskilling.
Unfortunately, the way we are structured as a society is governments pay for the first 20 years of our life and the last 20 years of our lives and all the change happens in the middle. The longevity of humans is going up; you might do three, four, five careers now as people are living longer. But who is going to be responsible for the reskilling?
Is it the individuals, the organisations they work for or the government, or a combination of all three? We’re going to move from a linear equation of higher studies and work to a continuum of lifelong learning, because technology’s going to be so disruptive and so pervasive that you’re going to be constantly on a learning curve.
All large enterprises have to reskill their digital talent; for that you have to invest in infrastructure or a partnership like ours. We have a learning platform called Wingspan which we built and used it for our own employees but is now is focussed on learning for our customers’ employees.
Reskilling will be the number one agenda for governments, enterprises, and large institutions; without that I don’t think the world is going to gear up for the digital age. All the tech work in the past was done by STEM talent in the past, but the future of digital is going to be liberal arts.
Problem finding will be a bigger virtue than problem solving. I grew up in a world where problem solving was what humans did. But I think humans will switch to creative and problem finding and machines will do problem solving. Suddenly if you have a background in the humanities or liberal arts, those backgrounds have a much bigger role in the digital world than just being programmers.