COVID is driving digital adoption and India is leapfrogging into the digital economy. This is crunching a transition that would have normally taken a decade or more. That’s great for the economy in the long run, but spare a thought for the rickshaw pullers of today’s business world.

When hand-pulled rickshaws were finally banned in Kolkata in 2005, there was much discussion about what happens when your job category is eliminated. Could the last rickshaw puller become an auto driver? Would he get the capital and necessary training? At the time we white collar types were feeling smug about moving into higher value added roles. In 2021 those higher value roles are also being automated. It’s amazing what AI can do – sign up subscribers to a newsletter, run banking transactions on voice, lead qualifications. All of these things used to be white collar jobs. Vish Mavathur writes about the changing colour of collars for CHRO Forum, our sister publication. COVID is further accelerating the adoption of digital and hence also the use of AI for these erstwhile white collar jobs. We have to learn to deal with “cobots”. Better still, learn to be the Boss of the Bots!

Can your boss be a bot? That’s already happening. An Uber driver is told where to go by google maps. An algorithm decides which rides he can choose. In some ways it can be good – no politics, no social interaction, just efficiency with the occasional algorithmic bias. There are reasonably efficient bots that can suggest blog topics for your human writers based on previous work.

Me, I’d prefer to run the bots rather than the other way around. A couple of years ago, when faced with a challenge I’d be all “There has to be an app for this!” Now I’m saying “There has to be a bot for this!”. And I’m finding them in surprising places. If there is a task that is a little bit boring or challenging somebody somewhere has a bot for it. They are still a bit rusty and glitchy, but give them a little more time and they’ll be fine. Not yet got one that can write this newsletter – but, I’m looking!

AI is already in use for email marketing. Dilpreet Singh runs CRM, Analytics and Loyalty for The Oberoi Group and writes about how AI can improve ROI for email marketing.

Growing up, my parents wanted me to be a doctor, engineer, lawyer, or IFS officer. I think we should now focus on how to be a Bot Boss in any industry. What are the skills required to run a bot army? You’d need to be a process expert to distinguish between the bits that can be automated and the bits that need to be addressed as an exception. You’d also need to be able to spot a “Bots Gone Wild” situation which means you’d need a deep understanding of your domain. For example, I ran this newsletter through an AI “content improver” tool and what came out was too bland with a lot of generic advice and all the juicy bits missing.

You’d also have to be a person worthy of trust if you are overseeing the bots. Your bosses or clients would have to be confident that if you’ve checked it, it’s good to go. So certifications, education, experience and of course, your brand, matter a lot! Ira Pradhan a former colleague from my Wipro days and an Internal Communications leader  now with Freshworks writes about the 5 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Your Personal Brand  If you’ve never thought of consciously building your brand, time to start now before the Bots come to Boss you.

Winning in the marketplace is going to require tons of tech and data. That means you need bots. Will they run you, or will you run them is the only choice.

If you are looking for interesting books on this topic, I can suggest two Malcolms – “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell, and Malcolm Frank of Cognizant’s “What to do when Machines do everything”.

Have a great weekend!


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