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The war for talent in the ICE Age

india Updated: Jul 21, 2007 05:14 IST
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There are no two thoughts about this. The ICE age is finally upon us. Let me hasten to clarify before you call in the global warming experts – the initials ICE that I refer to signify the Information, Communications and Entertainment sectors, respectively. The much-talked-about convergence of technologies in these sectors is finally taking place and the remaining distinction between these sectors will disappear in the next few years, so much so that these sectors will become indistinguishable from one another.

These are happy times for the entertainment industry. Cinema, music and television are raking in the moolah like never before. The Internet has further boosted their reach and profitability and the ubiquitous mobile phone has revitalised the dying music industry with its ring tones, caller tunes and the like.

In terms of technological advancements, the media industry has seen breathtaking changes over the past few years. Television in India has evolved from being just a state-run monopoly to a plethora of channels and international corporations. The platform has evolved so rapidly from ‘Relay Transmission’ to ‘Cable’ to ‘Set-top boxes’ to ‘DTH’ that the government is struggling to keep pace in redefining regulations. Films have adapted to technology so much so that films like Don and Sivaji, the Boss are incorporating technologies that only Hollywood could have boasted of earlier.

India boasts of a young, vibrant workforce, and with the current boom in our economy, these people have high disposable incomes to splurge on entertainment.

The digital age brings with it a multitude of exciting possibilities for this sector. Exciting developments in the offing like IPTV have the potential to revitalise the television industry. Consider a scenario wherein you can actually choose to watch a programme entirely at your convenience and wherein you pay only for the minutes you choose to watch. Or, you could do a conference video call with your friends across three countries. Sounds exciting, right? The interesting thing is that the technology and platform would remain the same but the usage would be multifunctional.

What would then happen to traditional telephony or TV viewing? Certainly it would have to realign and reposition itself according to this new technology wouldn’t it? So then what would be the difference between entertainment and telecom? They would actually mean the same thing at different times to the user, who could choose to be a subscriber or a viewer depending upon his preference at a particular time.

How, then, would such technological advancements and realignments within the industries affect the talent situation? Understandably, there would be some chaos, especially in the overlapping areas within the sectors. A huge demand would be created and there would be a significant readjustment of talent especially at the higher levels. In my view, the industry would be broadly divided into four major areas, after factoring in the technological changes. There would be the content developers that would include pure-play production houses like Balaji, UTV, Yash Raj Films and also news networks like NDTV, CNBC etc; distribution agencies like Adlabs, PVR Cinemas, and TV channels like Star, Sony, Discovery etc; technology-based companies providing gaming, animation and post-production services, and finally Internet/ telecom companies which would provide the medium for transmission for the new technology applications like MTNL, Reliance, Airtel etc.

The demand for talent in each of these areas would be huge across levels. The important thing to note would be the need for having multifunctional experts at senior levels. A production house would need to have a ‘senior techie’ on board if they are to cater to the ‘mobile movie viewer’ – that is, to a section of the audience who would prefer to watch a movie premiere on their mobile phone. This person would need to have knowledge of the technology involved along with that of movie production to successfully deliver this application. This could be a problem area for many companies. As it is corporations are battling talent shortfalls in their current sectors and this would certainly add to their list of woes.

There cannot be a better time for someone looking to come into this industry. My advice to freshers would be to concentrate on a core area and seek to specialise in it. To the middle management, I would advise adding to your repertoire by updating your ‘techie’ skills and probably to seek functional rotation in their current job assignment. The senior management would be well advised to exercise greater prudence in selecting new job functions or organizations, since for them it would be best to stick to what they do best and with those who know them the best. Though these are exciting times, it is best to not get carried away because you just might get washed away by the deluge.