One day in the future, the COVID-19 vaccine will be announced to the world. When? No certainty as yet. Serum Institute in partnership with Oxford University (one of the other nine agencies engaged in developing the vaccine) claims to release the vaccine by March 2021. WHO estimates it to be around June or July 2021 from one of the agencies? So, whosoever is right, it seems almost certain that if 2020 was a year of job losses, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness the year 2021 is going to be a time of hope and positivity. And, what about jobs?
Well, I think it is not a doom story all the way but immense opportunities in new sectors. Are we prepared for it?
If you look at the past two biggest failures in the recent past, there will be no guesses. Demonetization and Migrant laborer’s exodus due to Covid both impacted the Indian economy and caused immense human miseries. Without going into the politics of it all, both these events were massive failures on the planning and logistics front.
I am not sure how much the government would have learned from these experiences but fortunately, the jobs emerging from the post-Covid vaccine are going to be enormous and the government will be forced to seek larger participation of various professionals to execute this massive job successfully. If we are ready, we can get job opportunities or even become entrepreneurs in our own ways.
The first set of opportunities will be in the field of supply chain and logistics. Just to understand how big a job it is to distribute the vaccine you have to have a quick overview of our geography and population.
India is a 3.29 million square Kilometer landmass, the distance between North to South is 3214 Kilometer, and East to West it is 2933 Kilometers.
At the last count, India has a population of 1380 million (138 Crores).
India has 29 states, 7 union territories, 732 districts, 4000 cities, and between 6 to 10 lac villages.
Can you comprehend how big, complex, and challenging the task will be to give a vaccine to each person? We do not know as yet if we will need a single dose or multiple doses to become fully immune to Covid. We also do not know if there is going to be variation in doses for adults and babies.
And, how long will this opportunity exist?
India started its Polio eradication program in 1978 where the target segment was only newly born children. The last reported case of polio was in 2011. India was declared a polio-free nation in 2014.
Of course, our infrastructure has improved tremendously in the past three decades but still looking at the size and numbers the Covid vaccination will continue for a few years to come.
Let us look closely at the opportunities in the Supply Chain and logistics of the distribution of vaccines.
Data management of vaccines to be distributed at the block level. Planning and Statistical skills will be in great demand.
Fleet management, GPS tracking, repairs, and maintenance hubs will employ a lot of people.
Inventory management, store management, safety, and security.
Last-mile delivery will employ a huge number of small vehicles, tempos, motorcycles, bicycles, and do not discount journeys through bullock carts and on elephants.
Technology is going to play a major role in ensuring successful deliveries to the last mile. Consider the fact that vaccines need 4 degrees of temperature constantly from production to people. We have to establish a Cold Chain to ensure that we can achieve vaccines that are usable until they reach people. Consider the fact that despite the government’s claim that every single village has electricity we still have a large number of remote places where electricity has not reached. This will throw additional challenges in the storage of the vaccine. The opportunities in technology areas may be in the fields of:
Indigenous and cost-effective solutions for keeping vaccines at the required temperature.
Using drones to deliver vaccines from a central point that can keep the vaccines cool.
Alternate sources of energy. Solar, steam, and wind.
Plants make ice, manufacturing thermostat containers that are easy to transport vaccines and are kept cool through the ice.
Another sector is health. Apart from the distribution of vaccines, the issue of administering the vaccines becomes a far bigger challenge. Considering the fact, India has only 1.7 nurses per 1000 population (as against WHO norms of 3 per 1000) one can imagine how impossible this task is going to be. Today we are not clear if the Covid vaccine is going to be orally administrable or intravenous? In either case, local people getting trained in administering the vaccines is going to be a huge opportunity. I can visualize many scenarios:
Using video conferencing to train locals.
Create “Train the Trainers” groups and start doing this right away.
Creating digital content explaining each step, safety procedures, and emergency response mechanisms.
Continuing in the health sector, telemedicine is going to stay here. Patients in Noida getting consulted by a doctor 300 hundred kilometers from Bengaluru city is a reality. But these doctors will require local health workers for physiotherapy, regular checking of vital parameters, and many other jobs that will help the doctors to treat the patients. Like above home, a nurse is going to be a big emerging field that will deploy people. There are opportunities to train them, consolidate the workforce, ensuring proper background checkups, and offering the services through technology.
Another big opportunity is the use of mask disposal management. Suddenly the country will see huge piles of used face masks being disposed of safely. One company already has a novel idea of using the rag pickers to collect the thrown away masks. The scientific and environmentally friendly techniques to dispose of these used masks will bring in various kinds of opportunities.
During Covid digital purchases became the norm. With such innovation came threats also. Cyber Crimes have increased many folds during the lockdown. Banks and credit card companies pushing all frantic complaints towards Interactive Voice Response and customers have lost a vast sum of their hard-earned money.
Earlier the word Cyber Security was associated with the workplace only but now it is required at home also.
From the perspective of a company, this has another dimension. How to secure data when people are working from home?
During a webinar organized by FICCI Lt. Gen (Dr) Rajesh Pant, National Cyber Security Coordinator, the Government of India said, “Work from home has created a new paradigm of cybersecurity and monitoring the home environment has become very important for companies”.
Cyber Security is another area where job opportunities will unfold in amazing numbers. The situation also opens up opportunities for technical brains to develop solutions to prevent data theft and misuse that are affordable.
Since we are going to be living our lives more in digital interactions than physical gatherings for quite some time the strange mental discomfort will continue to increase. This will create jobs for clinical counselors & mental health practitioners. As the shooting starts for TV & Films the OTT platforms that have seen massive viewership surge during the lockdown will throw open massive opportunities for stage actors, technicians, set designers, sound recordists, and hundreds of staff to manage logistics. Many entertainment contents are created around rural and small towns. Family drama also going to deploy people who understand the local language as “diction trainers”, write dialogues that are more authentic, and costume designers who understand the local culture well.
The story is not ending here.
The new constraints are creating newer solutions.
I firmly believe that if we can see the opportunities, we can prepare ourselves well in advance and get job ready. Organizations like Internshape have adopted the model of Project-Based Learning and offer Internships through digital platforms. Learning by doing is the best form of learning and staying ahead comes through learning the right skill at the right time.
I am sure we can write our own success story by preparing ourselves during Covid so that we are grabbing the job opportunities with both hands post-Covid.
Photo Credits: A remote village in Himanchal – Piyush Srivastava, Solar Panel- Zbynek Burisval, Man on Bike- Jan Film)