As I finished my morning coffee in the cool new cafe in Bhimtal, the manager, Toni, asked me if I could give him a ride on my way back home. It has been a year since Renuka and I rented a one bedroom flat from a gracious family in Bhimtal, and since then this place has been a weekend home for us. Toni is one of our first few friends here.
Toni moved to Bhimtal three years back to manage a cool new cafe in town. As we drove I asked him why he decided to leave his well-paid job in Bangalore. He said, “Because of people like you. I predicted I would lose my job in the next ten years. My job would be done much better by an AI bot.”
In Bangalore, Silicon Valley of India, Toni used to work as a Spanish language consultant in a large BPO. He advised call center executives on the nuances of the language and colloquial ambiguities. In the three years since he quit,the position has remained vacant and the company doesn’t want to hire anyone else for that role.
Toni was replaced by Artificial Intelligence. Not ten years later, as he predicted, but as soon as he left. Translation softwares like Google Translate did a pretty decent job at understanding the context of a sentence and provide a contextual translation rather than translating word by word. There was no need to pay USD 25,000 a year (INR 18,00,000) to a translator.
Toni’s wife runs a girls’ orphanage. They live in an apartment next to the girls’ home along with their three year old son. Life’s peaceful in Bhimtal and quality of life much better than Bangalore. He says that even though he works longer hours here and his work never seems to end, yet, he is more content with his life. He gets to spend quality time with family, has more friends, meets interesting people and breathes better air.
In the process of shifting to Bhimtal, he unknowingly generated a lot of jobs. Since the cafe is doing well, thanks to Toni and the amazing staff, the owner decided to diversify and open a gym and a few other enterprises. Toni gave me a list of local workers like a carpenter, electrician, plumber, fabricator, mason, painter whom he employs and recommends. As the café’s fame spread, these blue-collar guys have become rock stars. Their businesses have boomed as well. They now work in a 150 km radius compared to the earlier 20 km.
There are opportunities to be leveraged, fortunes to be made not just in technology business but also in traditional businesses
Instead of being a martyr of the fourth industrial revolution, Toni turned his fortune and created a better life not only for himself but also for the people around him. With 45% of the world (70% in India) still lacking access to internet connectivity (the number is falling fast), there are opportunities to be leveraged, fortunes to be made not just in technology business but also in traditional businesses.