The digital tsunami’s first wave of reshaping the world dealt incumbents a blow through the convergence of technologies. Before the leaders have figured out how to build new skill sets for a hyper-connected world along comes a world that will be shaped by 3Vs: Video, Visuals and Voice.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India and market research firm IMRB International report that 60 per cent of the 444 million urban Indians are already using the Net. Rural India has only 163 million (17 per cent) Internet users out of a 906 million population. This means there are some 750 million potential users.

Ninety-two per cent of rural users’ primary means of Internet access is the mobile, predominantly for audio and video entertainment. Social networking and communication are also drivers. By 2020 there will be almost 730 million people online.

Infrastructure to the fore

Free Wi-Fi is a terrific way to put more people online. Google-Railtel now provides fast and free Wi-Fi to about 250 railway stations. The Indian Railways has planned to roll out free Wi-Fi in 709 stations by March 2020.

UC Browser commands 55 per cent of the mobile web browser market in India as it has found ways to serve the rural market. It has a cricket section with live scores and videos, built-in music and a news aggregation service.

Video, visuals and voice

Bringing the next billion to the Net in India, however, will need different strategies. These people may be older and less literate, but that won’t stop them. They will use voice to get started. Even those of us who are online already will need to change our habit by using voice. The reason: Humans can speak 150 words per minute but only type 40 words per minute.

Video makes content consumption easy. It bypasses the need for literacy and brings more people, especially older people, online.

India has 22 official languages. Currently as many as 780 languages and 86 scripts are used in the country. That is why natural language processing will drive adoption among the next billion everywhere. Google Assistant is now available on more than 400 million devices. Amazon sold 4.4 million Echo units in its first full year of sales. Forty per cent of adults now use voice search once per day.

There is a “skill” for that

The eco-system created by apps is what made iPhones so powerful. The phone became a platform on top of which an app became a personalised “skill” the phone could be used for. Remember the catch phrase “There is an app for that”? That is how the phone became central to our existence. From managing health to consuming news there is an app for everything.

Voice is in that phase now. In the US, Alexa already has 20,000 “skills” of which 1,000 skills have a 5-star rating. As Amazon creates partnerships with other service providers, more creative options open up. A partnership between Fitbit and Alexa lets you get your health statistics that your fitness band is collecting. LG recently showed off its partnership with Google. Anyone can now control the television by using voice. Amazon Screen brings an iPad-like device that can respond to voice. Already voice and visuals are being combined. At the Consumer Electronics Show in early January 2018, Chinese car-maker Byton showed off its voice-control features thatAlexa powers.

The 3Vs and the world of work

Imagine being able to ask your voice assistant to find out if there are jobs you should apply to. Better still, “Tell me a job that I will be good at.” Or “Will I be successful as a sales manager at xxx company?” Your voice assistant could scan the internet and tell you if a certain online course is being offered for free or at a discounted price.

LinkedIn has already rolled out a feature that lets anyone find themselves a mentor. They can answer a few questions on the Career Advice section of their homepage. LinkedIn then digs into its database to find an appropriate mentor. Rolling out such a feature inside the organisation using voice and video can be a fabulous way to keep employees engaged.

YouTube has millions of videos that tell you everything from how to apply make-up to making a farewell speech. Short videos on any subject being made available through a voice-based search can be an effective reskilling strategy. Imagine if a mentor could strap a video as he/she goes about a challenging assignment. Leaders can use video to create powerful learning content in real time.

The power and pull of Instagram is the best proof that visuals can transcend language barriers. This is the new media leaders need to master. Creating visual stories and sketchnotes can be the best way for leaders to create powerful messages.

Organisations could tie up with Amazon to be able to ask, “Which coder has worked on a renewable power project last year?” Or choose one from a list of people good at leading cross-functional teams. The L&D team could get courses curated and recommended for each individual employee.

Google is ubiquitous with its presence on 400 million devices already. Amazon sold “tens of millions” of devices powered by its smart voice assistant last year. Other players are feverishly working in their labs. The winner will be the one who can combine video, visuals and voice at a price point affordable to the next billion. Is anyone working on that?

(Abhijit Bhaduri is a coach and leadership development consultant)