Public holidays in winters were often a great time to step out with your family and go to a nearby park with picnic mats and gorge on peanuts while you enjoy the Sun’s warmth. But on October 2nd, 1988, the streets of India were deserted and the lush green grass in the parks missed being trampled by kids running haywire. It was the day when almost every soul in the country was sitting (or standing) in front of his (or anybody’s) television set. It was the day when BR Chopra’s Mahabharata was aired on DD National for the first time. Such was the impact of the legendary serial that life on Indian roads came to a standstill on that godly hour every Sunday since then. I was little more than a year old when I started watching the serial and became a devout follower of mythology. A few months back, on my 30th birthday, I enrolled myself in Mumbai University for their weekend PG Diploma course on Comparative Mythology to pursue this long time interest. Now diving further into Indian mythology, interestingly, I came across a mention on the caste system in India and how these castes were designed to rule the world serially. In Hindu Mythology, society was divided into four castes (or varna):
Brahmins: The priest section in the society. It also consisted of the scholars who studied Vedas and interpreted them. Together, they acted as the channel between humans and Gods through their religious ceremonies. Symbol: Knowledge
Kshatriyas: The warrior section whose duty was to rule and protect the subjects in the society.
Vaishyas: The trader section which maintained economic activities in the region by trading goods and lending money.
Shudras: The skilled labor section in the society which performed tasks like masonry, carpentry, metallurgy, entertainment etc.
Soon it caught my attention how each section has been the power house in the history of not just India but the world. In Indian Mythology, the Brahmins were supremely powerful in the early ages and even the biggest kings used to bow in front of them and could not refuse anything they asked them to do. Fear of the wrath of a Brahmin’s curse was what made Sita step out of the protective boundary set up by Lakshmana; and made Kunti dutifully adhere to all demands of Sage Durvasa, who then gave her a boon that changed the course of the epic. Not just in India, but priests have been very powerful in the West as well. Constantine’s proclamation of Church and its eventual rise to power post the collapse of Roman Empire shaped medieval Europe and eventually made Christianity the most popular religion in the world. However, their powers eventually waned and Kings and Warriors became the new rulers of the world.
The military might of their empires now wielded the power. Personalities like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, to Napoleon and Hitler defined the world boundaries (for good or bad). India has seen her fair share of monarchy as well in the form of Maurya, Mughal and the great Maratha dynasty. But once again, notably post the world wars, it was evident that the power was now being transferred to the next class as a result of the First Industrial Revolution.
Today, we live in a world where the richest and the most powerful belong to the business class. The concept of priests and kings has already been pushed to the background and world is shaped by acts of billionaires who define economy of countries through their products and services, and fate of governments through lobbying and supporting political parties. This is the golden age of money, ranging from fortune families like Rockefellers and Rothschilds to Tatas and Birlas. But we are at a brink of an evolutionary change where the power has started to shift towards the next class of the skilled ones, post the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Evolution of the computer and now the software industry has changed the way we do business. From monetary transactions in a bank to taking a cab to work, software applications have automated or what we now call, have “Appified” the economy all around the world. Social Media has become the biggest platform in the world encompassing a wide range like talking to a long lost friend, getting a job, and even selling your products to customers around the world. Be it a Data scientist or an Actuarial scientist, the road to a highly specialized career keeps getting wider. And this is just the beginning. With the arrival of next generation technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and now blockchain, the world has never been in such frantic need of resources who know these world changing technologies thoroughly. World Economic Forum shared this year that countries like India and Brazil are facing critical crunch of skilled employees, with Japan topping the chart with 81% of firms finding it difficult to find qualified employees (source). This is credited to rapid technological advances and the digitization of the workplace, which is making it harder for workers to match their skill sets with the needs of employers.
On the other side, an elite new generation of highly skilled individuals continue to make the most of this evolution of technology. With the power of apps, a skilled person can develop an app and become a millionaire in time shorter than ever before in the history of mankind, given he addresses a crucial market requirement. According to Boston Consulting Group, more than 2 million new millionaires are created every year and a major portion of these are the new generation entrepreneurs. It has become common to witness founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs who are still in their 20s and 30s, an age group in which every person was only looking to get their next promotion, just a few decades back. The world is moving increasingly towards specialization and having vertical depth in product/ technology has become the new norm for everyone, even for the traditional sellers who thus far relied on relationship selling and their selling charm. Number of subscribers to online skill learning portals like Coursera, Edx, Lynda and PluralSight is increasing exponentially every year. In time, we would all need to introspect and find out the areas where we can build our skills vertically and make ourselves relatable to business. Moreover, as technology is continuously evolving, learning and updating oneself is the new constant.
It is time you ask yourself: What is my specialization skill set? The Age of the Shudras is here.