The service industry is going through a phase of massive transitions. With digitization, there is a huge leap in scalability that is now possible for the dissemination of services. However, so far the needle has typically swung towards extremes—either there is digitization without adequate service, as in the case of online shopping or service institutions with not enough digitization, like teaching.
The way of the future is to use the power of digitization with the complexity that only the human touch can lend. With that you have the dissemination of the service over the digital platform but the service itself is done by people specially trained to deliver it. For instance, patent filing or media planning. In fact, even something like transcription. Companies like TutorVista (which has tutors in India using the internet to deliver one-on-one tutoring to students across the world), CastingWords (which sends off audio files to members to transcribe and revert over the net), Samasource (which distributes computer-based work to poor people around the world) are all examples of creating value at a global scale using a combination of digital and human.
To the service industry, this adds a layer of innovation—creating services that were otherwise not even possible. The example of TutorVista stands out. Personalized tutoring that goes beyond your neighborhood or city is something no tutor had thought of. And now you can sit at home and earn by tutoring students in the US or UK, where these services are exorbitant.
And in terms of adding value to the digital platform, this goes beyond just dumping content on to a server and forgetting about it. There is a growing trend, for instance, of content aggregators. They may deliver it to you impeccably, but who is going to tell you what it means? Who will give you the analysis?
The power of the internet and the digital platforms is not lost on anybody. And given the fact that labour costs are rising every day, there is only that much that one can scale up in terms of human resource. In places like India, where labour costs are still manageable and some level of skill development in place, the potential for such services is high. We just need to identify the right pain points and address them.