India remains a global hub for tech-skilled talent with 138,000 new hires and the tech industry also is digital upskilling 250,000 employees per year. The Indian IT services industry has the potential to touch $300-350 billion in the next five years, according to a McKinsey and Nasscom report. The industry would need a growth trajectory of 2-4 per cent to reach this target from the current $194 billion. The only impediment in attaining this milestone is the availability of digital talent.
The demand for digital skills in India is eight times of what is available and will rise 20 times by 2024. In an earlier discussion with Business Standard, Debjani Ghosh, president, Nasscom, shared that the only aspect that can make or break India in achieving this target is the right skills.
“The rough number of talent with digital skills in India is 1-1.17 million. But that has to grow faster. Demand for these jobs is growing at 34-38 per cent CAGR, but supply is growing at 30 per cent CAGR. For instance, the demand for talent in digital categories like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is 8x and if nothing changes on ground this will only grow,” explained Ghosh.
The technology services sector in India is now among the most significant contributors to economic growth — the industry accounts for about 27 per cent of the nation’s exports and provides livelihood to about 4.4 million people. Despite this, players across the sector face challenges like driving growth in revenue per employee and providing them with digital skills.
According to Nasscom’s Strategic Review 2021, India remains a global hub for tech-skilled talent with 138,000 new hires and the tech industry also is digital upskilling 250,000 employees per year. But there is a pressing need to focus on emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML), blockchain, cloud and data sciences. This digital skill gap will need a push from industry bodies and will need government support, too.
To begin with Nasscom has introduced FutureSkills and FutureSkills Prime initiatives to equip young people with digital skills and foster a continuous innovation culture. “We must ensure that we take the necessary steps to convert our leadership in STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] to digital skills leadership,” said Ghosh. As part of this effort, Nasscom has partnered with the Ministry of Electronics and IT to reskill/upskill over 200,000 IT employees using the Nasscom Future Skills PRIME platform. The government is also taking steps to develop policies that will help boost digital skilling in the country.
The question is: Are these interventions enough? Rituparna Chakraborty, executive VP and co-founder, Teamlease, said: “I will not deny that there is a gap, but it can be bridged if academics, aspirants, companies and government bodies can come together and maximise the effort. Some of the skill sets that the industry needs will have to be created. Digital intervention can be a way to address that. The pandemic has shown us that this can be achieved.”
One such step has been taken by the tech giant Google when last month it announced that it has launched career certificates in data analytics, project management, android and user experience (UX) design. This certification course focuses on expertise in a given field and skills rather than degrees.
Google is making available these certification courses through Coursera at a minimum cost of $39 (around Rs 3,000). The new certification course for Android is free with an exam fee of $149 (around Rs 11,0000). The new Associate Android Developer Certification, which prepares learners for entry-level jobs in Android development, has 1.3 million job openings in the US alone.
Sundar Pichai, CEO, Alphabet, said in his blog that in India they are making certificates more accessible. Importantly, he also said Google will hire these certificate graduates. “Not only is Google hiring these certificate graduates, we’re using the certificates themselves to upskill and reskill Google teams, from IT support techs to data analysts. We’re also opening applications for Google’s apprenticeship program in our Career Certificate fields in addition to a few other professional tracks. We will hire hundreds of apprentices over the coming years to participate in on-the-job training and applied learning,” he wrote.
This is an approach that India’s largest IT services player Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has taken. Milind Lakkad, chief human resources officer (CHRO), TCS, has been busy revamping the entire talent skills augmentation process in the company, and he is clear that the future will be focused on skills. “Skills, and not roles, will drive where you want to be. If you have premium skills, you will get opportunities,” added Lakkad.
He goes a step further and envisages a scenario that future billing of a project will be based on the skills that the company is able to deploy. For TCS, talent development is among the top three focuses.
Peter Schumacher, CEO, The Value Leadership Group, a management consultancy firm, believes that despite all the fear, Indian IT is much better placed when compared to some other regions. “While there are shortages of skilled employees in some specific areas in India, the situation in other countries is far worse, and when available substantially more expensive,” he said.
He, however, cautioned that hiring in large numbers is not a sign of excellence. “Hiring the right people, enriching their work, giving them development opportunities, and retaining them as they gain expertise requires a much more sophisticated talent development approach. It is here where the best IT services firms show their excellence,” he added. “One often overlooked important area is design. The world-class National Institute of Design has done pioneering work with regard to innovation-led design and holistic learning. A large number of NID graduates work at Google and some of India’s leading IT services firms are among the Institute’s top recruiters.”
Whether the industry-wide efforts will solve the industry’s skill gap or whether the kind of initiative Google is taking is the way forward will be tested when the world economy recovers.