Reskilling: Indian IT sector starts massive effort to learn new tricks

Shivam Srivastav May 29, 2017 5 min

How safe is the average Indian techie’s job? Between Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” push at one end and artificial intelligence-driven automation on the other, India’s most sought-after career for two decades is suddenly losing its appeal.

India’s largest tech service and business process outsourcing companies, including Cognizant, Infosys, and Wipro are laying off people by the hundreds or are slowing hiring in the country. But, net hirings in the industry continue and it is on way to add three million jobs by 2025, says industry lobby Nasscom. About 1.7 lakh were hired in 2016-17 and some 1.5 lakh will be hired this financial year, it says.

Nasscom believes about 40% of the tech and BPO workforce in India needs to reskill themselves over five years. For a sector that employs nearly four million, that means 1.6 million need to learn new skill  

Tech employees, however, need to pick up new skills as new technologies find more takers in the world. Nasscom believes about 40% of the tech and BPO workforce in India needs to reskill themselves over five years. For a sector that employs nearly four million, that means 1.6 million need to learn new skills.

“If we had to look at the whole issue of jobs and reskilling , we have to look at in context of technology becoming very mainstream,” says Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president at Nasscom. “In the process of changing technology, every business today is looking at how do I use technology to fundamentally reshift my business,” she adds.

“In the process of changing technology, every business today is looking at how do I use technology to fundamentally reshift my business” — Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president at Nasscom  

Buzzwords such as big data, internet of things, artificial intelligence and machine learning dominate the changing need of technology implementation. Gupta gives the specific example of the auto and telecom — how these two industries collect terrabytes of data and use analytics to study consumer behaviour and improve customer experience.

Nasscom is starting a reskilling initiative in partnership with Boston Consulting Group aimed at covering 1.5 to 2 million employees. The duo found there are 55 new job roles and 155 skillsets required for the roles. It has tied up with the likes of Infosys, Wipro, Mindtree, Accenture, Genpact, Google, Quatrro BPO, Cognizant, NIIT and ITC Infotech to take this forward.

55 new job roles identified across 8 technolohgies
Nasscom is starting a reskilling initiative in partnership with Boston Consulting Group aimed at covering 1.5 to 2 million employees. Source: Nasscom

Gupta says Nasscom aims to build a technology platform onto which the best online programmes for the 55 job roles will be curated. The programme will be implemented solely through MOOC (short for Massive Open Online Course) providers in the first phase. In later stages, the organisation could tie up with universities, she adds.

The costs are not clear. “We are not looking at a very expensive project. However, there will be charge which either the student, techie or the company will have to pay,” says Gupta. “Given the volumes, the cost should come down… the industry or Nasscom does not need to invest a lot of money to make this happen.”

It’s Mission Reskill at companies, too

“If you don’t reskill you will perish and it’s as simple as that,” says Raman Roy, chairman and managing director of Quatrro BPO, who currently chairs Nasscom. “In our own Nasscom report three years ago, we stated that 30% of workforce will become redundant and will need to be retrained.”

Half a million of the existing workforce has been reskilled, he added.

“If you don’t reskill you will perish and it’s as simple as that” — Raman Roy, chairman-MD of Quatrro BPO and Nasscom chairman

Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran on Monday wrote in The Econonmic Times that Tata Consultancy Services, India’s No 1 software services company, had trained its 210,000 employees across 400 new digital technologies in the last two years.

Some like French tech major Capgemini, which has about 1 lakh employees in India, is moving in this direction on a war footing. A reskilling programme it started in early 2016 has covered 60% of its India workforce.

Roy thinks the $150-billion industry already has robust training infrastructure and resources to springboard from. Every new fresh hire in tech services, for instance, goes through nine to 12 months of training before he or she starts generating revenue for the employer.

Besides, says Nasscom’s Gupta, as technology gets more involved in businesses and indeed daily lives of consumers, more hires will be made in industries that have traditionally not needed deep software expertise. “That is something people coming into this industry must recognise…if you are a good techie there is no dearth of jobs,” she says.

That is evident with how cars are becoming extensions of “connected life” and how companies such as Apple and Google are vying for vast amounts of data these vehicles produce, and in turn give insights through use of analytics. Or, in the realm of industrial internet, where sensors monitor and control machines big and small.

Gupta feels that it is “unfair” to relate rise in hiring by Indian IT companies in the US with speculation of job losses here in India. A market expert pointed to technology cycles and said there is no reason to panic immediately  

Gupta feels that it is “unfair” to relate rise in hiring by Indian IT companies in the US with speculation of job losses here in India. She added that the hiring in America is far fewer than the total employment in the Indian IT sector. Infosys, which announced it would hire 10,000 workers in the US in two years, employs over two lakh in India.

A market expert pointed to technology cycles and said there is no reason to panic immediately. “Right from the mainframe era, to when the mainframes were phased out, the industry raised similar concerns. There was another wave of concern when the data centre business was shifting to the cloud (hosted on the internet),” says Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO and chief analyst, Greyhound Research.

Still, he points to the faster pace of change. It took a few of decades to shift from mainframes to the cloud but in the current era of automation “need to re-skill is much faster and quicker, he says.


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