The spree of job losses in India’s biggest IT firms has led to companies trying to alter their focus areas and channelise human resources accordingly. With traditional job roles like software testing falling by the wayside, the industry has decided to focus on high-end technologies and help employees master them.
IT trade body Nasscom has identified cybersecurity and data analytics as the two major areas of job creation in future and has asked software companies to help employees take online courses on the same.
According to Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar, cybersecurity alone will generate anywhere between 500,000-1 million jobs in the next five years. “It’s likely to provide close to a million jobs in that space,” Chandrashekhar told FE. He added that while the numbers are not out on data analytics yet, it will add a significant number of jobs as well. So will artificial intelligence & machine learning, data science, 3D printing, design thinking and cloud computing. “So, reskilling is the key,” he said.
The $150-billion Indian IT services industry employs 4 million people and has been one of the country’s premier sectors. But automation has played havoc with the industry and low-end jobs have been wiped away, forcing the sector to keep costs down as demand slowed. Robotics and artificial intelligence are beginning to have a bigger say, while the industry has also been at the receiving end of US President Donald Trump’s clampdown on H1-B visas.
Despite the pressures, the industry is hoping to add 3.5 lakh jobs between FY19 and FY25. But for this to happen, reskilling of the workforce is a must. According to Kris Lakshmikanth, chairman of Bengaluru-based recruitment firm The Headhunters, 60% of the Indian IT workforce need to be retrained.
“Indian IT workers will have to register for online courses, and firms may have to pay for it. About 20% of the staff in large IT firms are on the bench and they can be gainfully employed this way,” Lakshmikanth said.
Infosys has got over 17,000 of its workforce learning three different programming languages as part of its reskilling initiative. Navin Budhiraja, head (architecture, technology & training) of Infosys, told FE that the company has developed its own online training platform that has 148 courses for employees to learn from. “Our social learning platform Digital Tutor has 90,000 unique users,” he said. “Plus, design thinking continues to be a key ingredient of our training programme, and over 1.35 lakh employees have gone through it,” Budhiraja added.
Cognizant, the Nasdaq-listed IT services company said at the entry level, technology skills are the default expectation, in addition to logical reasoning, problem-solving and communication skills. Said James Lennox, chief people officer, Cognizant, “As the shelf-life of technical skills gets shorter, learning agility, adaptability and creative thinking are becoming key differentiators in the marketplace. Increasingly, how fast professionals acquire and apply new technology knowledge is becoming more important than what they know.”
He felt skills are being used less in isolation and more in combination with functional and engineering aspects. “There is a growing need for on-demand skilling,” he said.
Saurabh Govil, president & chief human resources officer, Wipro, said, “In terms of technical talent, a solid foundation in programming languages is important. We look for talent skilled in new and upcoming technologies such as digital technologies, cloud, analytics, mobility solutions, cognitive systems etc.”
HfS Research, an American advisory firm, says 4.8 lakh Indian tech jobs could be at risk by 2021, as dependence on automation grows. “I expect 1.5-2 lakh jobs to get affected,” Lakshmikanth said, “Hence the need for reskilling.”
McKinsey, in its report earlier this year, had said nearly half of the 4 million IT workforce will be irrelevant in the next 3-4 years. The report stated IT firms must find new service lines and solutions, build new capabilities, drive digital transformation and reskill employees with emerging technologies.
This is why new areas have come into focus in a big way. Says Sanjay Vijaykumar, chairman of Startup Village, a forum that supports start-ups, “Software as a Service (SaaS), robotics and machine learning require higher levels of skill, and there is a shortage of manpower in such areas. Full-stack engineering and design roles in such sectors will generate job opportunities,” he told FE.
Nasscom has stated the Indian IT industry will hire 1.5 lakh people this year and has joined hands with Boston Consulting Group to reskill up to 50% of the 4 million IT workforce. For FY17, the industry had hired 1.73 lakh people.
Rituparna Chakraborty, president of Indian Staffing Federation, observed that five areas are expected to see strong demand: artificial intelligence & machine learning, data science, 3D printing, design thinking and cloud computing.
The moot point is whether India can stitch together the required talent pool to meet the demands in these emerging areas. Zinnov, a management consulting firm provides the example of machine learning, where there are only 6,000 specialists, with only 250 who can be counted as experts.