Digital skilling: India must seal its digital advantage

While country ranks high globally, there is need to do more to catalyse the next level of growth.

Digital skilling: India must seal its digital advantage
The evolution of the Indian technology industry has been founded on its talent advantage, nurtured by academic excellence, corporate purpose and policy support.

By Keshav Murugesh

Touted as a global hub for digital talent, India finds itself in a coveted position – with the lowest demand-supply gap for tech talent among leaders such as the UK, US, China and Australia, according to a Nasscom study. Today, one in three employees in the Indian technology industry is digitally skilled. While this is extremely promising, there’s a huge opportunity to do more to remain a global digital talent destination and catalyse the next level of growth and innovation.

How we moved the needle to ‘Advantage India’

In the last two years, we managed disruption on an unprecedented scale, spurred by a huge health emergency and geo-political crisis. We have moved the needle from recovery to growth, designing innovative hybrid work experiences.The evolution of the Indian technology industry has been founded on its talent advantage, nurtured by academic excellence, corporate purpose and policy support.

That said, the strategy for hiring and talent development was re-looked at in the face of digital disruption, intense competition and untapped business opportunities. Understanding that classic STEM and Ivy League degrees are no longer core to talent hiring, organisations are looking for the ‘right digital talent’ across tier-2 & 3 locations as well. They are reskilling and upskilling their employees with tailored programmes and partnering with specialists for efficient gig models. How can we further close gaps and build digitally skilled workforces? And along with reducing the skill deficit, how must we cut the risk of talent flight to other countries?

Make it ‘Game, Set, Match India’

Covid-19 has liberated the talent pool to seek new opportunities on roads less traveled, including entrepreneurship. Granting that automation is creating redundancies in a few areas, and there is a burgeoning need for digital and emerging technologies talent, we should remember that the talent gap is not a single-dimensional measure of the headcount deficit that exists today.

What if we tapped, reskilled and cross-skilled employees through a faster mode of experiential learning? Barclays, for example, has re-skilled, through rotation and training, their frontline operations staff to IT roles. In India, Salesforce has partnered with Nasscom’s FutureSkills Prime Programme to train 100,000 individuals in digital skills by 2024.

This move seems to be paying off. Nasscom’s analysis shows India’s digital talent is growing 5x faster than core tech talent. Specifically, the supply of key digital skills such as cloud computing, AI, Big Data Analytics and IoT seems to have grown at a CAGR of more than 20% in the last five years.

There is much more re-invention that can be done. Hiring practices can be re-imagined to create a wider, more diverse and inclusive talent pool. WEF reports that across global markets, only 26% of professionals in data and AI, and 12% in cloud computing are women. Programmes like TechSaksham, a SAP India and Microsoft initiative which is aimed at skilling more than 62,000 young women in these areas, are a step in the right direction. With India adding about 12 mn people to the working population annually, we must seize this chance to enhance our talent advantage and lead in an exciting digital era.

The writer is Group CEO, WNS

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