IT sector

School dropouts and non-engineers are being wooed to bridge the skill gap in Indian IT

Software companies and a host of training institutes are moulding a generation of non-collegian workforce.

A new, parallel skilling ecosystem is evolving in India to feed the starving $150 billion IT sector.

With advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence gaining ground, well-trained talent is increasingly difficult to find in the country. India’s universities don’t supply enough people who can hit the ground running, largely due to outdated curricula and a deficit of good teachers and other resources.

So, corporate India is chipping in, moulding a generation of non-collegian workforce. Both software companies and a host of training institutes are steering this trend.

Training freshers

Among the first to groom such talent was Chennai-based Zoho Corporation, which picked up high school dropouts, diploma holders, and just about anybody who demonstrated an aptitude for coding and other tech skills. For 12 years now, Zoho University has supplemented the software company’s talent needs with the right personnel, by now constituting some 15% of its 4,500-member workforce.

Software services major HCL began a similar programme six months ago, training high school students to perform IT tasks. India’s biggest software exporter Tata Consultancy Services has its TCS Ignite platform for training graduates from non-engineering courses keen on joining the firm.

In September 2016, IIT-Delhi alumnus Abhishek Gupta and autodidact Rishabh Verma launched NavGurukul, an institute that sponsors and trains students in software programming. NavGurukul runs a year-long residential programme in New Delhi entirely based on donations. It is experimenting with curriculum collated by industry professionals on an open-source platform. The courses are activity-based and taught by volunteer-teachers. The institute focuses on the underprivileged, with daily wagers and school dropouts on the rolls going on to secure tech startup jobs.

Meanwhile, constant upskilling and re-skilling remain an imperative at all levels of IT roles.

Need to re-skill

In the last decade, the online education space has flourished in India. And most of the paid users in this segment are those looking to re-skill themselves. The industry is set to be worth nearly $2 billion by 2021, up 10-fold from $247 million today.

Data: KPMG
Data: KPMG

US-based Udacity, Bengaluru-based Edureka and Mumbai-based EduPristine are among the many players offering paid certification courses to employees.

For entry-level positions, such courses offer expertise in advanced topics not taught in schools and colleges. Project-based learning, coupled with mentoring by professionals, helps convert “raw knowledge…to practical application,” N Shivakumar, business head of recruitment process outsourcing at Teamlease Services, told Quartz.

So far, it appears to be working well, with even large software companies like Infosys, Wipro, Honeywell, and Tech Mahindra working with online education companies.

Increasingly, conventional degrees are not being insisted upon by companies. For instance, e-commerce firm Flipkart hires people with a Udacity certification. Elsewhere in the world, too, firms like EY and PwC are scrapping the requirement for a formal degree, at least for some profiles.

In any case, it’s not like a formal degree in India entails good training or talent.

Fixing education

Most Indian tech graduates aren’t industry-ready. Companies feel that colleges provide context-less education and only a fraction of India’s fresh engineering graduates are employable. This is primarily because of a deficit of good teachers; owing to the dismal salaries, tech professionals mostly choose corporate jobs over academia.

Besides, the focus in Indian IT education has largely remained on legacy programming languages such as C, C++, Java, and Visual Basic, even though new-age languages like JavaScript, Golang, Python, Ruby, CPP, Lisp, or Racket are more prevalent now globally.

Data: HackerRank
Data: HackerRank

Then there is the question of affordability of higher education. In any case, only a segment of “qualified” personnel that India’s institutes of higher learning churn out really fit into the rough and tumble of the professional world.

“Five or 10 years ago, it was enough to walk in with a piece of paper [certificates]. They’ll learn on the job and they’ll get better. That used to be the paradigm,” Mohan Lakhamraju, co-founder and CEO of Gurugram-based training platform Great Learning, told Quartz. “Not anymore. People want you to work from day zero. The day you come in, you need to contribute.”

The pitfalls

However, not all knowledge available on online platforms is disseminated effectively, making it important that learners find areas that best fit their specific needs and schedules.

For a working professional, time is important. “They can’t spend 100 hours to learn something in a very unstructured pattern,” Loveleen Bhatia, co-founder and CEO of Edureka, told Quartz. And free lessons from multiple platforms compromise standardisation and legitimacy – the things that employers value a lot. Moreover, getting academics and industry leaders to devote time on online platforms is expensive, which the free-to-use websites can’t afford.

Another drawback of the sponsored training model is that it could result in the employees getting “locked in” to a specific company’s ecosystem. On switching jobs, they may have to learn a whole new set of skills or completely relearn existing ones. This may only exacerbate the problem in the long-run.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.