Job Opportunities

AI, data science and other fields Indian techies can skill themselves in to survive the IT bust

Jobs involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data have become mainstream of late.

Layoffs and hiring freezes in Indian IT are likely to continue in 2018, but it’s not as hopeless as it seems.

Despite the sector laying off over 56,000 employees in 2017, there is still high demand for skills in new technologies. Because, after remaining “niche skills” for several years, jobs involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data have become mainstream of late.

This trend is going to gain momentum in 2018 when the industry is expected to add between 180,000 and 200,000 new jobs, mostly related to these new technologies, Alka Dhingra, the general manager of IT staffing at recruitment firm TeamLease Services, said. This includes both large services companies as well as startups.

In the coming year, organisations will delve deeper into data to create a real-life impact, Karan Bajwa, managing director at IBM India, said. “(The) Cloud platform, fused with disruptive technologies such as AI, blockchain, cognitive (intelligence), internet of things (IoT), data analytics, and security will become the backbone of businesses looking to scale up and stay relevant in the future.”

What’s hot

Here’s a list of areas where job creation is expected in 2018:

AI: From legacy services companies such as Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys to India’s unicorns, nearly all Indian tech companies are going big on AI. It is essentially the technology that trains machines to learn from experience and perform human-like tasks. For instance, the country’s largest IT services firm, Tata Consultancy Services, has trained over 200,000 employees in AI and IoT.

Young businesses are also aggressively chasing this technology. Last month, India’s e-commerce poster boy, Flipkart, announced a new initiative called AI for India, under which it plans to leverage the data it has accumulated over the last decade to develop AI-driven solutions that could help its business. The company plans to invest “millions of dollars” in the initiative.

Flipkart-owned fashion portal Myntra has also developed Rapid, an AI platform that performs various functions, including designing clothes and improving manufacturing processes. Taxi company Ola plans to use AI to improve the customer experience.

Such companies will require professionals skilled in machine learning (getting computers to perform tasks), deep learning (analysing unstructured data), or natural language processing (using computation to analyse human languages).

Blockchain specialists: With bitcoin becoming the rage globally, industry experts expect this field to become a massive job creator. Cryptocurrencies are drawing Indian investors like never before, and legal experts are calling for regulations. “There could be regulations (for bitcoin) coming, and hence somebody who knows the subject is going to be in demand,” Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO of CIEL HR Services, said.

Digital marketing: Startups and legacy companies across sectors are adopting digital technologies in various functions, such as HR, operations, manufacturing, warehousing, and communications. Similarly, marketing is no longer restricted to traditional mediums either; digital marketing is fuelling demand for talent.

“Global technology disruptions, coupled with the Indian government’s aggressive focus on digital, have seen their impact on the local labour market. With more companies in India wanting to increase their digital presence, there is a visible surge in job searches for digital marketing jobs,” Sashi Kumar, the managing director of jobs portal Indeed India, said.

Data science: Indian internet companies that have been around for some years have gathered massive consumer data and now they plan to start mining it to their advantage. Like Flipkart’s AI for India initiative, food-tech startup Swiggy is also working on using the consumer data it has collected to make deliveries more efficient.

Newer areas such as pharmacy analytics – a combination of healthcare and analytics – would also throw up jobs for data scientists, HR experts say.

“For an experienced data scientist, even with just a couple of years of experience, there are many opportunities in the market,” Kris Lakshmikanth, founder of recruitment firm HeadHunters India said. “Even for freshers in the field, the future is way brighter than what a Java-trained engineer would have.”

Machine learning, data scientists, and data analytics jobs are the most popular searches on Indeed.com in India, Kumar told Quartz.

For new graduates

Engineering graduates who simply bring generic coding skills have very limited options in the Indian tech industry. Instead, HR experts believe that engineers will now have to earn specialised masters degrees to retain jobs or find new ones.

However, the quality of engineers in India is abysmal, though its education system generates the highest number of engineers in the world every year.

Since the curricula are mostly outdated, recruiters say students must make up for this outside of colleges, with supplement theoretical learning and hands-on experience. “Engineering students should choose their internships very carefully and get as much exposure as possible in real-life than just textbooks,” Mishra of CIEL said.

Students who manage to make it to the top-rung colleges are slightly better off.

“I don’t think students from the top 100 or even 200 colleges will have many issues. These students will easily be absorbed by the industry,” Lakshmikanth of HeadHunters said. “But to get more lucrative opportunities, they will also need to hone their skills in new technologies.”

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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