Will India's IT hiring boom last?

Will India's IT hiring boom last?

The hiring spree in IT is taking place at a time when talent is in short supply Istock image

Last month, the CEO of a Bengaluru-based unicorn start-up tweeted: “Engineering hiring situation in Bengaluru — thinking of offshoring some work to a lower cost centre in SF, Bay Area!”

Though said in jest, the tweet underscored a larger point: Indian tech companies are finding it hard to find ‘cheap’ talent as they did in the past.

Over the past year, hiring in the Indian tech industry has seen a massive boom. Companies are scampering to hire professionals skilled in Machine Learning, Deep Learning, DevOps & Cloud computing.

But this hiring spree is taking place in at a time when talent is in short supply. This has left candidates holding multiple offers, with anywhere between 50-100% hike in their current salary.

Even then, recruiters don’t have the certainty that people will come work for them, as companies present employees with counter-offers in a bid to retain talent.

This war for talent has meant that companies have had to increase their tech salary budgets from anywhere between 45-70%.

Even then, companies find it hard to fill specialised roles like Data Scientist, Machine Learning, MLOps, Cloud Architect, etc.

In turn, high salaries have a cascading effect. Seeing their new colleagues join at significantly higher salaries, existing employees also look to renegotiate their paychecks or look out for new opportunities.

With attrition rates hovering at a constant 18% and above, tech companies have adopted mantras like ‘Always be Hiring’.

But are these salaries justified?

The last decade has seen an explosion in applications revolving around artificial intelligence, SaaS, and cloud computing. But the talent pool in these areas has not kept pace.

For companies looking to pivot to AI-powered solutions, the key is hiring seasoned professionals who have several years of experience. And these ‘silver-bullet’ hires do not come cheap.

But companies are able to justify these astronomical salaries, as the ROI they receive is becoming nimble and forward-looking, rather than reactionary.

The other question is: How long will the gala last?

The transition to AI and machine learning is just beginning and will remain a competitive space in the near future. As big multinationals swoop down and scoop away the top of the talent pool, this will have a trickle-down effect on smaller companies and start-ups.

Unfortunately, even the advanced engineering courses in India do not address the skills required to build production-ready software. This means there is a very small pool of engineers and data scientists who are eligible for these roles.

Even educational institutions looking to fill this skill gap do not have the means to train students. The lack of computing infrastructure to teach students to build ML models and the dearth of professionals going back to academia to teach are just a couple of examples.

So it is incumbent on companies to train and upskill their workforce to become more advanced software developers to tackle this challenge.

The only way the trend might plateau is when the supply of quality hands-on technical talent in the five to 15 years experience bracket increases. And that is still a number of years away.

The famous Venture Capitalist Marc Andreessen had once famously quipped “Software is eating the world” but now, we have entered the phase of “AI eating software”.

And it is a long way before AI has had its fill.

(The author is a senior manager in the R&D department of a tech company and is a thought leader in Artificial Intelligence)

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