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Business News/ Ai / Artificial Intelligence/  India Inc, not just IT, dangles big bucks for AI specialists. But is it all hype?

India Inc, not just IT, dangles big bucks for AI specialists. But is it all hype?

The race to bridge the AI skills gap is intensifying, with companies across sectors, including banks and telecom companies, offering competitive salaries and incentives to attract the best talent

The demand for AI training is particularly strong in the IT sector, one of the largest consumers of digital skills. (Image: Pixabay)Premium
The demand for AI training is particularly strong in the IT sector, one of the largest consumers of digital skills. (Image: Pixabay)

As India Inc races to upskill its workforce in artificial intelligence, a significant talent crunch is emerging. Companies across sectors, including banking and healthcare, are vying for experts who can tackle complex AI problems and possess advanced digital skills. 

And since it can get tough finding such experts, companies would like any such experts they find to also be capable of developing AI workshops and courses for their other not-as-skilled employees.

The competition is fierce, with firms offering 40% salary hikes to lure AI specialists with five-six years of experience at product companies. Sectors such as IT, banking, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, telecommunications, and insurance are leading the charge in the hunt for AI talent, highlighting the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence across industries.

“We are looking at AI experts with six years of work experience for financial services clients. Companies are ready to pay 40 lakh for them, which is higher than what a middle-manager gets in these banks," said Upasana Agarwal, partner for professional and financial services at ABC Consultants, an executive search and talent advisory firm.

“Their job role will include working with banking domain leaders to train the younger workforce on AI modules."

More Here: EY to PwC, KPMG to Deloitte, consultancy firms are witnessing a war for talent

According to Vijay Sivaram, chief executive of Quess IT Staffing, there has been a 30-35% increase in hiring mandates for AI-skilled engineers across sectors over the past year-and-half.

Is it all mere hype?

Some of the growing demand for AI-skilled employees may be fuelled by market hype, say recruiters.

“Just after the pandemic, fullstack engineers who were just graduates saw their salaries jump from 8 lakh to 25 lakh. Now, for AI, a similar demand is building up since all firms across sectors want to establish that they have AI-skilled employees on board," said Satish Manne, partner at recruitment firm Xpheno.

Non-IT companies in the digital content realm, according to him, are prepared to offer as much as 60 lakh to AI specialists with four-five years of work experience.

Also Read: Why IT firms are treating artificial intelligence as a poisoned chalice

That said, it’s tough finding employees trained in AI and also having experience in data science, coding, and product management. 

Another crucial criteria, Manne said, is the need to have a grasp on the complexities of “ethics" in AI. Understanding ethics in AI involves recognizing the implications of prompts on outcomes that extend beyond mere data.

IT leads the AI training surge

The demand for AI training is particularly strong in the IT sector, one of the largest consumers of digital skills. Investing heavily in training modules, the sector anticipates improved bottom lines from this upskilling. 

Generative AI, or GenAI, technologies, which produce content in the form of text, images, and audio, are expected to significantly boost productivity.

“Software developer productivity could improve by 30-40% as they could spend more time reviewing and editing code and less time writing code with the help of GenAI," said Apurva Prasad, vice president of institutional equity at brokerage HDFC Securities.

India’s largest IT services firm, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, highlighted in its recently released annual report for 2023-24 that each business group was developing domain-specific AI/GenAI offerings relevant to the industry value chain.

"Over 300,000 employees have been upskilled on GenAI technologies in FY 2024. TCS’ products and services are also being enhanced with AI capabilities," the company stated.

Also Read | TCS sets the bar: Merges AI and cloud businesses to form Ai.Cloud

Rival Infosys emphasized the strong traction for its AI projects during its analyst call after announcing its March-quarter results. 

“We are working on projects across software engineering, process optimization, customer support, advisory services, and sales," said Salil Parekh, chief executive officer and managing director of Infosys.

These pronouncements underscore how companies have been ramping up their AI capabilities to avoid losing clients.

“It is still early stages in GenAI for the IT sector as employees are getting trained on basic modules. Deeper skills training will be based on the economic benefits as the GenAI PoCs move into the production stage," said Prasad of HDFC Securities. 

Demand for AI experts is "10 times more" than the surge in demand for data scientists seen a decade ago, he added.

A rush for AI courses

The bulk of the workforce across sectors is receiving training via online courses. Platforms like Coursera have witnessed a dramatic increase in AI course enrollments. The edtech platform has since the beginning of 2023 enrolled 600,000 students for its GenAI course.

“We have launched 75 courses in AI so far this year and 125 in the second half of last year. We are reaching out to the companies and universities who built the initial courses for more," said Raghav Gupta, managing director, India and APAC, Coursera. 

Among Coursera’s top partners offering generative AI modules are Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, Fractal Analytics, Microsoft, IBM, and Vanderbilt University. 

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Devina Sengupta
Devina tracks and writes on workplaces, human resources and education for Mint. She also occaisionally writes an opinion column. She hosts a podcast on interesting HR trends in corporate India called The Working Life.
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Published: 15 May 2024, 06:30 AM IST
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