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India’s data centre boom is expected to generate thousands of jobs and fuel a race for talent in the years ahead, in a repeat of the talent hunt now playing out in the country’s information technologies services sector.

The data centre industry is of strategic importance to digital infrastructure and for securing data by localization.

Some well-known local and international companies operating large data centres in India include Dell, Accenture, NTT Global, IBM, Flipkart, ICICI, Capgemini, Wells Fargo, Oracle and Bharti Airtel.

Enterprise data centre functions and commercial cloud service businesses of large companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft are also expected to hire people. Commercial data centres will also need non-tech talent in customer-facing and support roles.

Manoj Paul, managing director of US data centre firm Equinix, said the industry would require systems engineers and skilled employees to manage equipment, network managers and product managers, besides administrative staff.

“There will be opportunities for employment from the construction stage of data centres till finally running them on an everyday basis," he added.

Data sourced from specialist staffing firm Xpheno shows that the industry listed more than 8,000 positions in the last two weeks alone.

Kamal Karanth, the co-founder of Xpheno, said demand would grow further as the industry is expected to nearly double its capacity in the next two years.

The current installed capacity of data centres across Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi NCR, Bengaluru and Kolkata is over 10.5 million sq. ft and around 500MW.

This capacity, according to Karanth, is expected to rise by 6 million sq. ft and to 990MW in the next two years. He noted that while the overall workforce may not grow at the same rate, a large spike is still on the cards.

The grant of infrastructure status to the data centre industry in the Union budget is expected to boost demand further.

Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst and founder of Greyhound Research, corroborated that the momentum for data centres is expected to grow significantly by 2025.

He added that the government has to “ensure a confluence of factors", such as providing adequate power supply and passing of a globally benchmarked data protection bill for data centres to grow.

The existing supply of talent for IT services companies will play a role in hiring in the data centre sector as well. “India also has a pool of chief information officers (CIOs) and tech teams at the user end that have, for the longest time, been trained on data centre architecture," Gogia said.

Data centre investments in India are expected to reach $4.6 billion per annum by 2025, according to a February 2021 report by Nasscom. The report added that Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Delhi-NCR are among the major data centre locations in the country, thanks to good fibre connectivity, proximity to customers, availability of skilled workforce, and submarine cable connectivity.

The report also noted that the availability of a skilled workforce is one of the major site selection criteria for data centre development and operations. “Engineering skill shortage is a major challenge in developed data centre markets such as North America and Western Europe, where it is a benefit for India to position itself as a major data centre hub," the report said.

That said, the demand is set to rapidly increase. “India needs 7-10 times more data centre capacity than what is available today to match the size and scale of mature global markets, despite a reasonable capacity addition in the past five years," said Sunil Gupta, chief executive of Yotta Infrastructure. Yotta expects to add over 1,000 employees to run its data centre facilities and provide customer-facing services. In addition, the company plans to add 2,500 indirect resources for the construction of data centres over the next two years.

According to Gupta, the company expects to invest over 15,000 crore over the next 5-7 years in creating massive business-critical data centres, providing cloud networking and other information technology infrastructure.

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