“Many organizations lack the cloud expertise that could help their initiatives get off the ground quickly," said a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
About 55% of respondents in the study said they are “focusing on reskilling their staff", but that could slow down the rate of adoption for cloud infrastructure, which is the need of the hour. Requirements include professionals who can work in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cybersecurity, blockchain, analytics and more.
“More important than adaptation (of cloud) is that organisations are quickly exposed to assets like the security framework, flexibility and scalability framework etc. where cloud adoption comes up in a big way," said Monesh Dange, Partner and National Leader, Advisory Markets, EY India.
“At the scale at which this is going to happen, the requirements for skill have gone up in a big tangent," he added. Dange said professionals need to be skilled in cloud architecture, cloud security, remote data center management, managing heavy duty applications on the cloud. He pointed out that simple applications like Word etc. can be done from anywhere, but when it comes to things like CAD designs etc, it requires more skilled professionals. “There’s a dearth of these certified professionals," he said.
However, Dange also added that the existing base is actually available in India. The matter is more about upskilling of existing professionals, which has to be done by both enterprises and the professionals themselves. “A cybersecurity professional today isn’t spending as much time on AI, ML etc. as they were spending on their core. In the current world, the cross skilling is needed," he said.
“There are multiple types of skill gaps here," said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner, Convergence Catalyst. “If you look at it globally, there are two primary areas where the talent comes from — universities and industry. In India, except for IISC and a few IITs, not many institutions do much in depth research on using these technologies. Even in bigger companies, it’s not product oriented, it's service oriented. So it doesn’t require a lot of core deep tech engineers on the panel," he added.
Kolla pointed out that most of this talent is focused on the startup space, which is more product oriented. In addition, innovation in deep tech happens really fast and people need to keep abreast of everything too. “If you’re not keeping abreast yourself, you’re really not keeping up with the times. Especially in deep tech like AI, ML, blockchain and IoT," he said.
While the shortage of such professionals is more evident now, it’s not necessarily new. According to a 2019 study by ed-tech company Great Learning, India had nearly doubled its AI workforce from 40,000 in 2018 to 72,000 in 2019, but 2500 positions were still left open. The report also had 3000 companies, who said they were working on projects that included AI, a 200% growth from 2018.
Further, other reports had indicated that the demand for such professionals would rise to 4.4 lakh in 2020, with supply available for only about half of that. These reports of course didn’t take into account the pandemic and how it would impact spending on cloud infrastructure. The BCG-AWS report cited above said companies in the APAC region are expected to spend as much as 10% of the IT budgets on cloud infra by 2023, and are already spending “roughly 5%" on the same.
Kolla pointed out that even now, many companies in India who say they use AI, ML and other technologies are using the bare minimum for such tech. As a result, the professionals working there are often unaware or unskilled in the advancements that have been made in these areas. “Companies say we use AI, ML, but it’s glorified analytics," he said.
EY’s Dange pointed out that IT modernization was going at a particular pace earlier, but the pandemic may have accelerated the adoption of cloud by as much as 20x, and so has the demand for such skills.