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BENGALURU : India's information technology (IT) sector is facing a talent crunch for niche digital skills as digital transformation deals in the post-covid era boost demand.

Technology service providers are witnessing a 30% growth in digital deals, an 80% jump in cloud spending and a 15% rise in customer experience spending since the coronavirus outbreak, according to the IT industry’s apex body, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom).

The new-age digital skills include emerging technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things (IoT) and robotics.

“There is a severe shortage for such skills as the demand in the last two years has been exponential, but supply has been moderate," said Saran Balasundaram, founder and chief executive officer, Han Digital, a talent consulting firm.

The number of workers in India requiring digital skills will need to increase nine times by 2025 and the average worker in India will need to develop seven new digital skills by 2025 to keep pace with technology advancements and demand, according to a recent report commissioned by Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS). This would amount to a total of 3.9 billion digital skill trainings from 2020 to 2025. At present, digitally skilled workers represent only 12% of India’s workforce.

The pandemic has made it evident that the future of businesses will be hyper digital and largely contactless, according to experts.

“Technology will play a much larger role across different verticals and concepts such as telemedicine, contactless drone delivery, on-the-go education is soon becoming a reality. It is all about digital transformation, cloud adoption, software advancements, chatbots, IoT and a lot more," said Kirti Seth, co-architect and head of FutureSkills Prime, Nasscom’s digital skilling initiative.

FutureSkills Prime has been helping thousands of IT professionals to be future-ready by creating a culture of continuous learning, collaboration and co-creation, Seth said.

The shortage of people with digital skills is leading to a war for talent among companies, which, in turn, is leading them to pay higher salaries and offer multiple hikes in a year as a retention strategy.

“IT companies are reviewing compensations and providing multiple increments within the year to retain talent. Organizations across industries are on a hiring spree either to fulfil current demands or to make investments for future growth. Significant salary hikes are given to hire people," said Varsha Barooah, director, Michael Page India, a recruitment consultancy.

To address the demand-supply gap, companies are also adopting a hire-train-deploy (HTD) model wherein employees, especially freshers, are trained by specialist staffing firms on the exact skill requirements before deploying them with the clients.

Technology staffing firm TeamLease Digital said it has partnered with multiple customers on skills such as SAP Hana, CyberArk, Informatica and Oracle to train both freshers and experienced people before deploying them in projects.

“In a few cases, we are also upskilling existing clients and employees," said Siva Prasad Nanduri, vice-president and head, IT staffing, TeamLease Digital.

Not surprisingly, employers have reskilling and upskilling at the top of their priority list. According to a report by Randstad RiseSmart, all surveyed employers and professionals agreed that upskilling and reskilling add value to an organization.

Of those that offered skilling, nearly all employers (98%) said employees either fully or partially used the skills they learned to benefit the business, and 94% of employees said they either fully or partially put their new or refreshed skills to use in a meaningful way.

Among all economies surveyed, India was found to be the only region where IT skills (65%) and web development (64%) took precedence over soft skills (62%).

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