Not enough Indians are equipped for the sexiest job of the 21st century

Who will decode all this?
Who will decode all this?
Image: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
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Indian companies increasingly want to understand their consumers better by crunching vast amounts of behavioural data. But they will soon find it hard to find people who can do it.

The data scientist—the job the Harvard Business Review called the sexiest job of the 21st century—is in demand big time in tech hubs across the country.

In fact, over the next three years, between 40,000 and 50,000 data analyst positions in India will go unfilled, according to Gaurav Vohra, founder of Bangalore-based analyst training centre Jigsaw Academy.

“Analytics is not a niche skill anymore. Analytics is going to become as mainstream as management skills,” says Vohra.

Essentially, data analytics boils down to smart marketing. Companies want to make sense of every purchase online and offline, every credit card swipe, every lingering mouse movement when someone browses the internet or stops to read, every tweet, like and share. It’s a vast amount of data and you need trained people to crunch it and also to draw the right inferences.

So who is looking for these data geeks? Practically everyone from the big IT companies striking deals for outsourced data deciphering to banking, insurance, telecom and auto companies who have their own analytics set-ups to give them an edge over competition. E-commerce companies, which generate a lot of data from their online interactions and transactions, have jumped on the bandwagon as well. A study by Analytics India Magazine says shopping website Flipkart does the most data crunching after banking giant ICICI.

The current data analyst workforce in India is roughly 300,000, says Vohra. He expects the market for analytics to grow at least three times over in the next couple of years to anywhere between $5 billion and $10 billion.

The dearth of talent is not restricted to India. In 2011, McKinsey Global Institute estimated that the United States would see a 50-60% shortfall in “deep analytical talent” from its requirement in 2018. Analysts predict the global big data market will touch $50 billion by 2017.

This is seen the next major segment of opportunity for India’s tech outsourcing companies. The success of big data startups such as Mu Sigma, has made everybody pay close attention.

To meet the demand for data analysts, top management schools such as the Indian Institutes of Management and the Indian School of Business have started offering courses in data analytics. A recent salary report by the Jigsaw Academy finds that an entry-level data scientist’s salary has gone up 27% in the last year to more than Rs6 lakh ($10,000) annually. The salary of an analyst who makes it to the post of manager, usually in five years, increases by 250%.