Even as adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) grows at a slow pace in India, the nation has turned into one of the world’s largest human talent markets for AI. According to a report published by Microsoft, consultancy firm Bain & Co, and industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), despite accounting for a meagre 1% of the global AI market, the country produces 16% of the entire world’s AI talent pool – the third highest in the world.
The report noted that demand from micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) for AI contractors, coupled with demand for AI and machine learning talent for digital transformation in large organizations, have significantly spiked demand for AI talent in India. However, despite India being a leading hub for AI talent globally, the difference between demand and supply for AI-educated employees is higher than ever before.
The difference was highlighted in another report published on June 23 by industry body, National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), which noted that while demand outpaced supply of AI talent in India by around 14% in 2018, the same difference amounted to 33% last year.
Yet, even though AI adoption in India has grown at a steady pace over the past one year, it still remains an early-stage market. Nasscom’s report stated that even the advanced adopters of AI and automation services across Indian enterprises are at early stages – i.e. they are acquiring AI services from technology companies and deploying across departments for operational efficiencies, and not innovating to build their own services on top of AI platforms.
According to Kashyap Kompella, chief executive of AI industry analysis firm RPA2AI, that India is still a maturing market when it comes to AI, which is why a larger section of the demand for AI talent comes from markets outside the country. “In a market such as the US, there is strong demand for AI talent, which is one of the areas that Indians fulfil,” he said.
This, along with other global markets, is contributing to an uptick of demand for AI talent from India.
This demand is being augmented by early stage AI adopters among enterprises, who are also upskilling existing human resources to fulfil their AI requirements within organizations. Saikat Banerjee, associate partner, technology and cloud services at Bain & Co told Mint, “Organizations today already have individuals who have learnt working on data models and engineering, who are being upskilled to learn to build and develop AI applications for their firms.”
Banerjee also added that the introduction of AI at a university level, as well as the upcoming addition of AI as a study area within schools, could offer a further boost to India’s AI talent pool. However, he added that the impact of these educational courses may not be “exponential”, suggesting that the growth in this sector will depend on how industry opportunities grow in due course.
Kompella elaborated, saying that the route to India becoming a “mature” AI market could span over two decades, and is not an immediate factor to be witnessed. “We have a habit to overestimate a sector’s short-term impacts, and underestimate the long-term impact. Whether the AI industry can replicate what India saw with information technology can only be seen in the long term,” he added.