On May 4th, Beijing Time, the AI talent war is escalating due to the booming trend of generative artificial intelligence. In India, top AI talents can expect to receive double their current salary and a signing bonus of a BMW motorbike.
Following the worldwide popularity of ChatGPT, AI work experience has become highly sought after. Aditya Chopra is a 36-year-old data science specialist working in the AI field. He has been constantly receiving phone calls from recruiters, although he has no intention of finding a new job. Chopra’s friends have seen their salaries increase by 35% to 50% each time they change jobs outside of New Delhi, where Chopra works. “Data and AI talents are indeed in short supply,” he said.
Perhaps more than any other country, India exemplifies the problem of talent shortage. This country of 1.4 billion people has long been regarded as the “logistical department” of the technology industry, the “reinforcements” in any emergency. However, even in the country with the largest population in the world, companies need more data scientists, machine learning experts, and skilled engineers they need.
“The demand for talent cannot be met,” said Rahul Shah, co-founder of headhunting company WalkWater Talent Advisors. “AI cannot be outsourced, and it is the core of the enterprise.”
Doubling Salaries and Gifting BMW Motorcycles
The recruitment situation for AI talents in India is almost absurd. In one hiring that Shah’s firm had just handled, the new employer more than doubled the applicant’s salary. Freedom Dumlao, the CTO of Flexcar, an Indian car rental company, interviewed an engineer. The engineer said a Flexcar competitor offered him a BMW motorcycle as a signing fee. “This is the bottom line I’m not willing to approach,” Dumlao said.
India’s tech industry is built on a large amount of cheap labor. Companies like Tata Consultancy Services pioneered the modern outsourcing model, in which Western companies hire engineers from halfway around the world to handle support, service, and software at a cost that is usually only a fraction of that of local employees. According to industry group Nasscom, more than 5 million people are currently employed in tech services in India.
According to a report released by Nasscom in February, India has the second-largest pool of high-skilled AI, machine learning, and big data talent after the United States. It provides 16% of the global AI talent pool. Furthermore, this makes it one of the top three talent markets, along with the US and China.
There is a critical shortage of AI talent
There is a severe shortage of AI talent despite the seemingly endless labor supply, particularly in critical fields. Nasscom reports that approximately 416,000 people are working in AI and data science in India. But an additional 213,000 are still needed. The company’s report in February stated that “the vacancy rate accounts for around 51% of the current talent pool.” This crisis is seen as a risk to growth, according to the report.
Meanwhile, giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have also established their own businesses in India, employing thousands of locals. In 2004, Google had only five employees in India, and now it has nearly 10,000 employees.
Today, companies of all sizes are trying to figure out how AI will affect their fate. Can ChatGPT predict future demand with newfound accuracy? Will deep learning technology perform better than doctors in medical diagnosis? Can trading algorithms be fine-tuned to the point where financial firms with the most advanced technology push their competitors out of the market?
The situation may get worse. Last year, India added 66 technology innovation centers, known as Global Capability Centers (GCC), bringing the total to nearly 1,600. These GCCs, which used to handle tasks like IT support and customer service, have evolved into internal centers for critical business technology (such as AI). During the first three months of 2023, asset management company AllianceBernstein Holding LP, car rental company Avis Budget Group Inc., entertainment group Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., and aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney joined the ranks of Goldman Sachs Group and Walmart in setting up research and development centers in Bangalore.
“Talent shortages will worsen in the next one to two years,” said Biswajeet Mahapatra, Chief Analyst at Frost & Sullivan.