The Curious Case Of India's Tech Talent

Did you know there exists a global study where five of the top ten spots are filled by India? You heard that right! A 2014 LinkedIn study tracked the movement of tech talent across the globe and found that Bangalore grows tech talent faster than other city in the world. Thanks to a burgeoning base of startups, Bangalore has stepped out of the shadow of its widely-used "Silicon Valley of India" sobriquet and leapfrogged the US as a beehive of tech talent. Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Gurgaon followed the leader closely on the list. Though it is hardly a surprise to anybody anymore, these findings re-affirm that India is home to the biggest pool of technology talent.

Despite this abundance of talent, Indian companies, especially startups, are still clamoring for coders to meet their fast-paced business needs. They claim that a shortage of skilled workers in the industry has resulted in skyrocketing wages and put a dampener on expansion plans. At first blush, none of it adds up; how can one explain the dearth of tech talent in the mother ship despite it still being the hub of technology services outsourcing? Well, much ink has been spilled on the debate and as you would have observed, the ecosystem is divided on the verdict.

Have we thrown in the towel too early?

Here's our take - There's enough of tech talent to go around, and excellent ones at that. So, it may be premature to write this quest off as a wild goose chase. It is true that great developers with superior skill sets and a great cultural fit to the organization are rare to come by. Having said that, we must not be hasty to think of them as unicorns. Perhaps we need to redefine "tech talent" altogether.

During my time at HackerEarth, I have come to believe that if you expect to harvest the best tech talent and retain them, you will have to veer off the beaten path.

1. Look in uncanny places

One of the lesser-known reasons that the best talent in the business is still untapped is the heavy emphasis on pedigree. Without undermining the importance of formal education, we can safely say that it is no longer the deal-breaker it once used to be. Today, the technology industry collectively struggles with filling up positions fast enough to deliver projects that make a real business impact. The only programmers who can live up to that expectation are those that have hands-on experience rather than just a Computer Science or Information Technology degree from a premier institute.

India spews a whopping 1.5 million engineers annually but 20-33% of them are struggling to get placed. As a result, they often they end up in jobs they are over-qualified for. The scenario is naturally more challenging for students from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Clearly, traditional campus recruitment do them little justice; the process is in dire need of a face-lift. The best-kept secrets of tech talent are no longer hidden only in paper-and-pen resumes and job portals. From our experience, we have seen that apart from social media and anecdotal referrals, students from small towns often emerge as winners on online hiring platforms that test their expertise vis-a-vis their peers with more sophisticated backgrounds. Coding bootcamps and hackathons are not only fun and collaborative; they are unconventional platforms that are turning the spotlight on skill rather than merely on educational qualifications. Through this gamification of sorts, companies are equipped with rich analytics and intelligent ranking and better poised to make hiring decisions based on merit.

2. Fix the gender gap

Although India witnesses a higher influx of female talent in the technology ecosystem than its counterpart in Silicon Valley, we still have miles to go. According to a 2015 report by McKinsey & Co., India has the greatest shot at a substantial incremental GDP opportunity if gender parity is achieved. This could mean an increase of 16% in the country's GDP by 2025. Today, 30% of engineering graduates in the country are women and even the best of them shy away from technology entrepreneurship. The time has come for companies to cast their nets wider, identify women with great technical prowess and nurture them to become the leaders of tomorrow.

3. Find the sweet spot

Gone are the days when every candidate was satisfied with a well-defined career path and satisfactory increments in their salaries. In the quest for tech talent, recruiters can no longer be Procrustean in their approach. A little bit of research into their motivators goes a long way in finding that "sweet spot" which gives creates a win-win situation for both. Studies now show that each class of applicants puts different perks on top of their priority lists. For instance, men are shown to be drawn toward excellent compensation and benefits, challenging work, and good organizational culture. Women, on the other hand, prefer a good work-life balance, cordial relationships with peers, and flexible work arrangements. In short, the talent you consciously pursue is the talent you will get.

Conclusion

It may seem expensive in the short-term, but the "right" people are a worthy investment that is sure to give businesses an edge in a competitive market. The way we see it, the buck must not stop there. The Indian tech market is witnessing exponential growth and the need of the hour is a disruption in the recruitment scenario. One of the challenges we see in the goal of bridging the talent gap is the lack of scalability. The technology sector in the country is fairly young and the higher rungs of the career ladder are feeling the pinch. The way forward is to encourage and nurture the new breed of tech talent for years to come. Who knows, someday the needles won't be too deep in the haystack.

If addressing the lack of women is a top priority for your organization, then come and be a part of HackerEarth's International Women's Hackathon 2017.

About the Author

Raghu Mohan
Raghu is an engineering grad handles Marketing at HackerEarth. Prior to this, he was an editor at YourStory.com. When he’s not working, you can find him at the nearest music shop having a jam session.
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