India’s engineers are not pulling their weight
Artificial intelligence is being counted among the hottest startup sectors in India this year, but the highly specialised space is struggling to grow due to the lack of a primary input: engineers.
Lack of knowledge
“Forget getting people of our choice, we don’t even get applications when we advertise for positions for our AI team,” said 25-year-old Tushar Chhabra, co-founder of Cron Systems, which builds internet of things-related solutions for the defence sector. “It’s as if people are scared of the words ‘artificial intelligence.’ They start freaking out when we ask them questions about AI.” India has over 170 startups focused purely on AI, which have together raised over $36 million. The sector has received validation from marquee investors like Sequoia Capital , Kalaari Capital , and business icon Ratan Tata . But entrepreneurs are struggling to expand due to a shortage of engineers with skills related to robotics, machine learning, analytics, and automation.
People are a start up’s real potential
Racetrack.ai co-founders Subrat Parida and Navneet Gupta said that around 40% of their working time is spent searching for the right talent. The organisation, which operates out of Bengaluru, has built an AI-driven communication bot called Marvin. “People are the core strength of a startup,” Parida, also the CEO, told Quartz . “So hiring for a startup is very challenging. We are not looking for the regular tech talent and, since AI is a relatively new field in India, you don’t get people with past experience in working on those technologies.” Only 4% of AI professionals in India have actually worked on cutting-edge technologies like deep learning and neural networks, which are the key ingredients for building advanced AI-related solutions, according to recruitment startup Belong, which often helps its clients discover and recruit AI professionals.
Different focus at universities
Also, many such companies require candidates with PhD degrees in AI-related technologies, which is rare in India. While it takes a company just a month to find a good app developer, it could take up to three months to fill up a position in the AI space, said Harishankaran K, co-founder and CTO of HackerRank, which helps companies hire tech talent through coding challenges. India is among the top countries in terms of the number of engineers graduating every year. But the engineering talent here has traditionally been largely focused on IT and not research and innovation […]