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    Navigating the AI Revolution: Partho Dasgupta talks about tackling India’s AI Skill Gap Challenge

    “With AI poised to revolutionize virtually every aspect of modern life, the demand for skilled professionals in India has never been more pressing” – Partho Dasgupta

    New Delhi (India), June 6: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming industries and societies across the globe, and India is no exception. As the world’s second-most populous country and a expanding hub of technological innovation, India stands at a pivotal point in its AI journey. The nation’s potential to leverage AI for economic growth and social development is vast, yet significant challenges must be addressed to fully harness this technology. Let’s dive deep into the challenges facing the AI industry with insights from Partho Dasgupta, former CEO of BARC India and currently Managing Partner at Thoth Advisors.

    Where Does India Stand in Its AI Journey?

    India has made considerable strides in its AI journey, positioning itself as a key player in the global AI landscape. Several indicators highlight this progress. According to IndiaAI.gov.in, the AI market size reached $680 million in 2022 and is projected to grow to $3,935.5 million by 2028, with a CAGR of 33.28% between 2023 and 2028. AI expenditure in India saw a 109.6% increase in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 39%, reaching $11,781 million by 2025. Additionally, AI has the potential to contribute nearly $500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

    The Indian government has recognized AI’s transformative potential and launched numerous initiatives to foster AI development, such as the National Strategy for AI by NITI Aayog, which aims to establish India as a global leader in AI by focusing on healthcare, agriculture, education, and smart cities. The country boasts a vibrant AI research community, with numerous universities and institutions dedicated to advancing AI technologies. This collaboration between academic institutions and industry has led to significant innovations and applications across various sectors. Additionally, the Indian startup ecosystem is thriving, with a growing number of AI-focused startups emerging, driving innovation and creating solutions tailored to the unique challenges faced by the Indian population, such as language processing in multiple regional languages and affordable healthcare diagnostics. 

    Despite this impressive progress, India faces several significant challenges that need to be addressed to fully harness the potential of AI. Data privacy and security concerns are paramount, as the increasing reliance on data for AI applications raises issues related to data protection and the potential misuse of sensitive information. 

    Ethical concerns also emerge, particularly in sectors like law enforcement and surveillance, where ensuring transparency, fairness, and the absence of bias in AI systems is critical. Finally, and most importantly, there is a significant skill gap that needs to be bridged to fully realize AI’s potential. Partho Dasgupta believes, “The urgent need for India to tackle the skill gap in AI knowledge is deeply concerning. With increasingly ambitious visions for the future of AI, we must intensify our efforts in upskilling initiatives to adequately prepare our workforce for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”  

    Addressing the Skill Gap

    Bridging the skill gap is essential for India to fully harness the potential of AI. According to a report released by TeamLease Digital on June 21, the industry witnessed over 40,000 job postings during the initial five months of 2023. However, despite robust demand and escalating salaries for these positions, nearly 30% remained vacant. Concurrently, cybersecurity firm Check Point reported a significant surge in cyber-attack incidents in India during 2023. With an average increase of 15% per week, India ranked as the second most targeted country in the Asia Pacific region, following Taiwan. In the same year, Indian organizations encountered an average of 2,138 cyber-attacks weekly, marking a 15% rise from the preceding year.

    Partho Dasgupta states, “Despite the immense demand for AI skills in India, the persistent gap in expertise raises critical questions. With the capability to advance in AI, why we struggle to equip our engineers with the necessary skills to confront emerging threats effectively?” he further adds, “While I have full faith in the capabilities of Indians and acknowledge our contributions to the global tech arena, we must take proactive measures to retain our talent within India. we should focus on building products for the AI market rather than merely providing skilled labor to major companies for product development. Indian tech leadership should pivot towards creating long-term value by developing AI products that can be utilized globally.”

    Despite significant investments in upskilling employees by technology companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Accenture, HCLTech, Microsoft India, and IBM, the active pool of senior AI engineers dedicated to building core AI products and services in India remains relatively small. For instance, Tata Consultancy Services reported training 350,000 employees in AI skills, Infosys claimed that eight out of ten employees are AI-ready, and Accenture aimed to upskill 250,000 employees in AI. 

    Similarly, HCLTech trained 50,000 employees, while Microsoft India plans to skill 2 million people in AI by 2025, and IBM globally committed to training 2 million people in AI by 2026. However, despite these commendable efforts, data from specialist staffing firm Xpheno, accessed by Moneycontrol, indicates that the active pool of senior AI engineers in India engaged in building core AI products and services is less than 2,000. Core AI products and services encompass AI-based applications, tools, and platforms, among others.

    Partho Dasgupta says, “The glaring disparity between the rapid growth of AI aspirations and the lagging skills development is evident. While commendable efforts are being made to address this, I fervently hope that India emerges as a global leader in combating cyber threats. As a rapidly developing economy, the last thing we need is the looming threat of a cyber-attack.”

    India stands at a pivotal point in its AI journey, with immense potential to become a global leader in this transformative technology. The road ahead is challenging, but with a concerted effort from all stakeholders, India can achieve its AI ambitions and pave the way for a brighter future.

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