Sramana Mitra: Part of the issue is that India is experiencing this talent crunch as well. How do you see it panning out if there is such scale of growth? This is not low-end talent; we are talking about high-end skill sets.
Venkat Viswanathan: History may not repeat itself. I don’t believe India will be the only source of this kind of innovation. I think China is making the right investments. The only big gap they had in their arsenal was English language skills. They produce very good math and science people, but they only had to make sure they had enough business communication, articulation, and international business skills. A lot of that is falling in place. I think China will as big as, if not bigger than, India. You are going to have a lot of opportunities for talent being hired in Eastern Europe or Latin America. They are near shore and they also have very good local language skills, and they have very good math and science abilities. I see the talent availability as not constrained to India. We would be able to look beyond India and within India.
In the end it is an economics scheme. If there is enough demand, I am sure there are a few entrepreneurs out there right now working on a plan, where they will essentially almost build a finishing school or a layer after university education, where you transform graduates from the point of one-dimensional ability – number crunching or core data skills – to business presentation and the kind of transformation most people in a business environment go through. It is almost as if you go back 25 years, this is what NRIT did for the IT-services business. They were primarily into training. You are going to see some of that innovation happening as well, which will address some of this. What India has in its favor is a demographic dividend. There is enough written about how young the Indian population is. I believe that 25 percent of the world’s workforce in the next five years is in India.
SM: I think there is still a global talent gap we are going to face. All your points are well taken, but the supply is not going to be India alone. It is going to be global. That still raises the question of how the global talent gap in terms of technology-savvy, quantitative and business-savvy talent is going to get groomed. If you look at America today, we have the most advanced university system in the world. It’s a very expensive system. The cost of our education, which is where this kind of skill set gets picked up, is very high.
This topic is getting a tremendous amount of attention right now. This cannot be the cost of education if we have to scale it to a level where tens of millions of people have to be trained in certain skill sets that are going to be in high demand. If it is about the price, it just isn’t a scalable system. This is a question people are asking. In your domain, this question will also be asked. How do you provide this education and this kind of skill set at scale to a large number of people? This is a people thing, not a technology thing. There is going to be technology that will provide the underlying infrastructure, as we talked about in this interview, but there is going to be the need for business analysts who take this information, interpret it, and turn it into a real business-applicable storyboard, as you call it.
VV: I agree with you. Human intelligence cannot be underrated. You can’t get everything done through machines.
SM: I think there is going to be a humongous gap that the world is going to face, which is the lack of talented people who are going to be able to do this.
VV: One aspect that does help though is the aspect in which the U.S. are pioneering in, which is OpenCourseWare. Interestingly, in our facility today we have courses from Stanford and MIT, and we use the videos they make available. We use OpenCourseWare as a mechanism to ensure that some of our people are getting structured training, rather than trying to have our own faculty, put together a curriculum and trying to teach our people, or trying to build a university. That is not our role. I would say we should leverage what is available. We have decided to go down the course of our road.