According to a US department of statistics report, demand for data scientists and data engineers is projected to grow around 40 percent by 2020. However, lack of talent in this space is likely to pose a bottleneck for companies to boost their revenue and small and start-up companies, in particular, will have to face a hard time competing with global majors.

In the US alone, the department estimates a shortage of around 150,000 people with data science skills, as of now. Whereas India has less than 10% of the data scientists that are available globally and thus, no wonder Data scientists and front-end developers were the roles that received the maximum remuneration increases in Indian startups in 2017, according to report by Belong.

This shortage is creating a situation where IT service players are losing contracts due to inadequate numbers on their rolls.

"Data scientists are the backbone of any service offerings based on IoT (the internet of things), Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence. Any company with a higher number of data scientists will always have more competence (in the digital services space)," said Pareekh Jain, an independent IT outsourcing advisor.

He says many service providers' sales pitch is based on the number of data scientists they have, since clients inquire about their strength in this space before awarding a contract.

With gradual shrinkage of their legacy business, Indian IT service players are increasingly looking at raising the contribution of digital revenue. It is now 25-30 per cent of overall revenue at the 'big four' — Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, HCL.

To bridge the skill gap, Indian firms are investing in employees to train them in data science. "Most vendors are making investments in ramping-up capacity here, as that is where they see the next wave of client demands coming from," says Iyengar of Ovum Research.

For instance, Wipro is training staffers through its newly launched School of Decision Sciences, in new-age skills focusing on analytics and business insights.

"Foreseeing the sharp spike in the demand for data scientists, we have also invested in platforms like Topcoder," said Pallab Kumar Deb, vice-president. Topcoder is a crowdsourcing marketplace for designers, developers and data scientists.

Just two months back, thought leaders and leading industry practitioners in India from analytics and AI have together formed the Association of Data Scientists in India (ADaSci) - a nonprofit organisation for professionals working in the field of data science, analytics, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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