Data Science in India: meeting requirements, not just budgets

Could Data Science be the tech skill that puts India in a position of unqualified leadership?
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor on

Recently, I became familiar with a data analytics company, LatentView, based in India.  The site's "Talk to Us" page lists offices in Princeton, NJ and San Jose, CA before its facilities in Chennai and Mumbai. But LatentView's promo video, "Confessions of a Serial Analyst," features the company's headquarters country, with pride.  I found that refreshing.

It struck me that educational values and approaches in India might make Data Science skill sets there more abundant than in the U.S. and other developed countries.  Perhaps Data Science will help India transcend the stigma/typecast of a tech talent center that is merely lower in cost.

I asked LatentView's Manager of Marketing, Melissa Thermidor, herself an American living in India, about my theory.  She confirmed my hunch and, in this guest post, expounds on the subject.

India’s education culture is benefitting Data Science, and the country is producing Data Analytics professionals that compete not just on relative cost, but on absolute talent.

Culture and workforce needs align
Education is considered the fourth necessity after food, clothing and shelter. However, in today’s competitive world, and especially in a country like India with a ballooning population of over 1.2 billion, education at times is given a higher precedence than those other three necessities. India has always been at the forefront of Mathematics and Science. The concepts of arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry, spherical trigonometry, and continued fractions have been constant since the time of Aryabhatta.

This fascination – and at times borderline obsession – in India towards mathematics has continued to this day, and math is still the most preferred and sought after subject in schools and universities. India produces hundreds of thousands of graduates in the fields of science and mathematics every year and this number is on the rise.

An emerging economy, and emerging partnerships
The Indian economy is now amongst the largest in the world, and is still experiencing rapid growth. From the hub of the IT services sector, the shift is now toward making India an engine for knowledge-based services, with Data Analytics foremost among them.

This is evident in universities in India, in collaboration with some of the top schools across the globe. These partnerships have introduced a wide range of courses relating to Statistics and Data Analytics, helping to produce graduates capable of combatting the shortage of available manpower in Data Science. A representative example of this is the top-tier Indian Institute of Management - Lucknow teaming up with the US-based Kelley School of Business, to provide courses completely focused around Data Analytics.  Other Indian universities are following suit and forming overseas partnerships to offer courses focused around Big Data and Data Analytics

Data decoded.
Data, especially Big Data, is key to decision making and companies worldwide are starting to value this in their business. However, the mere volume of data is not the issue that organizations face today. It is the unstructured nature of the data and the challenge in extracting business value from it that is beyond the reach of traditional enterprise tools and business practices.

According to a McKinsey study, the US alone faces a deficit of 140,000-190,000 data scientists against a projected demand of 440,000-490,000 by 2018. A shortage of the analytical and managerial talent necessary to make the most of Big Data is a significant and pressing challenge and one that companies need to address.  Keeping this in mind, many Fortune 500 firms have already started to leverage India and its Data Science professionals to competitive advantage.

Power in numbers
There are a whopping 600,000 students of science and mathematics in India graduating every year. In total, India sees more than 2.3 million university graduates and nearly 750,000 post-graduates every year, and it is not uncommon to find people in the talent pool with two Master’s degrees. India’s younger demographic constitutes nearly 70% of the country’s total population. That’s a lot of brain power, which puts India in good stead to take on Big Data.

Destination, not detour
While many US firms were initially hesitant to work with an offshore provider, sourcing to India is no longer a taboo. But some are still skeptical about shifting work geographically for lower costs.

For Data Science, India is not simply a cheaper alternative; it’s a go-to market for talent that can’t be found elsewhere. LatentView Analytics stands as a prime example: we specialize in the area of Data Analytics, have a vast and impressive clientele and have a substantial team of Data Science specialists. And Data Science is not a boys-only club, either: one third of our team is female.

Data Science and Big Data may mark a turning point for India and, most likely, other countries where mathematics education is heavily emphasized.  Ultimately, markets that stress education in addition to technology innovation will be well-positioned.  India's proving that today.

Editorial standards