Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Networking skills need of the hour

There is an urgent need to address the shortfall in networking professionals if India is to sustain the ICT revolution, writes Ranajoy Punja

THE advent of globalisation, Indiaís prowess in information technology and a strong education system are bringing about an Information Communications Technology (ICT) revolution. The signs are everywhere. The phenomenal rate of mobile adoption, increased ICT investments by enterprises for competing effectively, small and medium business investing in ICT to become suppliers to global MNCs and state governments looking to bridge the socio-economic disparity and providing effective citizens centric services are some examples.

All of these are having an unprecedented impact on the economic development of the country. Interestingly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Looking ahead, Gartner predicts that the Indian ICT spends will surpass US$54.8 billion by 2008, and achieve a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 19 per cent. With this growth comes the challenge of growing shortfall of networking professionals in the country.

Work profile

Networking forms the backbone of the ICT revolution. A networking professional can be defined as a person capable of installing, configuring and troubleshooting network devices for Internet and server connectivity. This would include planning the basic wired infrastructure to support Network Traffic and monitoring network performance and isolating failures

While there has been a growth in the number of IT professionals in India, there is an increasing shortfall of skilled networking professionals. This is likely to have a detrimental effect on ICT adoption across all sectors in the future. The industry and the government need to work together to address this shortfall and sustain the ICT revolution that will take India into the next phase of economic growth and development.

Letís take a look at some of the sectors that are driving the demand for networking professionals and reasons for it.

Growth of e-governance

There is increased focus on e-governance under the National e-Governance Action Plan (NEGAP). As per the plan, State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) have been identified as part of the core infrastructure for supporting these e-governance initiatives and the Department of IT (DIT) has earmarked a significant outlay for supporting this activity which will cover the entire cost of establishment, operation and maintenance of state-based WANs. The next few years will see a lot of state governments invest in building SWANs that will be the backbone for delivering e-governance.


During the course of 2004-05, the ITES/BPO sector in India witnessed a growth of 44.5 per cent to reach USD 5.2 billion. The ITES-BPO segment contributes nearly 30 per cent of the total IT-ITES exports from India and is expected to clock revenues of USD 7.3 billion in the 2005-06 financial year. Besides, a new breed of high-end knowledge based BPO, called Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), has also emerged on the scene. Areas with significant latent potential for KPO in India include healthcare (pharma and biotechnology), legal support (intellectual property Ė R&D) and the entertainment sector (animation and graphics). Networking technologies will form the fundamental foundation for growth in all these areas.

BFSI beckons

The Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI) sector has traditionally been a high IT spender and contributed 22 per cent of the total IT spends India during the course of 2004-05. This amounted to totaled USD 1.63 billion. As banks move on to the next stage of automation and operate in a more global framework, this vertical is expected to see a substantial increase in spends on IT and networking technologies.

Call of telecom

In April 2005, India crossed the figure of 100 million in terms of number of phone lines, thereby becoming the fifth- largest telecom network in the world. As of end October, 2005, Indiaís teledensity (fixed and mobile combined) stood at over 10 per cent and is expected to reach a level of 25 per cent by 2010. Add to this the fast rollout of broadband networks by operators to provide triple play services. All of these highlight the growing demand for networking professionals to deploy, maintain and run these telecom networks.

Retail route

A.T. Kearney has identified India as the second most attractive retail destination from among 30 emerging markets (October 2004 FDI Investment Confidence Index). Although estimates may vary, AT Kearney estimated it to be USD 90.25 billion. Further, projected investments in this sector have been slated as being between USD 451.23 million and 564.04 million in the next two-three years and over USD 4.51 billion by 2010. With the government contemplating measures to open up the sector through phased FDI, one can expect a boom in Indian retail Ė which will also see a greater role of networking technology and applications.

Having identified the key sectors that will drive demand for networking professionals, letís look at the shortfall and how itís likely to increase.

Shortage of talent

A recent report by e-value serve suggests that the current demand for networking professionals in India stands over 2 lakh. However, only 1,40,000 are currently available indicating a deficit of more than 50,000 professionals. This deficit is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.64 per cent till 2010. In short, this current demand-supply gap is expected to widen further, posing serious concerns for the growth of BFSI, telecom and BPO/ITES verticals in the country. The BFSI, which currently accounts for 20 per cent of the total demand networking professionals, is expected to witness an additional demand of over 41,000 networking professionals during 2005-10, driven by regulatory compliance. The telecom sector, which currently accounts for around 16 per cent of the total demand of networking professionals, is expected to witness an increasing adoption of disruptive technologies creating an additional demand of over 75,000 professionals during 2005-10. The BPO/ITES is the segment that will witness the highest growth in the demand for networking professionals, growing at a CAGR of 35 per cent during the period 2005-10. Due to an increase in technology adoption, the demand for networking professionals in the retail sector is also expected to increase considerably.

Training talk

The institutes that offer courses in networking in north India are:

  • Canadian Institute for International Studies, Mohali

  • Chitkara Institute of Engg and Technology, Chandigarh Highway

  • Dr Ambedkar Regional Engineering College, Jalandhar

  • Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Engineering College, Fatehgarh Sahib

  • D.A.V. Institute of Engineering & Technology, Jalandhar

  • Giani Zail Singh College Of Engineering. & Technology - Bhatinda

  • Malout Institute Of Management And Information Technology, Malout

  • Shaheed Bhagat Singh College of Engineering and Technology, Ferozepore

  • Ansal Institute of Technology, Gurgaon

There is an urgent need to address this shortfall in networking professionals if India is to sustain the ICT revolution.. It is imperative that we re-look at the prevalent education system and the technical curriculum being taught at our universities. It is also important that the industry and the government collaborate to address this shortfall.

The writer is VP-Marketing, Cisco Systems, India and SAARC