Never has data been this important. With hyper-digitisation taking over our lives, there is a need to scour through gigabytes of information, analyse them and convert them to a usable format. Which is why big data and analytics have emerged as the hottest new domains in the world of technology internationally. According to Harvard Business Review, the role of a data scientist is the ‘sexiest job of the 21st century’. In India too, the demand for data scientists, data visualisers, managers and analysts is surging. Nasscom (National association of software and services companies) projects that India will need about 150,000 to 250,000 analytics professionals for domestic and international operations by 2022.
What is big data
Amitabh Lahiri, president, career building solutions, NIIT Ltd, says, “Big data is basically data sets that are too large or complex to analyse using traditional methods. Researchers today use big data to predict trends and patterns in order to make decisions. A large amount of new data is created every single minute, hence data analytics skills are no longer just an extension of the IT professionals, but are becoming increasingly important for all businesses.”
Big data also played a huge role in this year’s general elections in India which saw political parties like the BJP, for instance, make use of data analytics in a big way. Dr Iadh Ounis, a reader in the School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, says, “Big data played a part in the last presidential elections. Besides, Google Traffic also uses crowd-sourced data from mobile phones to provide real-time information on road congestion in 50 countries; the Royal Bank of Scotland uses big data to assist in fraud detection.”
Roles and prospects
KS Viswanathan, vice president, industry initiatives, Nasscom, explains, “Data scientists must have deep analytical skills. Data hygienists are also in demand and their job is to ensure that the data is clean. Other roles include those of data analysts, data visualisers etc. The highest salaries in this domain are paid to data scientists. A data scientist in the US, with say, ten years of relevant experience, can easily earn about US$400,000, while data reporters and visualisers there make about US$100,000.”
In India, fresh engineering graduates entering the field start off at Rs. 25,000 upwards a month, he says. Lahiri adds that salaries at the entry level have witnessed a hike of 27% since 2013 and that the sector will continue to offer lucrative salaries and career opportunities to young professionals.
As per a report by Jigsaw Academy, data analysts earn thrice the amount they start off with, in a span of five years, and there is a 250% jump in salary when one moves from an entry-level data analyst to the role of a manager.
With big data becoming an integral part of the functioning of big organisations, it is important for students to learn more about it. Iadh Ounis says, “Recently, Indian investors, Amit and Arihant Patni, were reported to be planning to raise about US$40m ( Rs. 253 crore) to invest solely in companies that provide big data analytics to customers in the US.”
There is a dire need for more qualified people in the field of big data and analytics - something that experts see as a big challenge.
Viswanathan says that companies are no longer looking for people with engineering backgrounds. “Big data and analytics call for a deep understanding of technology, commerce, mathematics, statistics, economics and econometrics. So students from any of these backgrounds who have a penchant for technology can thrive in such work environments,” he says.