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Startups have an upskill task to build & retain talent

The key areas where such upskilling is taking place are machine learning, artificial intelligence, full stack, Internet of Things, blockchain and data science.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 09, 2019, 08.00 AM IST
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Even startups from smaller towns are upskilling their talent to reduce expensive hires and increase output.
Bengaluru: Startups have begun upskilling employees to retain key talent, reduce expensive hires and increase the output of average performers.

This trend, earlier visible among large IT firms struggling to keep senior workforce up to date with newer technologies, has caught on with both unicorns and early-stage startups in metros as well as smaller towns.

The key areas where such upskilling is taking place are machine learning, artificial intelligence, full stack, Internet of Things, blockchain and data science, with startups teaming up with education technology firms like Udacity, Coursera and Great Learning to train staff.

Ecommerce leaders Myntra and Flipkart have tied up with ed-tech firm Udacity to upskill a combined 1,000 employees over a period of one year, while fintech company Bank-Bazaar has teamed up with Coursera to train 400 of its workforce.

“The attitude among employees is changing, and going forward, upskilling will primarily be driven by employees who want to stay relevant,” said Sriram V, chief human resource officer of BankBazaar, adding that the average age of employees undergoing upskilling was 25.

Delhi-based Prakhar Agarwal, an engineering graduate turned cofounder of android app Binge, recently completed the Android Developer Nanodegree programme from Udacity, with a full scholarship from Google and Tata Trusts.

“Based on the skills I acquired, I am today able to handle the technology side of the startup,” said Agarwal, the chief technology officer of Binge, which helps restaurants increase sales through analytics.

“Startups prefer hiring people with an entrepreneurial outlook and problem-solving qualities,” said Raghav Gupta, director (India and Apac) at Coursera, which lets entrepreneurs and individuals take self-learning courses on the platform. “Therefore, the need for upskilling or reskilling after hiring is quite strong in the startup space.”

India had the highest number of individual learners globally, at 60% in 2018, according to Coursera.

While IT companies require deepdive skills in a particular area, startups prefer employees with an overall understanding of technology, business and marketing, Gupta said.

Entrepreneurs too are tapping online courses as they need an array of skills, not just expertise in one technology area. “I signed up for an online course on AI and machine learning for six months while I was working on my startup,” says Prem Panchami, a 22-year industry veteran who has worked with companies such as Microsoft. “Now, I have a much better overall understanding to start on my own.”

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