Focus More On Conceptual Knowledge To Be A Successful Data Scientist, Advises Prof Dinesh K Of IIM-B

Our next interaction in the series of interviews for analytics hiring scenario in India is with Professor U Dinesh Kumar, Chairperson, Analytics Lab at IIM-B, and faculty in the Decision Sciences and Information Systems (DSIS) area at IIM Bangalore. IIM Bangalore has been a pioneer in providing analytics courses to freshers as well as working professionals to gain a strong foothold in areas like analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science, among others.

Analytics India Magazine: How does the analytics hiring scenario in Indian companies look?

Dinesh Kumar: The trend is obviously increasing with many recruiting senior management positions in analytics. Having said that, it is still behind western countries. For example, In 2016 MIT Sloan management review reported that 54 percent of Fortune 1000 companies had Chief Data Office, but the corresponding number in India is much lower. This may be due to the fact that the number of analytics projects in India is still lower compared to western markets. However, with the government policies to use AI in many government initiatives, this could change.

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AIM: What are the skill sets that companies are mostly looking at while hiring analytics and AI talent?

DK: At a lower level, it is business intelligence skills such as reporting, dashboard creation. This skill still forms the majority of recruiting by the Indian companies. At the higher level of AI, it is natural language processing (NLP) and other forms of unstructured data analysis such as image processing using deep learning algorithms lead the hiring trend. Data Strategy Officers becoming common among many companies.

AIM: The talent gap is often a talking point in the industry. How could it be bridged?

DK: As a country, we need talent at various levels of analytics knowledge:

  1. Data preparation, processing and reporting skills – The required talent for this level of skill can be met through in-house training programs and online courses. We need to create a lot of small duration training programs to address this.
  2. Advanced analytics skills that require knowledge of statistical learning and machine learning. Demand gap for this talent should be bridged through formal education programs offered by educational institutions and professional training institutions.
  3. Chief Data Officer Skills which combines level 2 skills along with business acumen which will require close collaboration between industry and academia.

AIM: What are the various initiatives that companies and educational organizations can take to set the right analytics talent flow?

DK: There should be close interaction between academia and industry. Many academic institutions are still teaching statistics in the name of analytics. There is no doubt that statistics knowledge important, but it is only one aspect of analytics. Data Scientists should become problems solvers, rather than back-office workers. That means, they need to understand business and domain related issued. There should be co-creation of training material by academia and industry in the form of cases studies, white papers etc. Events such as conference, symposium and masterclass will enable dissemination across the analytics community.

AIM: How is IIM-B contributing towards building analytics talent?

DK: IIM-B is one of the first Institutes in India to start the certificate program in Business Analytics and Intelligence (BAI) in 2010. IIM0-B has two long-duration programs in Analytics and Big Data Analytics and several short duration programs such as Machine Learning, Digital and Social Media Analytics, Healthcare Analytics, Deep Learning and so on.

To disseminate knowledge IIM-B conducts annual conferences in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in December. Symposium on Business Analytics and Intelligence during the month of June where real-life applications of analytics shared and several masterclasses in which a specific application of analytics is discussed.

IIM-B published more than 30 case studies at the Harvard Business Publishing case portal on use of analytics by Indian and Multinational companies such as Akshaya Patra, Apollo, Bigbasket, Flipkart, Hewlett Packard, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, iD Fresh Food, Larsen and Toubro, Reliance Retail, Vmware and so on. These cases were used by more than 220 Universities from 73 countries in 2017 including Ivy league schools such as MIT and Columbia University.

AIM: What are the various courses offered in analytics by the institution?

DK: Some of the key courses offered in analytics by IIM-B are:

  • Certificate Program in Business Analytics and Intelligence
  • Certificate Program in Big Data Analytics
  • Short duration program in Business Analytics: The Science of Data-Driven Decision Making
  • Short Duration Program in Digital and Social Media Analytics
  • Short Duration Program in Machine Learning with Business Applications
  • Short Duration Program in Healthcare Analytics
  • Workshop on Machine Learning using Python
  • Workshop on Machine Learning using R
  • Workshop on Deep Learning

AIM: What are the challenges in the current education system that stops that growth of analytics talent?

DK: Access to quality teaching material is a major hurdle. There is a huge demand for quality teachers as well. IIM-B is conducting several faculty development programs to train the trainer.

AIM: What is your advice for an analytics professional who wishes to carve a career in analytics industry?

DK: Focus and understand statistical learning, machine learning and artificial intelligence concepts. Many spend too much time on technologies such as R, Python, Hadoop and so on. The technologies are important, but you cannot become a successful data scientist if your conceptual knowledge is weak.

AIM: Would you like to add anything?

DK: India has a great potential to excel in the field of analytics, Indian Analytics industry can become change agent like how IT industry changed the Indian society. But, we should get our analytics strategy right.

Srishti Deoras
Srishti currently works as Associate Editor at Analytics India Magazine. When not covering the analytics news, editing and writing articles, she could be found reading or capturing thoughts into pictures.

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