Bengaluru: Blockchain startups are facing a shortfall of skilled professionals as corporates are tapping the same talent pool with better packages, prompting some small firms to turn to experienced freelancers abroad.
While India has 1,500-2,000 blockchain professionals, only 200-400 are actually skilled in the core architecture, experts said. “With around 1,000 job openings, if only 400 are employable, the mismatch in supply and demand is clear,” said Akshay Aggarwal who runs a community of blockchain enthusiasts.
According to him, building applications can be an easy task for a developer, but building it from the core is a challenge. “You will get a number of developers who can build smart contracts, but to find someone who can start from scratch is where the real issue is,” Aggarwal said.
Alay Mehta, founder of blockchain startup Chainex, said hiring developers with skillsets including token programming, cryptography and full-stack developing is quite difficult. “We later started working with freelancers, mostly from Russia and China,” he said. While experienced freelancers charge from about $20-30 hourly, in India the starting range is $35-40 per hour for the same talent, Mehta said. Smaller projects usually go on for about 60-70 hours, while others take 140-150 hours, he said.
“Many startups from Singapore and Switzerland work similarly with freelancers, which is now catching up here,” Mehta said. A blockchainbased fintech and wealth management startup in Delhi is among other firms working with freelance blockchain professionals over the last couple of months.
Globally, there are around 10,000 skilled professionals in the nascent blockchain industry, suggest the experts.
Many blockchain startups as well as corporates are also training employees in-house, experts said. Hyderabad-based PrimeTrade.ai, for example, has been training its employees for almost a year now. Its founder Sainath Gupta said a regular developer takes around two weeks to learn blockchain coding at a macro level. Similarly Bengaluru-based Intain has also built a team of 40 members through in-house training over a year.
Mahesh Makhija, leader, digital and emerging technology, at EY India, said, there is significant skill gap in this field. “The skill gap exists across all the levels, but is very acute in the solution architecture and senior developer levels —which is why freelancers or training in-house has become common,” he said. “As it is a hot skill and there are a number of large, multi-year projects that governments in India are implementing, there is a huge gap which needs to be filled. Startups largely face the shortfall as they need someone to lay out the product strategy (and) then define the architecture,” Makhija said. “Startups will have to look at ways of retaining such talent.”
Rush to join courses
Edtech firms such as Udacity, Edureka and Coursera have been seeing traction for blockchain courses from across Indian cities. “Initially, we witnessed high traction from IT hubs like Bengaluru, Pune and Hyderabad. But cities like Jaipur and Indore are catching up (now),” said Ishan Gupta, managing director at Udacity India.
People taking up blockchain courses are a combination of fresh talent and mid-senior level employees who are looking to upskill themselves, edtech firms said. There are many dropouts, too, though. IBM, which provides a course on blockchain, had 21,000 people register for its course last year, but only a thousand were certified. This year, 15,000 have started the course, officials said.
Also, those who complete the courses look to work for an IT major or a multinational corporation and are reluctant to join a startup once they acquire blockchain skillsets, experts tracking the space said.
“The early-stage startup ecosystem is so nascent today that a handful of skilled people look for the best package that an MNC like Amazon or Wipro offers,” said Aggarwal. Besides, corporates too prefer to work with experienced professionals. At the same time, several blockchain startups and IT service providers may be working on international blockchain projects, and without having the right talent it becomes difficult for these companies to bag plum projects, said Raghav Gupta, director-India and Asia Pacific at Coursera. He said blockchain talent is seeing increasing demand from IT services, BSFI, startups and government.