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AI, Data Science Expected to Lead Stronger Hiring in ’24

Hiring Outlook for 2024: Tech Roles Driving Growth in Key Sectors

Source: Economic Times (January 5, 2024), Survey by Foundit (formerly Monster)

Layman’s Analysis

The job market in India is expected to rebound with an estimated 8.3% growth in hiring for 2024, marking a recovery from the 5% decline observed in the previous year. This growth is primarily driven by the demand for technology roles, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and cybersecurity, across various sectors. Key industries such as manufacturing, banking and financial services, automotive, retail, and tourism are anticipated to actively recruit.

This surge in demand reflects the adaptation to the post-pandemic era, with a focus on digitization and continued remote working models. Companies are prioritizing sustainability practices and specialized skill-building to align with evolving trends. Niche fractional hiring is gaining popularity for increased agility, and signs of a turnaround emerged in late 2023, setting the stage for more confident expansion plans.

AI, Data Science Expected to Lead Stronger Hiring in ’24

Impact on Investors

For retail investors, the positive hiring trend directly benefits IT services firms supporting the digital priorities of global enterprises. Frontline tech majors like TCS, Infosys, and HCL Tech, along with mid-tier firms, are likely to see increased stock prices due to higher deal wins and organic growth. Automation, cloud migration, and cybersecurity solution providers are also expected to experience stronger traction.

Indirectly, the revival in demand in manufacturing, auto, and banking industries positively impacts sentiment. This benefits durables, capital goods, and financial services firms, though global recession risks remain a concern. In industries like retail, tourism, and hospitality, domestic recovery after COVID contributes to employment growth, but concerns arise from global consumer weakness.

While the overall job creation at 8% levels signals growth, investors should correlate labor data with macroeconomic figures such as capacity utilization and corporate earnings to confirm fundamental backing. Stock prices may experience volatility if there is a disconnect in the data.

Impact on Industries

The projected 8% hiring growth for 2024 brings relief to both services and goods sectors, with positive implications for Indian IT majors. Elevated demand for digital skills results in higher fresher intake, promotions, and retention spends, albeit with escalating margin pressures from rising manpower costs.

Improved sentiment is observed in infrastructure, manufacturing, and allied engineering sectors, benefiting from growth signals after past stalled projects. The automotive sector also benefits, though export viability remains tied to global economic risks.

The BFSI sector experiences an uptick in hiring driven by the return of credit growth, digital financial services, and efforts to increase insurance penetration. The tourism sector’s focus remains domestic due to global discretionary weakness. Overall, lateral hiring demand surges for emerging digital domains, while fresh graduate absorption remains judicious.

Sectors like renewables and electrification recruit for green economy goals amid a focus on energy security. Supply chain reskilling to address new age skill gaps continues across industries.

Long-Term View (5-10 years)

Over the next 5-10 years, India’s favorable demographics, rising consumption power, and policy thrust on self-reliance are expected to contribute positively to job creation. Digitization and formalization will catalyze hiring across fragmented sectors like retail, bringing about quality employment. Emerging digital verticals like online gaming and Web 3.0 are likely to gain a share in the internet economy, boosting hiring over time.

Incremental technology adoption in legacy industries like manufacturing aids productivity, reducing high labor intensity and improving global competitiveness. Lifelong learning across blue-collar roles gains momentum from aggregator and edtech tools democratization.

Growth in sectors like healthcare, biopharma, and agritech significantly expands quality employment as service penetration and innovation increase. Stable policy direction and incentives help attract talent to research and academia, addressing concerns about brain drain overseas.

While the overall robust hiring outlook is sustained, economic stability, skill development, and female workforce participation remain crucial to balance positives.

Short-Term View (6-12 months)

In the next 6-12 months, hiring momentum is expected to gather pace across technology and allied infrastructure industries as enterprise deal wins translate into manpower demand. IT services majors are likely to accelerate campus intake and seek lateral profiles in digital, cloud, and cybersecurity.

Manufacturing, automotive, and ancillary sectors anticipate growth stabilization after past COVID disruptions, renewing recruitment efforts. However, persistent global consumer demand risks from inflation and recession impacts temper optimism.

The banking and financial services sector anticipates a revival in credit appetite, signaling lending growth recovery. Insurers boost agent hiring with distribution expansion, but caution is needed due to margins pressure from rising rates and risks of NPAs.

Retail and travel sectors may experience measured hiring activity, relying on seasonal temporary staff due to lingering urban discretionary weakness. The rural sector, however, shows signs of bottoming out from farm sector policy focus.

Government sectors like railways and infrastructure continue strategic hiring drives with a focus on skill development programs matching industry needs.

Companies Impacted by Increased Hiring in AI, Data Science, etc.:

Indian Companies Potentially Gaining:

  • IT Services Companies: (e.g., Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro): Strong demand for AI, data science, and cybersecurity talent could benefit IT services companies by increasing project opportunities and client demand for these skillsets.
  • Technology Startups: Startups focusing on AI, data science, and cybersecurity solutions will be well-positioned to attract talent and secure funding, potentially boosting their growth and valuation.
  • Educational Institutions: Universities and institutes offering data science, AI, and cybersecurity programs could see increased enrollment and demand for their courses.
  • Professional Training Providers: Companies offering training programs in relevant skills like AI, machine learning, and data analytics could experience higher demand and revenue growth.

Indian Companies Potentially Losing:

  • Traditional Consulting Firms: Increased focus on AI and data-driven solutions could shift client budgets away from traditional consulting services, potentially impacting some firms’ revenue streams.
  • Companies with Limited Technology Adoption: Businesses lagging in technology adoption might struggle to attract and retain talent and compete with those leveraging AI and data science advancements.

Global Companies:

  • Multinational Technology Companies: (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Amazon): Global tech giants with strong expertise in AI and data science could further solidify their lead and attract top talent from India.
  • Global Consulting Firms: Large international consulting firms with established practices in AI and data analytics could benefit from increased demand for these services across geographies.

Market Sentiment:

  • Short-term: Positive for companies in the IT services, tech startup, education, and professional training sectors. Potential uncertainty for traditional consulting firms and companies lagging in technology adoption.
  • Long-term: The rising demand for AI, data science, and cybersecurity skills could drive long-term growth in these sectors, impacting the wider technology landscape and potentially reshaping business models across industries.
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