NEW DELHI: The title has been around for less than a decade, but already ‘data scientist’ is considered to be among the sexiest jobs of the 21st century. In India it is no different.
Data scientists — the term was coined in 2008 by DJ Patil and Jeff Hammerbacher — are a rare species being chased by startups and big technology companies alike for their ability to make sense of large and complex set of information. As a result, their salaries have shot through the roof and poaching is rampant. Take the case of S Anand, the chief data scientist at Hyderabad-based data visualisation and analytics company Gramener, for instance.
He was recently wooed by an ecommerce major with an offer that was hard to refuse. Luckily for his cofounder Naveen Gaddu, he was too passionate about their 50-people startup to leave. “At least one-two of my people get pinged on Linkedin every day on an average. Thankfully, they choose to stay,” said Gaddu, the chief operating officer at Gramener.
The sudden prominence for data scientists highlight how startups and established players now need to comb huge volumes of data for information that is key to the success of an idea or business. Salaries for chief data scientists with over 10 years of experience in mathematics and statistics are regularly touching the Rs 1 crore mark.
Mobile commerce player Paytm is hiring a team of eight data scientists in Canada, paying on an average $250,000 (Rs 1.5 crore) each. “The team will look at the large amount of data we have from different angles. For instance fraud detection, upselling and such,” said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of One97 Communication which owns Paytm. “If a person paid Rs 60-70 lakh is offered Rs 1.2 crore, then no one in the marketplace will touch him for a while,” said Gattu, chief operating officer at Gramener. At least four senior industry professionals said Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and Walmart were among the companies waving fat pay packets at top data scientists.
For ecommerce companies, data scientists who can help them make better sense of their customers needs have become a top priority. “Data is a large asset that is often not used to its full potential in most organisations. There is a huge amount of technology investments that we can make in this area,” said Amod Malviya, the chief technology officer of Flipkart.
The online retailer generates terabytes of data every day and is now building a data science lab that can help them sell better.
“The big technology trend is to make systems intelligent and data is the raw material,” said Malviya, who declined to share specific salaries being offered by Flipkart. A chief data scientist, with about 10-15 years of experience using mathematical and statistical tools, earns about Rs 50 lakh on average annually.