Deep technology companies and start-ups dealing in Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, robotics, material science, and biotechnology have slowly been increasing in numbers in Kerala's IT sector in recent years, with companies dealing in sectors ranging from law to education, marking a gradual shift in the nature of technology firms in Kerala from IT services to innovation. However, the lack of enough trained graduates remains a problem, according to experts in the field.
Kennedys Kognitive Computing Private Limited, based in Technopark, employs machine learning, AI and blockchain mainly in the legal sector for smart insurance claim management and for paperless legal operations. The company, which started with a small team in 2017, was acquired by U.K.-based Kennedys to exclusively develop innovative projects for their legal and insurance work. The company has a young team here consisting of data scientists, machine language engineers, and front-end and back-end developers.
Not just programming
"Most of those employed in this still emerging sector are recent graduates. We have been recruiting freshers, mainly data scientists and python developers, and providing them training before deploying them in projects. Deep technology companies require not just programming knowledge, but innovation too. But, unlike the IT services sector, the growth in this is not exponential and hence there won't be mass recruitments. Most of the emerging companies are related to data, while old companies are also transforming," says Tony Joseph, CEO of Kennedys Kognitive.
Techvantage, based in Technopark, set up 11 years ago, concentrated on basic analytics work in the first five years, but has been slowly shifting to AI, machine language and natural language processing in the past six years. A key intervention was in the agriculture sector with the development of an AI-based application for uniquely identifying cattle for insurance claims, for which the company used an ensemble of deep learning models.
Gap in academics
“Because we have a strong IT ecosystem, especially in the three IT parks, start-ups are emerging, but we still have to address the gaps in academics, in which deep technology has to be stressed. The gap between campuses and industry has to be reduced. Companies still depend more on those who have come through finishing schools and put efforts by themselves to study new technology. Our company had to develop a training system to train new graduates as well as for cross training of those who working in other technologies. Not everyone can work in data science, as it needs a foundation in mathematics and also an understanding of the business,” says Deviprasad Thrivikraman, CEO of TechVantage Analytics.
Deepu S. Nath, Convenor of GTech Academia and Technology Focus group(ATFG) and Managing Director of Faya India, says that a mindset of continuous learning has to be ingrained in the graduates for them to be successful in such emerging sectors. Since 2013, Faya has been organising a monthly event titled Faya:80 as informal technology hangout platform in three cities in Kerala to discuss the latest technologies. As part of the GTech Focus group, he has been anchoring MuLearn, an industry-enabled digital platform for peer learning to nurture students with necessary expertise in the IT industry from their college days.
According to Technopark CEO John M. Thomas, the deep technology sector is bound to witness major growth in the coming years, going by the trend of several start-ups which have emerged recently. The Digital University Kerala has been focussing much on the sector, however, much more needs to be done to make graduates from the State’s campuses industry-ready.