Online retail industry shops for tech talent

Swetha Kannan |T. E. Raja Simhan | | Updated on: Mar 12, 2018

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Apart from programmers to maintain the back-end and payment gateway, online retailers need people to run applications such as mobile apps and virtual fitting rooms that make shopping a convenient experience.

After working for 15 years in various technology start-ups and biggies such as Yahoo!, 44-year-old Shamik Sharma joined the online retail industry last year as Myntra’s chief technology and products officer. Retail was a new industry to him, he admits, but the big draw was that technology is a crucial part of the online retail world.

The e-tailing industry is not only attracting senior executives such as Sharma looking for a change in career opportunities, but also steadily wooing young engineering and technical talent.

Says Srikanth Sridhar, a computer science engineer working with an e-commerce start-up: “The compensation was competitive, if not more. More importantly, I get to work in an energetic ideas-driven environment.”

Engineers such as Sridhar are mining data from consumers’ shopping habits – data that can be used to enhance the shopping experience on the Web. There is now a steady demand for technical talent such as his and this is slated to grow as the nascent e-tailing industry gets bigger.

E. Balaji, CEO, Randstad, an HR consulting firm, says hiring in the e-commerce space is likely to increase by 20 per cent in the next couple of years, spurred by the demand for developers and data analysts. GlobalHunt, an executive search firm, is witnessing a 40 per cent growth in tech jobs in online retail, according to Sunil Goel, Managing Director.  

Appealing work culture

“Senior executives are attracted by the good compensation and ESOPs. Middle management professionals are excited by the exposure to modern retailing. This sector carries the perception of a good working environment and a vibrant culture. Hence, it attracts talent at the entry level as well,” says Balaji.

A report by retail consultancy firm Technopak says the industry employs around 23,500. Logistics and warehousing, the backbone of online retail, account for a chunk of these jobs; technology contributes a few thousand people. But this is poised to grow to 3 lakh by 2021, when the total industry’s employment will touch 14.5 lakh.

Apart from programmers to maintain the back-end and payment gateway, online retailers need people to run applications such as mobile apps and virtual fitting rooms which make shopping a convenient experience. Also in demand are those who can sift through tonnes of ‘big data’ to arrive at useful insights for proactive customer targeting and promotions.

Roles for specialists

“Today, founders are doubling up as operations, technical and marketing heads. As start-ups move to the next big league, they will need people across domains and technology is a crucial piece. Roles such as CTO, which are not so common in this industry, will emerge strongly in the future,” says Pragya Singh, Associate Director – Retail, Technopak.

Three years ago, it wasn’t easy for Myntra to get good talent from tech colleges. But now, it gets a Day One slot during campus placements at the IITs.

“We also get good, experienced talent from product companies,” says Myntra’s Sharma, who heads a team of 75 in Bangalore. The convenient thing is talent need not reside in-house, says Arun Sirdeshmukh, founder, Fashionara. Fashionara’s in-house tech team is 12-people strong but it also has specialists across Chicago, Malaysia, Ukraine and Argentina.

Published on May 31, 2013
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