Chennai is fast gaining ground as the analytics hub of India.
The beauty of digital technologies lies in their “democratic” character. Any entity that invests in them and carves out a differentiated niche goes on to command significant mindshare and marketshare, and gain other outsized benefits such as employment at scale, crowdsourced investments and collective brand identity. While this is especially true for countries and clusters — like Israel being synonymous with cybersecurity, China with artificial intelligence, and Eastern Europe with digital engineering — companies aren’t far behind, be it EPAM leading in digital engineering or Accenture dominating the cybersecurity arena. Interestingly, this trend is now playing out at the city level as well. A case in point is Chennai, which is fast gaining ground as the analytics hub of India.
Arguably, Chennai has a conducive ecosystem for that — multi-service IT companies providing analytics and AI solutions at scale, pure-play analytics companies, global capability centres (GCCs) with a significant focus on analytics, a large number of higher educational institutions offering data science and business analytics programmes, and the state government setting the tone as a power user of analytics through the Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA). The capabilities built to date cut across all four areas of analytics — descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive.
Companies of All Hues
For decades, while multi-service IT services companies in the city such as TCS, Cognizant, Accenture, Infosys, Capgemini, Wipro, DXC, LTIMindtree, TechMahindra and Indium have provided broad and deep data and analytics solutions to clients, pure-play analytics companies such as LatentView Analytics, Tiger Analytics, Crayon Data and Ganit are today supporting global and regional clients in analytics and AI from Chennai.
In addition, prominent GCCs of large multinationals such as Ford, Barclays, Standard Chartered, Walmart, Caterpillar, AstraZeneca, Neilsen IQ and Kapitus have either set up exclusive data analytics hubs in the city or built deep capabilities in various areas of analytics. One good example is Ford, which has set up its Ford Data Insight and Analytics Centre in the city with more than 500 data scientists.
Specialised, Industry-Aligned Analytics
Traditionally, most companies in India focused on horizontal analytics solutions such as sales and marketing analytics, customer experience analytics and people analytics for clients across industries. But with industry-specific problems needing data-driven solutions, many analytics firms — headquartered in Chennai and outside — are now making a beeline to tap into the city’s rich domain capability across industries such as financial services, manufacturing, consumer goods, transportation, healthcare and life sciences. This is driving robust growth for companies providing analytics at the intersection of industries such as fraud and risk analytics, health analytics, supply chain analytics, geospatial analytics, device analytics, and so on.
This deep domain knowledge across several industries has also spawned a number of opportunities in specialised sub-industries. Examples include Sports Mechanics that is augmenting sports performance and entertainment experience by offering analytics-as-a-service, Planys Technologies that is facilitating underwater asset inspections across maritime, infrastructure and energy sectors through marine robotics and intelligent data analytics, and Waycool which is aiding agri-commerce effectiveness through a phygital supply chain built using AI and machine learning technologies.
Unmatched Throughput From Educational Institutions
While Tamil Nadu has historically been in the top quadrant in higher education rankings in the country, the 2022 ranking by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) has reinforced the state’s numero uno position with a high number of engineering colleges from the state figuring among the Top 100 or Top 200. Scores of these institutions have built upon the state’s robust STEM foundation by making decision sciences an integral part of the curriculum. It is estimated that the higher education institutions in the state — across engineering, science and management — today produce over 50,000 graduates every year with credentials or specialisation in data science.
Educational institutions in Chennai took the lead in curating specialised programmes in analytics more than 10-15 years ago. IFMR Graduate School of Business pioneered a quantitative finance/financial analytics programme almost 15 years ago. Great Lakes Institute of Management pioneered a programme in business analytics more than a decade ago. IIT Madras recently launched a four-year, online Bachelor of Science programme in data science that’s being pursued by more than 12,000 students. And Chennai Mathematical Institute’s Master of Science programme in data science which was launched a few years back has become a benchmark for many institutions in India.
Over 100,000 Decision-Science Professionals
Thanks to Tamil Nadu’s long years of investment in STEM education, and the broad and deep analytics capabilities of companies in the state, it is estimated that more than 100,000 data engineers, modellers, architects and machine learning engineers are working with Chennai-based companies. If harnessed well, this enviable foundation could prove to be the biggest opportunity for the state to establish itself as the analytics capital of India, and perhaps the world!
Ramkumar Ramamoorthy is former CMD, Cognizant India, and Partner, Catalincs, a tech advisory firm. Views are personal and do not represent the stand of this publication.