Crypto Talent In High Demand As Interest Soars
Behind the rising interest in cryptocurrencies in India is an army of engineers—those making sure that blockchain systems are working well enough to map that Amitabh Bachchan NFT or address any concerns about forgery or hacking.
As the business picks up, the demand for talent has soared.
According to the employment and job listings website Indeed, crypto postings have more than doubled over the past three years. Searches for crypto-related jobs have also risen.
IT industry body Nasscom and crypto exchange WazirX estimate India's total crypto workforce currently consists of about 50,000 professionals. And openings are rising. According to Benguluru-based specialised staffing services firm Xpheno, there were more than 12,000 job openings for crypto talent in India in October 2021.
While engineers working on crypto-related platforms may have much of the same training that other computer engineers do, there are specialised skills which are needed. For instance, protocol engineering is used in the development of distributed systems and is in high demand.
"Protocol engineers are most sought after, followed by senior to mid-level developers. We're also constantly on the lookout for UI and UX designers because a smooth onboarding process is the only way to get crypto ready for the masses," said Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder and COO of Polygon, an Indian blockchain platform.
Blockchain security experts are also in demand because any lapse has severe repercussions, said Nailwal, pointing towards the Poly Network hack of August 2021, which involved the heist of $600 million.
The Polygon team itself has expanded from 25 employees in 2020 to 180 now, with more expected to join in 2021. Just 25% to 30% of the staff is based out of India, while the rest is spread across the US, UK, EU, and Switzerland.
The surge in demand for talent specific to blockchain technology is across markets. A LinkedIn report on demand for crypto talent across the U.S. shows a similar rising trend.
Finding the right people has not been easy.
"It's hard to find hardcore protocol engineers in India, so we have to look outwards. However, things are slowly changing as we see Indian developers gradually adopt Web3 standards," Nailwal said. Web3 refers to decentralised applications which run on blockchain.
The shortage in quality talent has led to an exponential increase in pay, with some companies offering dollar salaries to draw in employees.
Even with just two years of blockchain experience, candidates can command a 50-150% hike in their pay. Is it worth it? I'd say yes. Unlike the service industry, we're building unique products here, in turn generating intellectual property.Anshul Rustaggi, Founder, Totality Corp.
Rustaggi, whose company builds NFT-based gaming platforms, believes that developing Web3 platforms right now is a multi-faceted role.
"Think of it this way — an established services company in Web2 has already figured out all the processes, fallback options, and integrity concerns. The developer just has to follow the standard operating procedures like a pilot," he said. "But with Web3, you're not just the pilot, but also the designer, assembler, and safety parachute. There are no standard operating procedures involved, and there's no guarantee you'll even fly. That risk carries a heavier price tag."
Kaavya Prasad, co-founder and COO, Lumos Labs, a technology consultancy firm agreed.
The average pay rise is in the range of 30-200%, depending on the role, and it's common to see an India-based developer earn $100,000 a year, Prasad said.
Technical roles like smart contracting and network engineering attract the most premium, while pay increases between jobs for junior roles or entry-level roles can range from 20-30%. Companies are also spreading their workforce over geographies.
"The crypto industry never sleeps, and there's something new popping up every hour. So companies prefer to have a distributed workforce spread across time zones, just in case something goes down," Prasad said.
With marquee venture capitalists now backing a host of startups, there's enough money flowing to invest in the right talent.Kaavya Prasad, Co-Founder & COO, Lumos Labs
Certain programming languages are more in demand than others too.
According to Aniket Jindal, co-founder of Biconomy, a blockchain developer platform, engineers proficient in languages such as 'RUST', 'Solidity', 'Golang', 'Python', C, and C++ are among those that are sought after.
It isn't just the engineers who're having all the fun.
Community managers or "evangelists" are the secret sauce of the project because they help drive engagement and provide the support required to get the idea off the ground, said Jindal.
Early adopters usually help drive traffic, but the support stays only if there's a thriving community around the idea.Aniket Jindal, Co-Founder of Biconomy.
As businesses grow, demand for operations and marketing professionals has also risen across crypto platforms.
The only skill required here is an understanding on how crypto and blockchain work; there's no emphasis on certifications or degrees, said Nailwal.
The flipside to the surge in demand for talent is high attrition.
Attrition is high and it's common to see developers and even founders hop from one boat to another in search of the perfect project, said Prasad.
"The junior or mid-level employees look up to their seniors and quickly realise, even they can startup. And they do! The younger folks have a larger risk appetite, and they aren't shy of using it for their advantage," Polygon's Nailwal said.
Talent is retainable only if they believe in the project or company's vision, Rustaggi said. Internships, hackathons, meetups, and even dedicated workshops are being organised by companies to attract Web2 talent.
"If you just try to lure them with money, the relationship will be short-lived. Initially, it was hard to find talent because of the regulatory uncertainties. But after seeing the rise of crypto in 2021, many are now open to shift from Web2 to Web3." Web2 is term used to refer to the internet as we currently know it.