Databricks doubles down in India with staff hires, new R&D hub

The company, which has a global workforce of 5,000 people, will increase its staff count in India by 50%, a top executive said.

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Data lakehouse provider Databricks is doubling down its investments in India and plans to increase its headcount in India by at least 50% while opening a new research and development (R&D) hub in Bengaluru, a senior company official said.

“We are investing big time in India as it is one of the key markets for the company and therefore we plan to grow our 250-strong workforce in India by at least 50% in 2023,” said Anil Bhasin, vice president of India and South Asia at Databricks.

Currently, the Databricks’ India division, which started operations in 2019, mirrors the global organization in skills and the staff is distributed among divisions such as sales, solutions architecture, delivery, channel focus, customer support, and marketing.

“The increase in headcount will see Databricks India expanding its local team of technical specialists, sales and support engineers, and go-to-market resources to support our customers’ success,” Bhasin said.

Databricks’ strategy to hire more staff in India could be attributed to the country seeing a strong increase in business and engineering activities by global technology firms because of the combination of local market opportunities on the demand side and the availability of technology talent at scale and competitive salaries on the supply side, according to Pareekh Jain, the lead analyst at Pareekh Consulting.

“On the demand side, as India is moving towards a $5 trillion economy, a huge amount of data is generated daily in the public and private sectors. This data must be combined from different sources, organized, and cleaned before making it available for analytics. These are target markets for Databricks and these markets are seeing acceleration due to generative AI,” Jain said.

New R&D center in Bengaluru to support product innovation

In addition to increasing its staff count in India, the company is planning to unveil a new R&D hub in Bengaluru, which will serve as the first such hub in the Asia Pacific and Japan region, the company said, adding that it has five other such hubs in San Francisco, Mountain View, Seattle, Amsterdam, and Berlin.

The R&D hub in Bengaluru will look into product engineering and product innovation, supporting the company’s global offerings, Bhasin said, adding that the 50% increase in the workforce did not include any roles for the R&D hub.

The company is expected to announce more details about hiring for the R&D hub later.

Databricks’ strategy to open an R&D center in India mimics strategies of other global technology firms, according to Jain.

“We have seen that India often becomes the second largest R&D center location for many tech companies, second only to headquarter countries. This is for talent availability at scale and competitive salaries,” Jain said.

The company’s decision to hire new staffers comes when technology and other companies have laid off employees due to waning sales or a weak economic outlook.

The latest job cuts include Cognizant, IBM spin-off Kyndryl, Red Hat, Amazon, Meta, Google, and Accenture.

Databricks, too, earlier in the year, eliminated a few positions in the US.

The proliferation of AI, accelerated by the advancement of generative AI, has also stoked fears of continued layoffs in the industry. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna recently said his company could reduce around 7,800 jobs, mostly back-office roles, with AI in the next five years.  

High interest in Databricks offerings from Indian enterprises

Another reason for Databricks’ investment in India is the interest in its offerings in the country from various sectors such as financial services, retail, e-commerce, healthcare, insurance, and utilities among others, Bhasin said, without giving details about India’s contribution to Databricks’ global revenue.

However, the top executive pointed out that though Databricks started offering its products and services only three years ago, relatively the interest in its offerings was “high”. 

The company’s customers in India include InMobi, Swiggy, Dream11, Air India, MakeMyTrip, Meesho, Narayana Health, Myntra, CRED, and Parle.

Databricks, according to Bhasin, has more than 100 partners in India and has tripled its partnership ecosystem since last year. The company’s key partners include EY, Deloitte, Accenture, Fragmadata, LTI, Tech Mahindra, Infosys, TCS, and Wipro.

On Wednesday, Databricks said it was in the process of acquiring AI-centric data governance platform provider Okera for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition is expected to boost Databricks’ data governance capabilities while training and managing large language models (LLMs), such as the recently released Dolly 2.0.

The company said it has been experiencing nearly 90% year-on-year growth in the Asia Pacific region.

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