Artificial intel eating up jobs in e-commerce

Hiring in the e-commerce sector had shrunk last year due to funding and growth issues. Even if the growth returns to the peak levels, the sector does not expect hiring to get back to earlier levels as artificial intelligence and self-learning algorithms are increasing efficiencies in different e-commerce operations, thus reducing the need for manpower.
Take the case of deployment of self-learning algorithms in detecting fraudulent transactions in e-commerce. According to Harsh Shah, co-founder of Fynd, earlier a fixed set of rules was set to flag alerts whenever there was a presumption of fraud.
Hackers and fraudsters constantly update their modes of conducting fraud and the set of rules had to be changed whenever an update was detected.
The self-learning algorithms keep on learning on their own from the updated data and thus reduce the total needed on verifying fraud. “Each time, an alert is flagged about an unusual customer behaviour or transaction we had to check them by making calls. With more efficient system, this has come down by 60 per cent. Earlier, if 20 to 22 per cent of the transactions had to be verified, now it has come down to 3.5 to 4.5 per cent. This has considerably reduced manpower needs. Earlier, if two people manned 100 orders, now they can man 1200 orders” he said.
Similar levels of efficiencies have come in other areas including predicting consumer behavior and buying patterns, optimizing stock levels as per demand, optimizing supply chain etc. “E-commerce companies may not need the kind of manpower anymore even if they get back to their 2014 growth levels. Even in our case, we used to add twice the number of staff for three to four times growth. Now if we grow by 10 times, we can manage with the same manpower,” he added.
Along with efficiencies, e-commerce companies have been able to achieve a similar growth in savings in terms of cost. Apart from these tangible benefits, improved efficiency has intangible advantages of better relationship with customers, vendors, delivery partners and payment service providers.
According to Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO – CIEL HR Services, going ahead hiring in the e-commerce industry will be happening mainly in areas like artificial intelligence, cloud-management, data analytics etc. “For other functions, hiring is almost flat and if at all companies are hiring, they are doing on temporary basis for special sales occasions,” he said. The funding issues and profitability-related concerns had made the sector relook at the way it was doing business to become more prudent and efficient. In a way it has made them explore technology more o save costs.
“Large e-commerce firms used to hire top level talent from within and outside the country for hefty pay packages. This trend has stopped and many such executives also have left the companies. Not just top level, even campus hiring will become more realistic. In the past few years, e-commerce companies were hiring big time from technology and management institutes like IITs and IIMs for attractive pay packages. This too will become more realistic in terms of volume as well as value,”said Sonal Arora, VP, Teamlease.