Where have all the Indian developers gone?

There are thousands of job openings in Indian software companies, yet there are ten times that many unemployed qualified Indians out there. So how come they aren’t being recruited? The answer is pretty simple – they are just not good enough! Everyone just blindly opts for a Computer Science under-graduate degree, without bothering to think if they are suitable for that sort of thing, whether they have the proper aptitude for it, or even if they are actually interested enough!

But then, India must have some good developers, mustn’t she? Yep, there are thousands of really high quality developers in India. But none (or very few) of them are available for a job-change because they are all well-placed and are happy with their jobs. Most of them would have moved to the US, UK or Canada for a higher pay-level and standard of living, while others are paid obscene levels of money to keep them in India. In fact, even those developers who have less than 2 years of professional experience will only work for companies that will send them to the US on on-site project work, that way the extra USD they get will add up to their Indian salaries (which are considerably lower).

So how do small Indian companies get good developers to work for them? Well, most of them don’t, and have to settle for second-best which is usually not such a good experience for the company. The others just give up, or keep looking endlessly for that elusive quality candidate. My cousin works for a German company’s India office and just last night, he was bitterly complaining how it’s so hard to get a good candidate. I told him to double the pay offer and to offer a joining bonus, and if he is really lucky, they might get one decent candidate.

So, if you are an Indian coder and you are any good, chances are good that you are either in the US or UK, or earning a near US salary in India! And if you are an American company looking to outsource work to India, be aware that, unless you pay at least 40-60% of a regular US-salary, you are not going to get the best among Indian coders. Of course, if you just need a dozen VB6 people to drag/drop a few forms, then it’s alright. But if you are looking for the really good guys, you know what to do.

I thought I’d make this post because of all the posts I see on online forums where westerners generalize all Indians as crappy programmers who get jobs because they come cheap. Truth is that the outsourcing units just get the cheapest Indians, because they cannot afford the good ones or because the good ones are all on H1Bs or Green Cards in the USA.

Just remember that programming is something some can do and some cannot! It’s not dependent on your country of origin, your race, blood group, sexual preference or anything like that. Good coders are good coders, wherever they come from. Don Box would have been just as good a coder if he had been Dileep Box or Don Chang, wouldn’t he? Or hey, take me for instance, I’d be just as annoying a brat had I been Chinese or Canadian or Mexican, wouldn’t I? And you’d all still have to put up with my crazy postings 😉


26 thoughts on “Where have all the Indian developers gone?

  1. I think what you say does hold a whole lot of reality. I just remember one friend of mine who
    had completed 3 years hotel management course asking my opinion on joining the “e-commerce”
    course at a near by computer institute. This industry is now bogged down with non computer
    enthusiasts, whose whole purpose of being here is make money. And the result of what is that
    you have explained quite neatly above.

  2. Dont feel bad Nish.

    I think its everywere, the fact that many people who get into computers because
    it looks “cool”.

    India may have a big problem there beacuse “you” are so many (Indians), and by percentage
    India must have many programmers.

    But even in small countrys like Portugal, we have the same problem. You see, most
    programmers cant get good money for their work because their is so many people that dont
    belong in this business.

    And to make it even worst, it seems that they come out of an assembly line nowdays.

    Oh well!

  3. True. I agree that the best option to have is excellent developers what are passionate about technology and are very capable but having 350K since and engineering graduates a year is not bad at all. Eventually the quality of teaching, and resources in universities will improve.
    Turnover rate is very high in India. 20-30% turnover per year is normal for high tech companies. That affects the quality of the work produced and it is something to be conscious about.
    I work for Microsoft india development center and I can attest for how hard it is to hire quality people in India. Good ones demand US level salaries. I am collecting a bunch of best practices for outsourcing and working with Remote teams here http://mswiki.com/wiki/Software_Development_with_Remote_Teams.
    Feel free to add your comments.

  4. hey nish……

    i got to see ur posting thro your friend……. it is the reality that u have projected…..
    we all put up with nonsense jus for money to improve our life sytle……… great going….
    only tech enthusiast shud be here to survive…….. they will handle pressure with ease…..
    important is to have job satisfaction……….

    good job……

  5. Actually the problem is, now a days fresh graduates are hired by big companies directly from the engineering
    colleges and putting in to a project,
    they are merely doing some small part of that most of the times some drag and drop stuffs and they
    think thats the real programming. they didnt know the pains of real programming.
    yesterday when i was in the coffe room one gyu- who may have almost 1.5 yrs of experience,
    told to some one” if they can’t put me in to that project , just gimme a onsite chance”!!!!!!!!!!!!

    and one of the project manager says “the onsite requirement gathering ppl doesnt doing anything for
    past 3 months”!!!!..ppl are very lazy. they didnt know the pains and efforts of the ppl really make
    these things happen. i knew it very well that we struggled to get a project or a good client..!!!
    yes..indian programmers in FOOL’s PARADISE !!!!!!!

  6. I partially agree and disagree with renjith… But actually they learn better way to programming there. Me started with very small company. Though I know little bit programming working with them, but never able understand the whole process, I have designed many software (They are working fine till now), But if open UML diagram for it it must be very confusing for me.

    Similarly, BIG Company hires person who are little strong at theory but gods knows, they know ABC of programming or not. So I believe if anybody looking for good
    Coder, better ask him to write two three program of your choice that will tell he/she knows coding or not, as reading book and giving interview is very easy.

  7. Hey Nish,

    Nice one, yes, finding a good developer in India is finding the best among the rest.

    I have been interviewing ppl for my organisation and yes, it is really tough to get atleast a person with average knowledge of C/C++.

  8. Hi Guys!
    Everybody in this world knows about these problems and moreover its not only in either INDIA or CHINA or UKRAINE but its world wide. Anywhere you go you would find the same trend and its not only in IT industry but also in other industries. Wherever people see the growth, they dive to grab a pie. Thats human nature and its very much natural.
    Do we not have the same problem either in US or UK? There are so many such people in US and UK, who does not either have the interest or the background to be in IT industry but they are.

    The point is, its not about any society or culture or country rather its about human nature.
    Everybody sees the problem and expresses the same but very few come with solution.

    Its very natural either for the people of INDIA or other developing countries to run after the money coz…everybody needs it. There are no good & EASY paying opportunities in other industries therefore human beings will target “IT”. But its upto the organizations to filter and decide what they need.


  9. Hey Nish,

    I liked your post. A couple comments.
    1. I think salaries in India don’t have to be 40-60%. I think they need to be closer to 25-40% if you want to demand great developers b/c it’s really buying power and starndard of life people are looking at.

    2. I don’t think most corporations know what a great developer is. This is specifically true for non-tech companies; non-tech companies that hire developers to develop in-house applications. They think a developer is a developer (which is absolutely false) and look at the bottom line vs. hiring a solid developer that is worth, in my experience and opinion, a lot more than 3-5 mediocre developers. Anyone can write for loops and if-then statements; not everyone, however, can design and develop high quality software.

    It’s this ignorance and short-sighted approach to hiring talent and building applications that leads to non-tech companies investing a lot more money in development and technology in the longer run. I wrote along these lines (much more broadly) at http://blogs.msdn.com/arpans/archive/2005/12/25/507337.aspx

  10. Hey Nishu,

    Excelent Saying..I do Agree with you…in some what points. Like Praveen said “It’s not only
    in India, problem is spread World Wide. its not only in IT industry but also in other industries. Wherever people see the growth, they dive to grab a pie. Thats human nature and its very much natural.”

    And yet it’s a problem in USA too..Where IT and Non-IT leave together make one deal.

    Keep the Enjoyable Article coming Nish,


  11. Hi Nish,
    I just partially agree with your views. As far as salary is concerned yes Indian are paid
    less as compared to their US/UK counter parts. But we should also judge the salary according
    to the living cost of each city/country. I used to work in an MNC in Bangalore -India, and
    could hardly save anything after my expenses and monthly bills. Now I have moved to UK and
    despite of the fact that the crap work I do in UK I get paid more and save more.
    Another fact to mention is sometimes big MNCs need average kind of programmers. Even if we
    have the capability and ideas to design/upgrade the system better we are not allowed to do
    it.Indian techies sometimes are expected to do only average kind of work. Which is sometimes

  12. Hi,

    I wont accept such a statement.There are Very good Indian developers instead of their
    poor salary working too hard and being well versed in hell a lot of technologies.Its not a
    matter of money but its only the thirst for knowledge which thrives them to the core of
    technology.It is a real fact that it will be a reward for them if they got a decent salary
    hike based on their performance.If u really really want to hire good Indian developers just
    change ur style of recruiting. Dont set stupid criterias such as people having arrears should
    not attend the screening test etc.If you really want good developers u just opt for people
    who are very good in aptitude and in interview u just ask questions in area what u r really
    interested in and what type of talents u really want.Thats it. Dont blame about Indian

  13. Hi Nish

    I thinks u said so because you are well place ..there are many indian who are well qualified
    and and still in a search of job.It is not that they are not good enough but it is because
    they didn’t get the opertunity.No one come here with knowing everything in advance…

  14. Hi,
    Nish i agree and disagree on few things..
    One of my friend is into electrical engg in a govt job and his company gives theee years
    break and he is planning to take it to go for a soft job and make some quick money by going
    abroad through the software job. he doesnt have any inclination towards software.
    Many times major companies in india are just going for mcas and BE holders and to my
    knowledge, many of them are just very poor in quality and they crack the interviews based
    on some internet help on interviews. One of the site provides the questions asked in many
    of these major companies. So questions are always similar and I think we have that
    ability to make use of that kind of knowledge. Many of the undergraduates who could not afford
    the further education due to poverty are so bright and best but just their educational
    background is becoming a big barrier fot them to reach where they should belong. Manytimes
    in india its very hard to get what you want to do, there are social, family problems many
    times people pull your legs and prevent you from doing what you want. Sometimes jealousy in the
    company prevents a lot of them to climb the ladder of success. Just friendship and contacts
    prevail. Still i believe indians are bright and hard working and eager to learn and work
    even though staying in such poor infrastructure, may be just for their personal gain.
    Thats why they are getting so much attention in software now. Everybody is noticing them that
    too in 50 years from independance. I think good people should not discourage themselves. they should work hard
    towards their goal as next 20 years will be the different place here. And they will soon
    get noticed. New generation is certainly better and with different and better mind set.
    Sometimes just staying abroad just dont give you correct picture of india. Just come here
    stay for one year and you will come to know, whats up here (which happened in my case)
    Any way i like to say india is best , indians are improving and after 10 years you will see
    real power of indians.

  15. There are not many people who get into developing from the day the see a computer even though they might have the aptitude for coding. They get stuck in comfort zones like friends, music, television, etc. Its only when they are on a job that they get to hone those skills and then they join the league of experienced guys who are beyond the reach of small companies. The right way to go would be to spot these talents and then take them in to train them to our specifications by putting them on a task and guided by an experienced guy. They are held in Lifestyle and Deadline trances so that they dont get time to think salary or for that matter work.

    But that you cannot do unless you have an experienced team in the first place. Looking around for such an affordable and reliable team can be really nerve wracking. It has all the elements of dirty HR , like bargaining as if we were at Chor Bazar, canceling contracts at the last minute, using current offer letters to get a better bargain, forging salary certificates, etc.

    All this happens when people who have been trained via the former route sometimes are stuck at places on account of contract obligations or work pressure which robs them of career ambitions are abysmally low sums of money. Companies guard access to these employees zealously and when they start thinking about a career shift, that will be when they are starved to the point of getting greedy and losing the love for work, however good that is as well as any sort of ethics they had. These people were so much taken advantage of that they are almost shylockish with the next guy whom they approach.

    The solution might lie in a central employee database and fixed period contracts which can be called off only after a hearing by a retired judges’ panel and cannot be settled monetarily or have to be a mutual thing.. The advantage is that companies can plan properly and people start taking contracts more seriously and not resort of cut throat bargaining. Prices shall fall when cheaper labour enters the market. For the employee , he escapes exploitation at unscrupulous hands.

  16. Yes it’s very true that companies getting the required talent is becoming difficult.
    But i have also observed one thing that makes me feel that Indian software companies themselves are responsible for this situtation.

    First reason being , though the big top notch software companies set high expectation from the candidates and expect a real hard core techie guy, when it comes to the actual work they do it’s truly and purely a dumb work.
    And this work doesn’t actually require that much high talented individuals, but still they look out for them

    And even if they get a high talented people, what happenes in the due course is…even a talented guy slowly starts to become dumb because of the dumb work that that he has been doing.
    This happens because most of the indian companies do the outsources work. And lot of work that gets outsoured from US are the remains of the actual good work.

    I have observed one very very big technology with high pay(wouldn’t take the name)) in this case. They have two offices one in US and few in India. But when i compared the work within the company itself, i found the US work being too good and challenging, whereas the Indian teams here were struggling to get good work and thus have become just any other dumb people sitting in a big technical company.

    So i think the HR should first do a check on what’s the quality of work that they are doing, and then try to get the suitable quality of people.

  17. Good point Nish. The real fact is that, people are becoming too lazy to code, more of
    Googling stuff and its not surprising to me when I find in interview, that a person with 2 years experience
    doesnt know how to create a connection object in .NET.

    They go ahead and join other companies with decent salaries which even a geek could not
    have imagined 3-4 years ago.

    Do you really think big companies want real techies. No. All they want is, people who
    can pass some silly client interviews, people who have all the software terminologies in
    their tongue (ownership, commitment, deliverable etc.,) and little bit of coding.

    Big companies want clients, business and money and as far as they are able to make it, they
    dont bother what kind of people work for them.

  18. I am an Indian coder, and I am in India now. I havent moved to US or UK despite a few opportunities. To think that I am good or bad, just becuase I am in India or in UK/US throws a reasoning difficult to digest. Not that I could not be “bad” – I may well be, but somewhere is the point missing that people can have several reasons for the choice of a geographical location. Down the line, at some point, earnings trade off with other factors. Or dont they?

    That would form a different line of discussion.
    Casting out that digressions, I’d say that apart from just that, I guess most of what nish said is true. There is simply a flood of unqualified or at times, semi-qualified people who would ideally take years to train into something better, but arent given that many years at all. BIG companies (resuing what some one already said) tend to focus on money and targets and schedules. Nothing else is a perspective which unfortunately comes at the cost of the employee who develops the attitude of somehow getting an answer instead of deliberating on how good the answer is.

    Good Candidates, with an insight about what BIG companies do, dont join the BIG companies. They have lots of better choices and the choices also choose them with ample ease.
    Good Candidates, without much of a fore planning or ambition, are exposed to some kind of guile. Misconceptions get cleared later on, but by which time its too late.

    Every other candidate is perhaps just about too happy to get into the BIG company.

    And the BIG company, does get to use them all ! At really reasonable price. Those who could have learnt much into life, get squashed somewhere in this run.

    Harish had some straight points – Bull Eye.. I’d say.

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