Fundamental problem with Indian IT industry

The biggest problem is that the people who write code at the root level just aren’t interested in programming.

I run an IT services company so I know this by experience.

People who come for interviews for the position of a programmer just aren’t interested in programming! That’s a big deal for me.

A typical interview of a fresh graduate goes like this –

Me: So you want a job of a programmer. Why?
Ans: Because I have done my BE in Computers OR I like programming

Me: OK so you like programming. Tell me about the programs you have written.
Ans: I have written this xyz app during my college project…

I interrupt

Me: Don’t tell me about your “academic” projects. Tell me about any programs you might have written during your spare time.
Ans: Ummm, no I haven’t written any programs apart from my projects..

Me: Why?
Ans: Didn’t get time / Don’t have computer at home / Don’t have .Net/C++/Java at home… / Didn’t get a chance….

Me: Sigh….

Once I asked an aspiring programmer to define who he thinks is a programmer. His answer – “A programmer is someone who creates software as per client’s requirements”
I was like “Okay!!! Does it always have to be for a client?”
The guy replied, “No it can be for internal company requirements as well”
Me: “So it means that a programmer always creates programs when someone asks him to? Can’t a programmer write some program just for himself? Just for fun?”
The guy said “Yeah he can…”
Me: “It’s just that YOU won’t write a program for yourself right?”
Guy: “Yeah I don’t need to”

Sigh……

Creating computer programs is not a job. Majority of the people aspiring to be programmers won’t write a program until they are FORCED to by their college or by their employer. And that is NOT good.

I would say 90% of the people opting for this profession are doing it just because it has easy money. Easy money and a very convenient way of getting out of India.

And when people do something without having a real liking or passion for that thing, it shows up in the quality of the output.

You can teach people syntax of C++ and SQL and PHP. But you can’t really teach people to think creatively. Think of a solution for a problem. And certainly you cant teach someone to love their profession.

A lot of times I read articles about why companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Sun, Apple don’t come from India. This is one of the reasons. Not many Indians who take up IT as a profession love the tech. And those who do end up in the Silicon Valley and help build tech giants there. Yes we do have some small product startups from India but nothing on the level of companies I have mentioned.

And this thing is worrying not just for startups who are trying to build something great but even for IT services companies! Missed delivery dates, buggy code, unhappy clients are all a result of that.

24 thoughts on “Fundamental problem with Indian IT industry”

  1. I completely agree with you. I think the problem is two-fold. Firstly Indian culture puts us into a mentality where the most important thing is to get a job/education that will let us earn a living, irrespective of whether or not we actually WANT to do what it is we’re training for.

    The second is CS education: I think most students simply are never exposed to the joy of programming. To most people it’s simply another way to get good grades. For me (and I think you too) programming is a fun and enriching experience in and of itself. I would (and do) program even if I don’t get paid for it. Of course, I am setting up my life so that I CAN make my living off it. But I’m doing that because I like programming, not the other way around.

    Good job on the blog. Hope to read more.

  2. right and wrong. I am a programmer fron india from a top tier engineering college and now I am a director for a startup in the US. I frequently interview programmers, both local and indians in india where we outsource. I havent run into the situation you described where you meet these dimwits who are in it only for money and are not passionate. The reason is: I have asked my recruiter to find top notch candidates from good schools and I am willing to pay a high salary. You probably were looking for most inexpensive programmers…because after all you as an indian also want to cut costs and make maximum profit (see, I stereotyped you).

    So, do everyone a favor and stop being holier than thou and change the title of the story to “Fundamental problem with 3rd tier indian labor that I can afford in order to keep my margin high”

  3. Indians could have cared less about programming until Americans made IT boom in 1998. After that suddenly every Indian on earth wants to be a programmer. Don’t tell me most Indians only do it for the money…..

  4. You’ve been blogging since 2006 and yet there are only 3 posts marked Programming! Way to be passionate about it!

    Sarcasm aside, I fully agree with you get what you pay for. There are always people below the median and those that are in it just for the money/status/’cauz everyone is doing so/and then some more. If you want quality work there are so many who can deliver it, you just have to give away the pay cheap and get quality thinking. You should also realize that most of those who are good and passionate about programming do not sit out in the open market waiting for an entrepreneur to hire them; it is very likely they are already in rewarding/satisfying positions and even if they change jobs they are not available for long!

  5. Dear Anonymous PassionateProgrammer

    Interesting observation. Only 3 posts about programming, 3 about cats, 4 about gadgets and 4 about reading. And I know I really like all of them. So number of blog posts on a topic certainly doesn’t indicate my “passion” for something. Thanks but I don’t need certificates from anyone about what I like and love.

  6. Dear anonymous kv

    Are you in any way trying to show me off that you can afford to hire the best programmers in the world and I cannot (richer than thou…?)

    Anyway… since you don’t have balls to even reveal your real name I will not ask you embarrassing question like why are you doing your startup from the US even though you are a programmer from India from a top tier engineering college.

  7. I agree with almost everything you have mentioned in your blog and not surprisingly, it IS the reality in most IT firms. I am also of the opinion that as long as the “outsourcing” model is in place which basically is looking for “programmers” “who can write code as per clients’ requirements”, i m afraid we are gonna see an increasing influx of such half-baked “programmers” over time. What India obviously needs in order to re-affirm its status as an IT hub, is a few product companies building ground-breaking products and selling them to the masses. This is exactly the thing that Silicon Valley did in the 1960s with the advent of giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, IBM etc etc and this is exactly the thing India needs to do.

  8. I agree with your blog post!!.. I myself asked almost same set of questions to the programmers who come for game development. Only 1 guy told me that he is passionate about programming and he told me that he has not taken programming just to earn some quick bucks but to prove something that no one has ever proved so far..

    I am a QA guy and I worked with few leading gaming companies in India, so far I have seen only few people take games QA a passion and work with full heart others just come to the office and do some crappy stuffs. Ultimately the company suffers with the end product results and they lose their clients.

    I will definitely point out the management, HR and the person (Interviewer) who is taking these kind of people. They are the major reason behind every success and failure.

  9. Hi Yash,

    Agree with your assessment of how things are at root level. However I disagree with the below

    “why companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Sun, Apple don’t come from India. ”

    Except Apple all the other companies have an engineering presence in India and have know to ship products out of India too. Google has shipped significant parts of Google Finance, News. Cisco Security Group has shipped some apps that are deployed globally alongside there products. Microsoft has work on MS Studio and SQL Server being done from Indian soil.

    There companies typically focus on getting the cream out of good colleges.

  10. Hi Ankur,

    It’s not the question of those companies coming “to” India. It’s a question such companies originating “from” India.

  11. I am not sure whether this is a problem, or whether it is in any way India specific. Most of all you folks have come from an engineering background – those with a non-engineering background can answer how many of their classmates in college were passionate about their own disciplines.

    Yes, it is great to have employees who are passionate about their profession, but it is probably an universal fact that most salaried professionals around the world do what they do for the money and not because they are passionate enough to use their professional skills for their personal benefit. To them there is more to life than coding in their spare time, but whatever they are actually passionate about (watching movies, travelling, sports, etc) won’t make them any money. :) You need code monkeys, they need money to leave cushy lives, it is actually a win-win. For that part of your job reqs which actually demand creativity, exercise more discretion and only recruit passionate techies who will dream about your business problems 24×7.

    Those with passion are likely to be the thought leaders in the profession, and here that would probably support your hypothesis why we don’t yet have world class software products made in India.

  12. Awesome blog & even the comments……..a lot needs to be changed right from the “roots” of the Educational-System , & thus the society at large. Right from our child-hood we are taught/motivated to do something simply bcoz “all” are doing it !!

    Why did u come to Engg ?? Bcoz *all* do .
    Why do u study ?? Bcoz *all* do.
    Why are u appearing for GATE/GRE ?? Bcoz *all* do.
    .
    .
    .
    Why do u live life ?? Bcoz *all* do !!

  13. Yes, I agree. I remember about 7 years ago I hired an office in Bangalore and interviewed loads of Indian C++ programmers over a 2 week period.

    My god, what the must hopeless bunch. Many were complete jokes and I would not have employed them even if they paid me.

    Only one stood out as any good. He never joined, but I kept in touch and he of course is working in Seattle for Microsoft.

    The rest, they are probably churning out crap that is likely to need to be rewritten by a local US or UK guy.

  14. I would reckon this is a personality issue. Ask the potential programmer to take an MBTI Personality test. I would only hire a person with either ENTP or INTP personality

  15. My story is different
    I was interviewed by infosys in my campus in india 4 years ago.
    Hr manager-:why are you in this field.
    Me”: I love computers, and i have passion about this.
    Manager:have you ever worked on any projects?
    me: i have worked many academic projects, and right now i am trying to make a program to find largest prime number available.
    manager:how you are going to do that
    I explained that.
    manager: rather than working on this, try to improve your skills .
    Me: i know that, i need skills and work culture
    Manager:why would i hire you?
    me: Because infosys is software company, and i am a software programmer.
    Manager: how you differentiate yourself from others.
    me: i do not differentiate, i am among others,
    THATS IT.
    And i never got hired by them. (thank god). Now i am in Facebook in usa(almighty)
    I never understand, why a small company like infosys has soo many rounds of interviews.Practical, professional, GD blah blah
    God bless Indians and their cheap companies

  16. I think you’re being too harsh to indian programmers. But i do have one real honest question though. Why is it many of the indian programmers i noticed in free lance websites where i post my projects to be build. Many of them are using “fake” websites and “fake” e commerce website ? is that common in India?

    What i meant is, they give me probably 10-20 websites of blogs, ecommerce. But when i check it up. It’s basically very similar with your ordinary wordpress examples and some even literally just takes some magento examples and put it into his host and then call it as his own work aka he “did it himself”.

    I mean, the amount of low quality websites. I mean, these are damaging to them instead of building their resume, right? or is it common in India to make as many as possible and then put it into their resume and go get a job? Is that the culture in India?

    I am chinese by the way.

  17. Just found this and found it quite interesting. I have had very poor experiences with outsourcing, regardless of what the country is.

    I’ve also found that the phenomenon you mention of people wanting to be developers for the money/career, is prevalent in the industry, everywhere, not just in India.

    Where I come from (Australia), its very rare to find developers who do their job because they love it, and hence who actually care about what they are doing. I’ve also done extensive interviewing and hiring for startups, and found that most people list their University projects under ‘Project Experience’, and its very rare for potential developers to have anything to show you that they hacked around with or built in their spare time – particularly younger guys coming through these days.

    When I was learning the ropes in the mid-90s, me and my mates spent dozens of hours a week hacking together graphics demos, disassembling software to see how it worked, trying to performance optimise stuff and trying to get hardware to do things that it wasn’t thought possible. I’ve found out that in the corporate world such people are so rare, that you most likely won’t get any when you advertise a job.

    Nowadays, I actually see people who have on their CVs things like “Singleton and MVC patterns” in their areas of technical expertise, as if its meant to be impressive. And there are guys who claim they are great developers but who struggle when I ask them to explain two different ways of building a date object set to a specific day. Or who struggle when I ask them to describe a real life project they have worked on when they would get benefits from inheritance – instead they say “A Car and Truck are both Vehicles, but can have different numbers of doors.” Sheesh!

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