Indian developers catch Silicon Valley fever

Indian developers catch Silicon Valley fever

Summary: The software development market in India is booming. Look in the jobs section of a newspaper or drive down any major road and it's obvious this country is educating, developing and hiring a huge, skilled workforce.

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The software development market in India is booming. Look in the jobs section of a newspaper or drive down any major road and it's obvious this country is educating, developing and hiring a huge, skilled workforce.

India's tech sector is growing at a phenomenal rate. Corporations such as Microsoft recognised this trend more than a decade ago and started building development teams in towns such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and more recently, Pune.

Intel's Sudhir Setty admits that what first kicked off India's software development industry was the abundance of cheap labour, but now he says times have changed.

"We came to India about 10 years ago, obviously the two drivers then were cost and availability of skills. Now, from 2000 to 2010, cost is something we don't even really talk about ... it is the skills availability which is still driving us to grow in India.

"I really don't want to tell 'mother Intel' to come to India for cost [savings] ... Intel needs to come in and invest in India because you find the skills, the people here are innovative and they are technical leaders," said Setty.

I asked him if there was a risk India would price itself out of the market.

"There is always that risk and we always watch it. We see how fast we are progressing against the other emerging markets: Brazil, Russia and China, but the [availability of] English speakers is still very much in favour of India. You can't go to another country and find this kind of skills base," he said.

However, Shekhar Ranjankar from Unitop Chemicals, which runs an almost entirely Linux shop, said it was still difficult to source and retain staff with specialist open-source skills, especially in big cities such as Mumbai.

"It's not that easy to get the Linux guys in Mumbai compared to other cities like Pune and Bangalore," said Ranjankar.

One reason, the panel agreed, was loyalty among skilled staff is a rare commodity.

"Today, suppose a Linux techie has started his career, after three or four years he will have very good experience, so then he will go and work with some MNC [multi-national corporation]. You will not find the same guy here for a very long period," said Ranjankar.

Vijay Pradash from the Project Management Institute, said Silicon Valley has previously experienced similar problems.

"This is what Silicon Valley was like; there was high attrition even then because there were so many opportunities. [Employees would think] 'I'm going to do the ladder thing. I'm going to go and get a 10 per cent raise and then two years later, I'll get 20 per cent ... eventually it will settle down. It becomes a more mature job market," added Pradash.

This problem of recruiting and, more importantly, retaining skilled staff will be familiar to chief information officers the world over. In India, where the majority of people live in extreme poverty, companies can expect rivals to regularly try and lure away quality employees with offers of more money.

Indian companies need to seriously look at alternative benefits, such as subsidised housing, better working conditions and clear career paths in order to keep hold of their most valuable assets.

Topics: IT Priorities, Software Development, India, IT Employment

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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