Sunday, November 27, 2005


My two cents worth on the views expressed by Harshad Oak in his articles “Staying Alive in a Software Job” and “Recruiting like crazy”.
Do IT professionals in India have a life?
I think NOT. But this question has many aspects that need to be examined.
As Harshad has pointed out, Indian IT professionals get paid well (are able to maintain a good standard of living), however the pay is less as compared to the time they put in.
Markets in our world work on the supply-demand principle. There seems to be an ever increasing demand for quality technology workers. With markets getting competitive by the day, the cheaper you are able to get these, the better are your chances of survival. This is where India with its huge talent pool comes into picture. We must be mindful of the fact that the IT boom in India is because we are able to satisfy this demand of “low-cost high-quality technology workers”. So we could either carry on the way we are working and continue to attract technology markets or set rigid rules about time-money and indirectly limit the influx of such opportunities. I guess our technology leaders chose the first option, albeit at the expense of the tech. workers.
Harshad mentions negotiating reasonable time frames, but we cannot forget that the outsourcer will opt for some other low cost destination that will provide faster services. (Maybe few years down the line we could face stiff competition from countries in SE Asia or Russia or even Africa for that matter.) So although, I agree with Harshad on the point that we need to put our foot down when it comes to negotiating timelines, I think we need to figure out what would be best for the economy/business and the workers.
Another aspect that I would like to point out is the prevalent work culture in India. In India, working long hours is looked upon as a sure sign of diligence. Here is my take on how this came to be. Males were the working class back in the day. I guess they looked at work as an opportunity to keep away from matters at home and made “working late” a prestige issue. The trend continues today. Unlike Europeans-Americans, Indians have never had the concept of “do-your-8-hours” and then head home to spend time with your family or pursue other interests. In short, we as workers are equally responsible for the situation we are in. Hopefully, IT professionals will realize that they need to find and maintain that work-life balance and will try to bring about that change. Until this realization comes from within things will remain the same!
A thought to chew on - Are people dissatisfied with the nature of their work? If not maybe it is just that we need to ensure that people receive remuneration for the time and effort that they put in.
Harshad says that not much “Innovation” is being carried out in the Indian IT shops and attributes it to the work environment. I beg to differ.
I am not very sure what Harshad means by “Innovation”. Is it something that is the result of work done in R&D labs?
To me software development is an inherently creative activity. Of course there might be some processes or tasks in the software development life cycle that are repeatable and can be die-cast, but overall the creation of a new application or service is a task that requires creativity and innovation.
Also not everybody is cut for research oriented work and we need to respect and value that.
Again, we cannot forget that the Indian IT industry is simply doing the job of completing the jobs outsourced to them and these might not be jobs that involve doing R&D. (However if you look at MNCs that have opened their shops in India (Global Engineering Centers or Design and Engineering Centers) they do have a fair amount of R&D work going on which is of course being done by Indians.)
Some food for thought – “Is our education system making dumb workers instead of scientists/thinkers?”
Our education system focuses more on theory than practical. With majority of the Indian engineering graduates joining the IT Industry, do they ever get a flavour of what “research” is? I do not doubt the potential of our talent pool. We have it in us; that explains the thesis presented by Indian students in various fields in universities abroad and the many patents granted to Indians working abroad. How are we going to encourage and retain the scientists among us? Are we always going to wait for Westerners to carry out research for us?
What troubles me is imagining the state of the Indian IT industry say 10 years from now. Will it still be in the Bullish phase? What state would we be in were some new destinations to crop up on the “Outsourcing Map”? What then would be our strategy for survival? Is it time that we started building some core competency rather than being content with being the world’s most sought after outsourcing destination??

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