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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Monday, November 07, 2005

IT Industry – The Great Indian Labour Shortage

The practical reality is that anyone in India who can spell Java already has a job.

This statement in BusinessWeek BlogWatch caught my eye. Code Craft is a blog run by Kevin Barnes, an expat working in the IT industry in Bangalore. Kevin has written a detailed post about the practical problems he is facing in recruiting quality coders / programmers. Any magazines / newspaper worth its salt has written elaborate articles about the steady stream flow of quality engineering graduates in India. But it looks like the situation on the ground is slightly different. Is the Indian IT party over?

I didn't move to Bangalore because someone made me. I dropped out of business school and moved to Bangalore with my wife and two kids because I had the opportunity to come and help build a team here and because it was something I wanted to do.

The biggest myth is that India is chock full of highly trained and unemployed engineers that are practically begging to do your work.

The practical reality is that anyone in India who can spell Java already has a job. When we were first doing interviews I remember one particular period of time when there were two of us doing interviews continuously for two weeks straight without finding a single candidate worth bringing back for a second round. Admittedly I can be a tough (and technical) interviewer, but I've literally interviewed thousands of people over my 18 years in the industry and I've never had a tougher stretch. It reminded me of the internet boom years when everyone who had ever been a system administrator was suddenly a programmer and when you did find someone really good they wanted 3% of the company and a signing bonus. The only difference is that the current Indian market is ten times more difficult.

Ultimately we were forced only to interview people from the elite schools of India (IITs and the former RECs) in order to find a sufficiently high percentage of reasonably solid candidates to be able to wade our way out of the sea of me-too “engineers.” Even with this approach our hit rate for finding good engineers was much lower than I would have expected. It's not that good candidates don't exist from other schools it's just that you have to interview too many bad candidates to find the really good ones.

The problem is most emphatically NOT that Indians are bad engineers. I have hired some truly great (world class) engineers here, but they are very hard to pick out from the sea of less than stellar candidates.

The problem is purely economic. The demand has outstripped the supply for good engineers and as a result people who have no love for code (or even any like for it) have rushed in to fill the gap.

12 Comments:

  • "The practical reality is that anyone in India who can spell Java already has a job."

    Wow! That was exactly the situation in the US a few years ago. You didn't even need to spell it; you just had to say that you knew you could :)

    By Blogger Tired Immigrant, at 9:38 AM  

  • It is basically the quality of the Engg. colleges which churn out so many BEs in the last couple of years.. and the mismatch of Demand&Supply situation.. which has led to this state...as Kevin had mentioned.

    By Blogger Ram.C, at 10:30 AM  

  • Need one say more??

    By Anonymous Anthony, at 12:42 PM  

  • "The problem is purely economic. The demand has outstripped the supply for good engineers and as a result people who have no love for code (or even any like for it) have rushed in to fill the gap."

    That says it all.

    Kaps apparam when you have time check out my new audio blog thanks

    By Blogger Ganesh, at 12:52 AM  

  • Reminds me of the dot-com days. The Tier 2 colleges have to raise their standards.

    By Blogger Cogito, at 9:24 AM  

  • Kaps

    Kevin is absolutely right.. There is lot of supply but the quality is far from decent..

    It takes lot of energy and time to sift through the chaff to get to the grain..

    The focus has to shift from numbers to quality and this doesn't apply to just IT field..

    By Blogger Ram Viswanathan, at 12:47 PM  

  • Mr Kevin seems to think that just becos he has a company in Bangalore, he will have the best engineers coming and falling at his feet asking for jobs. When really good engineers get jobs in Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and SAP and the mediocre ones try for Infy, Wipro , TCS and CTS why would anybody who is newhere near good try for an unknown company like code craft? Even companies have to try and build up their brand if they want things to get easier for them in mundane matters like hiring .

    By Blogger redrajesh, at 1:38 AM  

  • @Tired Immigrant,
    thanx for the info and thanx 4 dropping by

    @RamC,
    It's important that the engg colleges improve their quality so that they can meet the expectations of the recruiters.

    @Cogito,
    Did u benefit from the dot com boom?

    @Ram Viswanathan,
    very true

    @Redrajesh,
    we don't know much about Kevin's firm and hence can't pass judgements. Even though his firm may not be in the same league as the biggie, if he is a good paymaster, he has every reason to be disappointed.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 10:35 AM  

  • is the indian IT party over? I think not. I didn't pass out of an REC or an IIT, and all my classmates are employed with one IT outfit or the other.

    to address the second issue of whether all engineering graduates in india are good - maybe not again. but they're definitely not to be written off. there are way too many engineering colleges to have good faculty all over. and if the industry expects good employees, they should try and participate more in academic programmes on campus. microsoft has a programming contest for students across the world... i said this in my blog too, that good students can be identified from how they perform at inter-collegiate events.

    By Blogger StupendousMan, at 12:22 AM  

  • Anish,
    The industry needs to work closely with the colleges so that they can improve the standards in these colleges. But smaller companies might not participate in campus initiatives.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 10:06 AM  

  • "we don't know much about Kevin's firm and hence can't pass judgements. Even though his firm may not be in the same league as the biggie, if he is a good paymaster, he has every reason to be disappointed."

    Exactly the point. We dont know much abt the firm. Even if the firm is a good paymaster(which he should have publicized if he wanted even a glance from anybody)most people would like to play it safe and choose Infosys with a lower pay since the job security is a million times more with a biggie like that. And when companies like Infosys and CTS spend money on publicizing their existence in addition to the constant coverage of their affairs by the media, Mr Kevin has only himself, his inability(or laziness) to market his firm and his over expectation of quality to blame for the situation that he finds himself in. And I am saying this because I have never heard of this firm - I am a two time ET Brand Equity finalist who knows current affairs much better than others - and if I havent heard of this firm, chances are 99.9 % of job applicants would not have heard of it and would rather play it safe than spend time investigating and coming to a dead end because of the lack of credible sources.

    By Blogger redrajesh, at 4:29 PM  

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