Friday, October 19, 2007

IT highway Chennai

Indian IT employee

Before I started working for myself, I spent some years in some of the top IT companies in India and still have many friends working in various software companies. I wrote a blog Recruiting like crazy, about the same time last year about how Indian companies are recruiting like there's no tomorrow and the possible consequences. However I was avoiding writing this particular piece as it seems like an unpatriotic thing to do, to tell the world how bad the working conditions in software companies in India have become. And there's always the risk of excerpts being used out of context to bash up IT in India.

I am now writing this because I just keep hearing horror tales from the industry and it doesn't seem like anything is being done in the matter, so I thought I will do my bit and write.

First and foremost, before stereotypes about India kick in, I would like to clarify that I am not saying that Indian software companies are sweat shops where employees aren't being paid and made to work in cramped uncomfortable places. The pay in software companies is very good as compared to other industries in India and the work places are generally well furnished and plush offices. India being a strong democracy, freedom of expression is alive and well and Indians are free to express their opinions and voice their concerns. Yet, I say that the software industry is exploiting its employees.

IT work culture in India is totally messed up and has now started harming the work culture of the nation as a whole. Working 12+ hours a day and 6 or even 7 days a week is more the rule than the exception.


A majority of IT people suffer from health problems.As most of the IT workforce is still very young, the problem isn't very obvious today but it will hit with unbearable ferocity when these youngsters get to their 40s.
Stress levels are unbelievable high. Stress management is a cover topic in magazines and newspapers and workshops on the subject are regularly overbooked.
Most IT people have hardly any social / family life to talk of.
As IT folk are rich by Indian standards, they try to buy their way out of their troubles and have incurred huge debts by buying expensive houses, gizmos and fancy cars.
Plush offices, fat salaries and latest gizmos can give you happiness only if you have a life in the first place.

The reason I feel this culture has emerged, is the servile attitude of the companies. Here's a tip for any company in the west planning to outsource to India. If you feel that a project can be completed in 6 weeks by 4 people, always demand that it be completed in 2 weeks by 3 people.

Guess what, most Indian companies will agree. The project will then be hyped up as an "extremely critical" one and the 3 unfortunate souls allocated to it will get very close to meeting the almighty by the time they deliver the project in 2 weeks. Surprisingly, they will deliver in 2-3 weeks, get bashed up for any delays and the company will soon boast about how they deliver good quality in reasonable time and cost. Has anyone in India ever worked on a project that wasn't "extremely critical"?

I was once at a session where a top boss of one of India's biggest IT firms was asked a question about what was so special about their company and his answer was that we are the "Yes" people with the "We Can Do It " attitude. It is all very well for the top boss to say "We Can Do It ".. what about the project teams who wish to say "Please....We Can't Do It " to the unreasonable timelines...I was tempted to ask "What death benefits does your company offer to the teams that get killed in the process?". I sure was ashamed to see that a fellow Indian was openly boasting about the fact that he and his company had no backbone. The art of saying No or negotiating reasonable time frames for the team is very conspicuous by its absence. Outsourcing customers more often than not simply walk all over Indian software companies. The outsourcer surely cannot be blamed as it is right for him to demand good quality in the least cost and time.

Exhaustion = Zero Innovation
How many Indians in India are thought leaders in their software segment? - Very few
How much software innovation happens in India? - Minimal
Considering that thousands of Indians in India use Open Source software, how many actually contribute? - Very few
Surprisingly, put the same Indian in a company "in" the US and he suddenly becomes innovative and a thought leader in his field. The reason is simple, the only thing an exhausted body and mind can do well, is sleep. zzzzzz

I can pretty much bet on it that we will never see innovation from any of 10000+ person code factories in India.

If you are someone sitting in the US, UK... and wondering why the employees can't stand up, that's the most interesting part of the story