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Last updated: April 18, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Fundamental problem of Indian IT industry – not enough passionate programmers!

Wipro fired its joint CEOs because its lagging behind peers, Infosys shares are down because of below expectation profits. Why are the Indian IT companies who were on an unstoppable growth march till yesterday are suddenly hitting roadblocks?

There is one fundamental problem that no one is talking about just yet.

The people who write code at the root level just aren’t interested in programming anymore !

I run an IT services company so I know this by experience – Majority of the fresh graduates joining the IT industry are not passionate about the profession. They are into it only for easy money. A typical interview of a fresh graduate goes like this –

Me: So you want the job of a programmer? Why?
Ans: Because I have done my BE in Computers / 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 code apart from my college 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


So programming is akin to making a pizza as per the order!

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 going abroad!

I can’t help but think of the dialogue from 3 Idiots – “Don’t run after success, strive for excellence and success will follow.” And you can only excel in anything if you are passionate about it. Unfortunately very few programmers are striving for excellence.

You can teach people syntax of C++ and SQL and PHP. But you can’t really make them passionate about something. It really has to come from within. And when people do something without having a real liking or passion, it shows up in the quality of the output. Missed delivery dates despite long hours in the office, buggy code, frustrations for client and developer alike are the results of having non passionate programmer work on a software project.

And that increases the cost for the IT company. In the past those costs could be absorbed easily because the salaries were low. But now with salaries for even entry level programmers going through the roof, companies can no longer afford to recruit people who aren’t really into it.

Often we read about why companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook don’t come from India. This is one of the reasons. You can’t create world beating software without having passionate programmers. Read about any successful software’s history and it was created by someone who was just playing with an idea or just did it as a hobby.

So what lies ahead? I think the honeymoon period for the Indian IT industry and non-passionate programmers is coming to an end. India is not the cheapest outsourcing destination any more. With salaries increasing and clients not really getting the worth of their money because of not-really-interested-in-job types working, they will move to cheaper destinations like China and Philippines.

Smaller IT services companies will be the first to face the heat and the large ones will follow. You may have revenue of billions of dollars but some day, clients would stop paying for unproductive people.

What do you think ?

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  • […] Lack of passion amongst programmers is another reason. Nobody likes fixing bugs in code someone else has written. The best projects that pay well are also the lowest quality! You don’t get anything new to learn. That’s why they are most profitable because there are no challenging tasks, less chances of bugs, and overshooting the estimates. Really smart programmers will never work on such projects for long. They will move on no matter what you pay them. […]

  • Weekly Wrap-up: 4G launch, Indian IT Industry, HD DTH, Social Media, Business Trends & more says:

    […] of the fundamental problems that is facing Indian IT Industry currently is – There are not enough passionate programmers, most of them are IT field for money only […]

  • The solution, is more of small to medium sized developer shops. I doubt you find much passion in huge corps like Wipro where you are nothing but a result unit. The best coders wan't to work where their skills are appreciated.

  • good writer can you write such interesting things for the blog hi5sms.in, if yes please submit such interesting articles on submit article.

  • The guy who has saying all these just ask himself why he is doing a programmer job. Its not for money. wat big coding he has made in spare time apart frm copy paste frm google.

  • I would beg to differ with Yash on the title of the article : instead of “Fundamental problem of Indian IT industry – not enough passionate programmers!” it should read “Fundamental problem of Indian IT industry – not enough thought leaders” If I may compare the current scenario of the Indian IT services sector with the Pakistan cricket establishment. We have hordes and hordes of dreamy eyed freshers with a reasonable reasoning ability who join the IT workforce with enthusiasm, and the desire to actually work hard and make a difference; however, on joining the workforce they are disillusioned when they see they see the technical capabilities [sic!] of the Team Leads / Managers they report to, and whom they highly regard. Over a period of time, they come to accept that mediocracy / bending corners does the trick for them in this industy. Compare it with the Paksitan Cricket Team : you have so many young blue eyed pacers coming from that region; but, in the absence of proper mentorship / roadmap they end up becoming [in]famous or just giving up on the game… Yash, I am glad to know of tour decision; and will be happy if you could provide the right mentorship to our BLUE EYED GEN Y!

  • Ok agreed most of us r not really interested in this. Who likes to do project planning/quality control/other office stuff as passion.. hardly one or two in lakhs. Reality is that this has become like factories in developing countries. In factory people are also not interested but they work to feed their famlies. Software in India is something similar but with a different salary range. Becoz of the acadameic nature u will find a very few passionate engineers. Most children choose academics not by passion but by either confusion or force. If companies hired only truly passionate people, hardly 400 to 500 people should have been selected from all over india. Where should the rest go. In developing countries like india you are not free to follow your passion becoz if your passion fails to earn you the money, you dont have back up. Films like Taare Zameen Pe cant become reality for masses.One or two out of millions maybe.. but in a developing nation it is more practical to continue your work even though u r not passionate about it. Maybe after India becomes a developing country and our fathers have made enough we can pursue our passion without worrying about any other things but till then i’m afraid we have to continue in this passion and support our families

    • Sorry but I respectfully disagree. “Films like Taare Zameen Pe cant become reality for masses.” They can. It’s only about having enough courage. “and our fathers have made enough we can pursue our passion” Again not necessary. Just one link to make my case – http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-achievers-interview-with-vaishali-shadangule/20110413.htm It’s only about courage – taking a bold step and any ordinary person can become extra ordinary. But not everyone has that courage. Lure of easy money is tremendous.

  • Yash, I sympathize with you. If I understand it right, you have started a new venture, but, you are unable to find good programmers. Most of the junior programmers you are meeting are just not good enough. Most of the senior guys don’t want to write code: they would rather manage people and projects or customers, if the company has any. I faced this exact same issue a few years back when I was charged with running the indian ops of an american startup. It was impossible to find good people then because practically 99.999% of desi-programmers came from the “services” industry. It is unfortunate that all the companies that are stock-market-darlings in India (Infy, Wipro, TCS, HCL, etc) have basically “exploited” Indian programmers and given them feelings: 1. that programming is just a job 2. that if you want to do programming in India, you only have to work on mundane things 3. that you are just a body-count Looking at it from a different angel, I don’t think most programming requires “hi-tech-super-stars”. 99.999% of software companies are doing “mundane” jobs. The rest 0.001% are working at Google, anyway! Also, if the guys you have mentioned had written programs back at home, he wouldn’t be sitting in front of you “begging” for a job. Here is what I will say: Accept the reality of the situation: most programmers in India are doing mundane jobs; most would rather have a windfall and do anything but programming; most young students in India don’t have ready access to computers and even if they do, they don’t know what to do with it, other than browsing the web and maybe writing some small programs … i.e., if they are “super-passionate”. Your best bet maybe: 1. Training these kids on the job (again, accept the reality of the situation) 2. Motivate them to stay and work with you (considering how much time, effort and money you would put into training them … on the job)

    • “Also, if the guys you have mentioned had written programs back at home, he wouldn’t be sitting in front of you “begging” for a job.” True.

    • Out of all the comments I read on this subject, this is the excellent comment of all. In fact after reading the comment, if you read the article once again, the interview part of the article looks different. @ Avinash : Great way to comment. Finally every thing in business in the world follows the principle of demand supply gap. If the Client has capped his expense, the company has to work backwards and work out how much they pay to the programmer. If they cant find “passionate” programmers for the salary they worked out, its simple !! Either get more from their Client and pay what the “passionate” programmer is demanding OR their business model is not good financially.

  • @ Yash, When I saw the title of the article, I thought it is some thing related to IT industry, some thing technical. After reading many other articles, I finally read this article. After reading it I became aware that it is not discussing technical issue but a fundamental issue which is core to not only IT but to any business model. Before you read my coment, please note that I am non comittal as it is a very basic issue and the debate can go on for ever. I would like to give two extreme cases for both arguments (an enterpreneur and an employee) Enterpreneur case : One extreme is an enterpreneur who with great comittment starts a business and try to find employees who show passion to his job but could not find and gets frustrated. Another extreme is a cold bloded businessman, who wants to squeeze every penny out of the business, who drives his people to madness and even after they give their everything, blames them for tardiness, laziness and being non comittal and not loyal to the job. Employee case : Similarly one employee works very hard but gets no recognition and becomes cynical in life and in his next companies only does ‘what is told to him’ but not ‘what is required of him’ Another scenario is a selfish employee who gets to knwo that there is money to be made if he gets training in a skill and he tries to make the most out of his skill. What I feel is every enterpreneur and every employee falls somewhere in between these extreme cases. All that is required on both sides is inclusiveness. I have known some people who inspite of being very nominal in educational qualifications but went on to the very top in the company. The bosses take what ever these people say for granted. These are the employees who even though they have limited knowledge, tries to learn on their way to top, helping both the company and co-employees. Similarly some enterpreneurs take their employees in their stride. They create an atmosphere where the employees feel they are part of the system and put the best effort. I can understand your frustration of not getting passionate employees. Most of them when they come out of colleges are raw, even dont know what to answer during interview. During interview, you may ask a question with a certain intent but the person facing interview may misinterpret it and answer in another way. Also some over smart kids try to answer in a way which will impress you, not the truth. Both enterpreneurs and employees come in all sizes and shapes (in terms of passion, comittment, loyalty) I would like to comment on what Mr. Jitendra Singh said “Its waste to be passionate in India” Most of you took the comment at face value. When I read the comment and his intent to write that, I understood in a different way. May be he was a fresher and dont know how to put it exactly in wording. May be he is trying to say “If you throw only peanuts, you only get monkeys”. Well I may be wrong. Also I am not supporting him. What I mean to say is passion is not a individual quality. It also depends on the package also. :) Over all, after writing all the above, I feel I am not getting anywhere. So I stop here. However what I mean to say is every situation falls between two extremes. Just my two paisa :)

    • Thanks for chipping in Altaf. That was a nice observation about the two extremes. Yeah lack of passion is not limited to IT industry alone, but I can only comment about IT industry.

  • Exactly my point, its hard to be passionate when you know that you have to do the mundane work for the rest of your life,after a while it becomes a “chase the high salary job”. Outsourcing is a price sensitive market like any other manufacturing industry.The people are “raw-material” in this industry so companies will move to countries where there is a cheap availability of this Raw material. Kudos to you for making a move from services to a product company,i am sure you will find very good hackers.

  • Oh and about indian companies not performing,its because of rising costs,changing business dynamics,other cheaper destinations and not because of lack of passionate programmers. i have spent good 15 years in IT industry and i have only seen 15-20% passionate programmers. i myself have spent good 5 years sitting in front of mainframe and just updating the records of a big credit card company whole day . how do you know the programmers from emerging outsourcing destinations are passionate?Going by your argument Philippines dethroned india because the call center worker in Philippines is passionate about his job than indian worker?

    • Nopes, its not that Philippine programmers are more passionate. It’s not about nationality at all. The % of really passionate programmers will be same across all the countries. It’s just that in India you can no longer afford to continue employing non passionate people because salaries are rising. My whole point is when people are not really interested in job the output is below par. Clients will not pay beyond a certain limit for below par quality of work so they will move on to cheaper destinations.

  • Yash You are absolutely correct about programmers are not passionate,but as a IT services company owners ( i run a IT services company for last 5 years), we are not that different either, we are selling “bodies” to the companies and earning money, so how do you expect our employees to be passionate? the problem is the nature of services business, you are supposed to do what your client tells you to do.Do you really care if the client is using a wrong technology or platform? the tendency is let the client be wrong and then ‘Milk” him doing migration and other stuff. what innovation infosys,TCS,wipros or even we are doing so that we expect our programmers to be passionate? if you want passionate programmers then do a innovative,disruptive product like facebook,google or flipcart.i am sure there are thousands of passionate programmers in india who want to build something exciting but are we giving them the opportunity? The programmers in china and other emerging destinations will soon follow the same path of chasing money because its the nature of the ” outsourcing business”. its the same like Britishers trained our ancestors because they wanted “Babus” we have created glorified versions of ” Babus” So dont only blame the programmers, we are equally responsible for the state of IT industry in india.

    • Absolutely. We – the owners of IT service companies are also somewhat in the similar category and that frustrates me. That’s why I have decided to get out of the services business. Its better to call it quits when the going is good rather than to be kicked out. As far as I am concerned, I would rather work alone or with only a handful of passionate people on a single game changer product than chase easy money and in the process work with douche bags and get frustrated.

      • Yash, Kudos to a great thought provoking post! Here are my 2 cents: – can rewarding employees with restricted stock and ESOPs help motivate employees to turn out better code? – can you retool to become a product biz by using your gang of passionate programmers? – Is it possible to motivate existing employees to introduce passionate programmers in return for referral fees? Last but not the least – passion comes from within and there can be only so much joy to programming. Though I was a programmer for many years, now I see that I am motivated by finding ways to make money to have a comfortable/ luxurious life and not count satisfaction by the # of lines of code I generate. With the number of languages, platforms etc., ever increasing it is difficult to keep pace with them. Instead, people may use programming as a way to get into the corporate world, work for a couple year, become team lead, business analyst, project leader/ manager etc and move up the food chain rather than excel in coding or their domain. So, a person whom I know, used to be an excellent programmer. Had lots of IT certifications to his credit, was admired by clients, and bid the highest pay from clients. But he opened an IT company and hired a bunch of people to work for him. Now he has a company for more than 10yrs, but does not do any programming. So, having the skill does not equal following it or using it. I think you may be right about not getting a Google out of India, but I wouldn’t attribute it to only bad programmers but probably to a lack of visionaries who want to reach that stage. If Sabeer Bhatia had not sold Hotmail could it have become one of the best success stories of an Indian? May be. But from a population of 1.2 Billion, why don’t he have many big and spectacular failures, if not even 1 hit? Just like India produces hundreds of movies in a year but hardly has even 1 nomination as the oscar or the grammies. Why?

        • (Just few more points to the already long comment above.) Yash, what is your measure of a good IT company or industry? What stats do you use to define that? Is there like a ‘Developer hackathlon’ that programmers have to win to demonstrate their passion or skill? Even if they win, so what? Does it guarantee the company more orders from clients? Does hiring all IITians guarantee top talent? How does one ‘create world beating software’? How do you define it? (The just the sheer number of thoughts your post has generated in me is proof that your post is good :-)… keep it coming.)

    • Also I beg to differ on “the tendency is let the client be wrong and then ‘Milk” him doing migration and other stuff.” part as well. That’s not how I run my business and not sure if that is a sustainable business model in the long term.

  • Dear All, Now a days most of the people thinking like Jitendra Singh.Most of the Fresherrs (engg..student) thnking like that only.Because of this thought people said : INDIA is the cheapest educated labour not skilled labour. Now china,Brasil,phillipins,indonasia all are standing behind india who can give more cheapest labour than india. one day this outsource job(Support job,technical support,call centre) will decrease due to this mentality. Our new generation just chasing money only,our education system generating educated labour not skilled labour. Just check out this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13114577 http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j2QhVX-4GeNJHFgo3wA2nXWV-LKg?docId=CNG.1eba7b9c6a49dd1740b439ff354ea2e3.931 http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/contact-center-outsourcing/articles/165690-philippines-strong-contact-center-outsourcing-choice.htm

  • Jitendra — If money is all Yash wanted he could have worked or went onsite and did the so called maintenance work you talked about. You want 20k-30K per month without showing passion, without working and by just showing up. Isn’t that the most insane argument I have ever heard? If we just extend your logic, if someone pays 1 lakh per month to a fresher he will bring passion along with him and for 2 lakhs he will bring passion++? “It’s waste being passionate in India”. I never knew passion had a nationality. I think many get it in the reverse. People always crib about someone getting more and always say that if I get what he gets, then I will burn midnight oil. Wrong way of thinking. Show passion and everything else will follow. I almost forgot with that rant of mine, great post Yash. Much needed.

    • Thanks Arun and Sri. When I saw Jitendra’s comment. I didn’t even know how to or if at all I should reply to him.

  • I don’t think you are correct here. Why do you run a company or why do you work. Don’t Answer rubbishly.. it’s just money to make your life better. What is the use or being passionate and work late night and show your passion just for 20k-30k per month. Better go to onsite for 2 years do support. Its waste being passionate in India, there are so many to make use of you. Software Industry is only for money, If you are passionate go and work in some other industry.

    • Jitendra, Your statement “Its waste being passionate in India” is out of ignorance and naivety. I would infact say India is a place where you can make more money than going abroad….yes, it may not come right-away – But see the opportunities currently available in India. I can really go on and on…but suffice to say – Yash was talking about exactly the same mentality that your displayed in your comment…

    • Sir passion is the stuff companies like flipKart , makemytrip , cleartrip , tally solutions are made up of

    • Hi Jithendra, You need not be passionate for money, fame, your country or your company for that sake you need not be passionate for any one else other than yourself. Being passionate about what you are doing makes you happy and satisfied. Money, name, fame everything follows. Otherwise you will die with frustration, dissatisfaction.

    • From your answer – “The Indian outsourcing industry has always depended on fresh graduates who are willing to ***learn programming***” You know THAT is precisely THE problem. Learning to program ON the job. And only in India and in the IT services industry you will find such an attitude. You won’t expect the job of a cook at a restaurant without having learnt to make tasty dishes first. You can improve and learn new tricks on the job. But you are supposed to have made some good dishes before you try to get a job as a cook. But not in programming! These programmers will never get a job in Facebook or Google without really being a hacker. Our IT industry is hell bent on producing made to order programmers who will bring “do plate bhajiya, chaar samosa aur teen chai” as per client’s requirements! You can not be a blank slate before taking up programming as a profession. That WILL not and IS not taking our IT industry anywhere.

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