India might think of itself as an IT powerhouse, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to quite agree.
The owner of an India-based mobile development agency posted a question yesterday on Hacker News. Hacker News is a popular online forum run by startup accelerator Y Combinator, and the poster, who chose to remain anonymous, seemed to imply that it was hard to find work because of the negative perception around Indian software companies. “How do we work on changing the customer’s perspective,” they asked.
Poor quality of code
The responses were brutal. Hacker News employs an upvote-downvote system, which causes the replies that most people agree with to bubble up to the top. The most upvoted post read: “I’ve used large (Wipro/TCS) and small firms, and poor code quality is common amongst them all. What’s more apparent is their lack of ability to innovate or think on their feet. If I give them a “familiar” problem to solve, they’re generally okay, but anything that requires them to think outside of the box, they tend to overcomplicate and the result is often terrible.”
The issue of poor quality code was echoed by a number of commentators. “Developers were almost completely illiterate when it came to basic things, like http vs https, using git, encryption vs encoding,” said another poster. “Invest heavily in proper frontend people,” advised someone else. “Give them extra training if needed so they know how to write optimized code. There is a world of difference between solving the problem and solving it elegantly. All too often what you get back works but is useless because it’s too slow.”
Saying yes to everything
Another factor that featured prominently in the answers was a supposed tendency to say yes to all requirements, whether they could be delivered or not. “Learn to say ‘no’ or ‘we need to understand this better before we can give you a quote or a deadline — too often, way-way too often Indian outsourcing companies oversell their capabilities,” said a poster. “Learn to say, ‘this can be done, this can’t be done’ within the timeframe/budget etc.” “They always say yes,” exclaimed another poster. “OMG this is by FAR the most annoying thing with them.”
Very few people are talented
Lots of commentors seemed to feel that among large Indian teams, very few people are truly talented or interested in software development. “All stereotypes turned out to be true, shit code, slow progress, no straight answers, record high hours recorded, frustration with the loose neck and yes man responses,in end outsourcing was canned,” said a poster. “This one guy was awesome though, I always wonder what happened to him against useless peers.” “Just a few of them (new team is about 40 people) are skilled enough to do the project work,” said another.
The cheap prices don’t always work out
Everyone seemed to agree that Indian developers came at the cheapest prices per hour — but they didn’t always work out. “Most Indian companies focus on getting the cheapest price and do so at the price of quality,” said a poster. “You simply don’t get the best people at the cheapest price,” said another. “I no longer find them to be cost effective, especially when they charge by the day, and can’t get things right even on the fourth attempt,” said someone else.
But it’s not all doom and gloom
While the overwhelming majority of comments were negative, there were a few bright sparks too. “I had a positive experience a few years back with a small agency located in Bhubaneswar in Odisha,” someone wrote. “We did daily “scrum” calls, early in the morning US time and at the end of their workday India time. Somebody went to visit them once a year. After three years or so they were great colleagues.”
But while there were a few happy experiences, the consensus seemed to be clear — Indian coders have a long way to be truly world class. It’s a strange position for India to be in — the country has produced the CEOs of Google, Microsoft and Adobe, but the average coder from the country doesn’t seem to command much respect. Perhaps it’s like with most things in the country — whatever you say about it, the opposite seems to be true as well.