Day Three – Chennai India – A Labor Surplus.

October 9, 2010 laszlo szalvay

India is big.  Really big.  Really really big.  According to the lazy man’s research tool (aka Wikipedia) India has the 2nd largest population in the world at 1,200,000,000 a mere 200,000,000 less than China.   After arriving late into Chennai Sunday around 2am and struggling with the 12.5 hours of jet lag differences from the West Coast I was able to get some rest of Sunday and then Monday I drove around (eh – I wasn’t the one driving – but that’s a different subject altogether) the streets of Chennai (population estimated at 11,000,000) where you can feel the bigness.  With CollabNet, I am lucky to have meetings with higher ups at the largest Systems Integrators (SIs) in the world.  The folks running these companies are smart and competent.  One SI startled me by telling me that he believed that the three largest SIs (Tata Consulting Services (TCS), Infosys, Wipro) have almost as many software engineers as the entire US software engineering labor pool.  “Wow! I responded.  That kinda sums it up.”  Keep in mind here, that that is only three  – and just think – there are about a dozen or more super large SIs. 


The quality versus quantity question is one that comes up with a lot of the managers I am meeting with.  They understand the US consumer perception (Quantity High, Quality Low).  What’s surprising to me is that most of the management teams yield to the argument (there are some exceptions here – but they are exceptions).  In fact – one CTO of a SI simply told me: “The quality of labor pool in India is bad, and it’s getting worse each year.”  Paraphrasing the conversation continued – Churn (employee turnover) and quality plague my office.  He went on to say -  It’s true you can find really great people, but in the US in may be 1/50 or 1/200.  Here it’s 1/5,000 or 1/20,000.  Now – tell me – What’s your recruiting strategy for that?

Later in the week I was able to confirm these recruiting challenges – as I went to the Infosys Wikipedia page.  “In 2007, Infosys received over 1.3 million applications and hired fewer than 3% of applicants.”  Just think about the systems you need in place to review 3,562 resumes each calendar day or to hire 100 per calendar day every day.   Clearly – Infosys has found a way to weed out the riffraff but my feeling is that this is more of anomaly than a norm.

What’s your opinion here?  Can India be successful using their labor surplus to drive strategic changes into how software development is done, or will the overwhelming size simply overwhelm?

In a follow up blog I will discuss how the 12 Agile Values contribute to this quantity vs. quality discussion. 

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