He looked me square in the eyes. “We’ll never do this in India.”
He was dead set against building his product in India. There was no doubt about it. Thank goodness we had development capabilities all over the world; otherwise, it was clear that we wouldn’t even be having the conversation.
From a marketing perspective, I don’t get too concerned about these types of perceptions. With well over 60% of our engineering talent in the US and Eastern Europe, we have plenty of opportunity to satisfy the small minority of clients who insist upon a certain location within which we’ll build their team.
But, from a pure product perspective, I find perceptions like these to be dangerous. Frankly, it’s FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt).
In reality, the challenge that this VP of Engineering faced was one that, based on my experience, was best suited for India. Over the course of the next few weeks, I asked him to simply give me a chance to prove it to him, and I put my personal and our company’s reputations on the line in order to prove it. And I backed it up with a guarantee.
Today, that VP of Engineering is one of our absolutely delighted clients. He is also a raving fan of his continually growing product engineering team in India.
The reality is that poor talent, cultural limitations, and plenty of other pitfalls exist throughout the entire world. I can find horrible engineers in “The Valley” and I can find a lack of process in Germany. On the flip side, each “pocket of talent” has general strengths, just as it has general weaknesses.
Great software product development teams are best built intentionally. They are built from an understanding and in consideration of both the strengths and the weaknesses of certain cultures and talent pools. Based on these facts, not biases, they are purpose-built.
A recent article in Quartz seems to fuel the FUD about Indian engineering talent. According to the article, Indian regulators are looking to produce “fewer lousy, incapable, engineers.” While the article speaks to all sorts of engineering disciplines — from civil to mechanical, the global software engineering world stands to take the biggest hit from the FUD that this article taps into.
Yes, there is undoubtedly a pool of incapable engineering talent in India, but the same thing can be said for any region of the world. Painting with a broad brush ignores the realities that exceptional talent can be found, and purposefully assembled, anywhere in the world. Just because poor talent exists, doesn’t mean that you, or your partner, have to hire that talent.
Instead, I recommend that you look not only at the potential pitfalls, but also the strengths of a location. India has some very strong characteristics, among them the maturity of the technology industry, the ability to scale quickly and find seasoned, high-quality talent, and the general customer service attitude.