India and Contribution to Open Source
India, despite boasting of a huge pool of IT professionals has a very dismal record when it comes to contributing actively to the open source software movement. I am trying to dig into some of the reasons why India has a poor record and what can be done to set the record straight.

  1. Socio/Economic factors:
    Some of the reasons why an individual in India wants to be in the IT profession

    • Excellent salaries (compared to any other field)
    • Chance to go out of country and even settle there
    • Great working conditions /White collar job
    • Social pressure
      • Parents push their children because IT is the hot field
      • In some regions in India, having a male child in IT field and who has been out of country, means a windfall for the family, as the boy commands a hefty premium (read as dowry)
    • Lack of opportunities in other fields
    Love of technology/programming is not a factor to join the IT profession. I am talking about 99 % of the individuals here. Once you enter the field, you may start take a liking, but the top motivation factors are always the one I mentioned above.
  2. Industry Organization:
    IT is relatively a new young field in India and is currently expanding at a very high rate. Since most of the work done, relates to providing bodies to the clients and able to leverage the cost arbitrage. What this means is, if the company wants to achieve a 20%-30% YoY growth, it needs to keep hiring more people. This means to manage this ever-growing infantry of programmers, you need to have an equal number of Senior Engineers, Project Leads , Technical Leads, Project Managers and so on. Now, what you do, you promote people.

    This means, an above average person can easily expect a career growth where in

    • 2-3 year experience, person is a Senior Engineer
    • 3-5 Years experience you become a Project/Technical lead
    • 5-7 years of experience you become a Project Manager/Architect.
    The designations might vary from company to company, but everyone is promising a similar kind of growth. If a person doesn’t get this growth internally, you jump companies, to get this career growth.

    Compare this to US, where a person works for an average of 6-7 years to move to a Senior System Analyst/Senior Developer role. People would have spent minimum of 12-14 years in the industry before they get promoted to Project Managers/Architects.

    In India, anybody who applies for a job and says I have spent 6 years in programming and has no people/project management experience will have a tough time finding a job. Some niche technical skill people might survive, but otherwise for general Java/Microsoft/DB skills, getting a decent job becomes difficult. As a result, in India, it is very difficult to find a 10 year experience person doing hard core programming.

    Now, can an individual with 3-4 years of IT industry who starts moving into more people management role be expected to be contributing towards the open source? I don’t think so.

    Companies have started offering two career tracks to people – Technical and Management. HR will tom-tom about the same, but beyond a certain level, Technical people find lack of growth opportunities and have to eventually move to Management Track only.

    Companies like Red HAT has started scholarships to recognize and kick start the Open Source Program movement in India. Check out for details here and here.
  3. History:
    In the developed world, IT has been a 4 decade old phenomenon, where as IT has been a recent phenomenon in India. It’s only in the last 10-12 years; we are seeing the scorching pace at which the people are joining the IT industry. For any movement to come into mainstream the professional stream needs to embrace the soul of the movement and you need enough members to make a difference. Both of these factors, takes time.

    Open source usually takes time to grow and India lacks a long history.

How long it will take for India to start making contributions to Open Source?

My prediction:

I would say, give another 10 years. Why I say so?

  • By then we will have a big enough pool of people who have been in the IT industry for 15-20 years.
  • There would be enough opportunities for people to stick to the technical stream. Companies will start providing more meaningful technical roles. As companies start moving up the value chain, the demand for experienced technical people will start growing.
  • Opportunities in other fields will open up. Other professions will start paying well. Generation entering the field in next 10 years will do out of love of computers and technology. Money will not be the top most factors for this generation.
  • Salaries will hit a plateau. No promotions or job hops will lead to higher percentage of salaries increases.
2 Comments To ' India and Contribution to Open Source '

Unknown said...

I'm sorry but your observation that 99% of Indian IT professionals are in the s/w field because of only the money and the so called "goodies" that come with it is absolutely wrong. You might have come into the IT sector seeing the green bucks but don't be under the wrong impression that everybody else in this field shares the same opinion.

Atul said...

I do agree to all your comments. I am not an expert who can validate your claim of 99% come to IT industry for the reasons you have explained. But I do support you saying that major reasons for adopting to IT industry are the ones you have listed.

I also do agree to your analysis on the growth path that IT industry provide and IT professionals expect.

Finally, I say, the time of consolidation and aggregation has started. With recession on one side and many other business areas are shining in India, people have started realising that there is a world, sometimes, more beautiful, then IT.

I have been advising many young students to get into some industry where there is a huge shortage of manpower. For e.g. Mining, Architecture, Robotics, Space, Advanced Agriculture etc.

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