Day Three – Chennai India – A Labor Surplus.

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. 

Laszlo Szalvay

Laszlo Szalvay is one of the foremost Scrum experts in the software industry. At CollabNet he oversees the company’s global Scrum business, helping organizations adopt and scale Scrum-based initiatives to drive productivity and quality improvements. He creates engagement frameworks to forge lasting Agile-process transformations at customer sites, using a personal approach to teaching and implementing Lean/Agile/Scrum processes as a means of achieving greater IT agility. He is expert at leading successful distributed Agile environments (usually with an Indian or Chinese offshore model), and addressing cultural nuances, replication issues, and capital and headcount resource requirements. Prior to CollabNet, Szalvay co-founded and led operations for Danube, a leader in Scrum tools and training, before it was acquired by CollabNet. He is an active industry thought leader, having written and contributed hundreds of articles, presentations and blogs on improving software delivery through Scrum. Since mid-2010, Szalvay has traveled more than 330,000 miles throughout Europe, Asia and North America, working with CollabNet customers and partners to gain a unique perspective of the complexities and success strategies of a globally distributed software organizations.

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3 comments on “Day Three – Chennai India – A Labor Surplus.
  1. Thiru says:

    Good summary, Laszlo. Looking forward to your next post on how Agile Values contribute to this.

  2. India has a lot of potential but also its challenges. One of the major challenges that plagues India today is the lack of quality schools to churn out the demand of the industry. Education in the collegiate level is not subsidized and majority of the indian populace cannot pony up the money needed for good quality education. This often makes the 4 year undergrad degree useless. I meet a lot of great folks while I interview for my firm. I often find that they could be really great if they had the right kind of support and mentoring from the industry while they were in college. We have opened up our internship program to assist and mentor them. We are following the model that Zoho followed in India. I only wish more companies did the same.

  3. Laszlo Szalvay says:

    @Vagmi – my understanding is that the ITT type schools are churning out a few hundred thousand quality technical engineers each year. Isn’t this true?
    What model is the Zoho model?

    @Thiru – thanks for keeping me honest – I will need to write that one soon!

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