Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Indian IT

So. I am a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication. I do not know two cents worth of any subject in Electronics and Communication. The Bachelors degree was just a certificate of completion of basic qualification to be worthy of a decent job.

So, I got a job as software professional. Been around for 5 years now and there is nothing professional about it. For all practical purposes, it is just a job to earn bread.

But, I feel, I am not just earning bread but cheese, butter and jam as well, in good quantities. However, ‘good’ is a relative terminology. Whats ‘good’ to me, is not really ‘good’ for most. If revealed to some of my friends, who are in the same industry for the same duration, either overseas or local, ‘good’ is ‘shocking’ to them. Suffice it to say that if I get home one loaf of bread, job-hopping folks, or those overseas, will get three loaves. Well, no job other than Indian IT ever gives a 40% hike, do they? So what then is stopping me from job-hopping or going abroad?

Honestly, I think I am getting more than what I actually deserve. More of a conscience thing, really. I think most Indian IT professionals get more than what they actually deserve. I mean, there are lots of other non-IT people who are experts in their professions, who are passionate about what they do, know in and out of things they work with, who work day in and day out just for the love of it, and earn abysmally low wages. Those, I feel, are the ones who really deserve more than what they are earning.

People who are doing great service to humanity, like doctors, hardly get paid in spite of their 24 hour shifts in their initial years. Teachers, lecturers and professors, who play such an important role to nurture the next generation to compete in the global arena, can hardly make ends meet. A career in teaching is laughed at. Other important professionals like air traffic controllers, who have a nerve-racking job of constant controlling and management of airplanes for 8 continuous hours, in different shifts, seven days a week, are paid a paltry sum. Come to think of it even the road traffic controllers standing in the sun, rain, pollution, just to make life easy for commuters, are hardly paid.

Innumerous such professions exist. The construction workers building mega structures but having nary a good home for themselves. The garbage cleaners working in stench for the hygiene of others. The civil services like army, air force are having dearth of officers as many are willing for good pay IT jobs than a 5 am disciplined wake-up call and constant transfers. IT has had an impact even in villages. And marriages. Girls in villages prefer village grooms who have gone abroad or metro-settled IT guys resulting in pitiable state of those sons of farmers opting to stay back as farmers, paying dowry to get brides! Forget villages. Even city gals prefer high pay packet IT guys with posh cars as opposed to any other profession.

Last week, a government bus driver accidentally hit a car and smashed its windshield. The car owner asked Rs 9000 to avoid making it as a police case which would have suspended the driver. The driver had 18 years of flawless record and had earned a gold medal. But he cried in front of the car owner as he was unable to pay that huge an amount as it was almost his month’s salary. Rs 9000 monthly salary after 18 years of constant driving service. Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

So how then do we have such huge disparity of wages between IT and non-IT jobs? The answer is pretty simple. Indian IT mainly revolves around international (read US) jobs. Majority of IT jobs in India are fallout of the now-infamous word ‘Outsourcing’. Which really implies that jobs that are really meant for US workforce are being shipped to Indian subcontinent for lower wages and better talent. Lower wages, that is for US, but considerably good wages for Indian employees because an Indian employee is now getting paid in dollars albeit half the amount which he would have received if he were doing the same job in US. Which is a good enough pay packet to sustain in India.

But IT outsourcing was good for a number of reasons. Less unemployment. Rather more demand for jobs than supply from engineering institutes. Better pay meant better standard of living. Literally meaning posh cars, luxury houses, international air travel, etc. Which meant more employment in other industries like vehicle production, apartment construction, airline industries, etc. to quote the same examples. More income tax for Indian Government, more inflow for State infrastructure development, land revenues sky-rocketing. Even the common man has profited out of IT. Rupee value hence appreciates. Its like a chain reaction. Indians are now all across the globe. Come to think of it, now is the right time to start World War III! With Indians all over, India can walk over the opponents and start ruling the World! Well, aren’t we doing that already…

Lure of IT (read money) also had its effects on many. If we had all IT companies working for Indian counterpart jobs (like majority of non IT jobs currently), for example, billing in retail markets, maintaining registration of vehicles and licenses, banking applications, railway ticketing, etc., instead of working for US projects, we wouldn’t really have such huge disparity in wages. Which is what you see in US. There is not much difference in the pay packets of an IT professional or a professor or an army official. Which creates hence an atmosphere to concentrate on a dream career than go for the money. Lure of money is what has made many young Indians sacrifice their dream careers. However dissatisfied they are with it. But no outsourcing would also have resulted in huge unemployment due to India’s next biggest problem of population explosion. So, we have a vicious loop.

Also, IT outsourcing is sometimes seen with a smirk. ‘How is the coolie job going?’ is a common phrase when two people meet up. Come to think of it, when two people meet up, they are generally in IT industry. And might even be working for same company. At least one of your cousins or someone in the same locality will definitely be in the same company as yours. This non disparity in jobs and monotonous area of work rather adds a dull colour to life. With many whom I know, there is no pride in telling what one works on and where on works for. It is almost an insult to reply and it is a constant dread when someone asks ‘Where are you working?’ Reply is next to ‘Unemployed.’

This is mainly because, more often than not, the IT jobs outsourced is considered as low-end. Every Tom, Dick and Harry graduating now are in IT industry, irrespective of Tom's field of study or Dick’s grades or Harry's institute. Which in effect makes just a Bachelor’s degree absolutely ineffective. A survey conducted showed India being in late twentieth position for jobs on cutting-edge IT technology. Needless to say, research in IT is more encouraged in US and other developed countries than India. Another survey conducted showed that IT professionals in India contributed very less for open source development (software developed for free usage by any one), whereas the same Indian professionals, after shifting abroad, were very much into open source development. Which clearly shows the nature of Indian IT industry.

Having said that, I must admit, things are getting better. There is a lot of push by software giants to publish technical papers on IT. There is encouragement to work on the field of study in parallel with IT (IT goes hand-in-hand with all other industries anyway!) Research departments are sprouting and IT marketing professionals are tending towards IT consultancy. Innovation and Tool development is being mandated to enthuse life. Of course, all this goes well for getting more US projects! But more importantly, this is to outscore the innumerous software 'shops' that are cropping up on every road! On an exaggerated humourous note, the day is not far off when we can see software vendors (like vegetable vendors) on the streets shouting 'Softwareeeeeeeeee'!!

Well, that’s how a software life is all about in Indian IT right now. It definitely is a topic to talk about in a social gathering. And, as they say, a perfect “blog-material”.


Pradeep said...

Good one. Absolutely agree. The only reason other professionals like professors, teachers, doctors etc are not getting enough money is that their client is not an american company!

Carly said...

Well said.