The Indian Software as a Service (SaaS) industry will grow to $10 billion in revenues and capture 8% of the global SMB SaaS market by 2025. Entrepreneurs will need great engineering talent to build amazing SaaS products out of India.
India churns out 1.5 million engineering graduates every year and 80% of them are unemployable. The majority of engineering colleges in India are in semi-urban areas. Can entrepreneurs tap into this huge talent pool of inexperienced but gifted engineers?
India churns out 1.5 million engineering graduates every year and 80% of them are unemployable.
Before we delve further, a quick detour into my background. I am a Silicon Valley veteran, having started three successful tech companies. With a strong passion for products, I am currently the CTO for Vistara. Vistara is a leading SaaS platform for IT operations management with presence in North America, Europe, Japan and India.
I grew up in the coastal city of Bhimavaram (population: 140,000) in Andhra Pradesh. Bhimavaram is a green, sunny town on the banks of the Godavari river. I studied at SRKR Engineering College, Bhimavaram where I developed a lifelong love for technology. I did my masters at the College of Engineering, Anna University before heading to the US in the early 1990s. I've worked at Sun Microsystems and Exodus Communications before starting my entrepreneurial journey.
In 2004, we started building an IT operations management platform (that would one day become Vistara). I wondered if we could recruit engineers in India and reached out to my alma mater, SRKR Engineering College. My old professor, Dr. G.V. Padma Raju, who heads the Computer Science department at SRKR, immediately offered help. Professor Padma Raju was instrumental in recruiting our first four engineers and several other hires over the years.
Professor Padma Raju at SRKR Engineering College
We opened an office in Hyderabad and worked hard to build a global SaaS product. Over the years, we’ve deepened our bond with SRKR Engineering College. Professor Padma Raju today sits on the board of directors for Vistara’s Indian operations. In fact, our initial hires from SRKR College are still with Vistara after all these years.
Over the years, we've recruited young engineers from Bhimavaram and transferred them to our Hyderabad office. A thought struck us, “Why not hire engineers and keep them in Bhimavaram?” Back in 2011, we didn't know of any SaaS engineering teams in unknown Indian towns! But, a strong belief in rural India (I’m a product of a small town myself) prompted us to operate in Bhimavaram.
Back in 2011, we didn't know of any SaaS engineering teams in unknown Indian towns!
We established our second Indian office at Bhimavaram and have hired 50+ employees since then. We've had a few challenges grooming engineering talent from semi-urban India. Yet, I am truly proud of the team we’ve built in Bhimavaram.
This brings us to the main thesis of my blog post. Can you create global products with engineering teams out of rural India? My answer is a definite yes. Here's how we built our Bhimavaram office while scaling Vistara to thousands of customers globally:
#1 - Forget Grades, Hire For Passion
Even today, most computer science grads in India prefer to join well known IT services companies. Instead of competing for brand conscious students, we focus on hiring well rounded individuals. Even if a student has bad grades, we try to figure out their passion for technology. We look at projects or courses they've taken through MOOCs as raw indicators of potential.
#2 - Learning On The Fly
Given how much technology has changed over the last decade, our engineers need to stay sharp for building cutting edge products. Vistara has a bias for hackers who can quickly learn new technologies and frameworks. We've built Vistara to help enterprises and service providers manage a complex hybrid cloud world. We couldn't have achieved this without our smart and dedicated Bhimavaram engineers.
#3 - Solve For The Customer
How does a engineer in an Indian town build a feature for a customer back in Camden, New Jersey? We encourage our Bhimavaram engineers to interact with customers using email, phone or Slack. Our product management team works with our engineers to demystify customer use cases. With clear lines of communication, engineers deliver features that address our customer challenges.
#4 - Rotate Your Teams Across Locations
We have engineering teams in San Jose, Hyderabad and Bhimavaram. We rotate engineers across locations for short stints. Rotation fosters stronger relationships and accelerates sharing of best practices. We’ve built new features at record speed by having teams work together in a new location!
Our Bhimavaram team having fun
#5 - Invest In Infrastructure
Talent migrates to larger Indian cities for opportunities. We have great roles at Bhimavaram so that our engineers don’t have to leave their home town (like I did two decades ago). We’ve built a wonderful campus in Bhimavaram that wouldn't be out of place in Cupertino or Singapore. We ensure uninterrupted power supply, fast Internet speeds and an excellent work-life balance. Nothing makes us prouder than to show off our Bhimavaram campus to global customers.
The Vistara Bhimavaram campus
Product entrepreneurs should tap into the vibrant and buzzing energy of small town India. Do you believe we can build global software products with rural Indian talent? Please share your feedback in the comments below.
P.S. We are hiring!
If you want to work with a disruptive SaaS company in the IT operations space, look no further. Check out our Careers Page for current openings or drop an email at email@example.com to join our team.