Google offers “rewards” worth millions… and thoughts on the Indian IT Industry

News.com reports that Google is rewarding outstanding employess with restricted stock options that could be worth millions of dollars. These awards, known as “Founders’ Awards”, were awarded in November to two teams, consisting of a dozen employees each. When the awards were given out, the stock was reportedly worth 12 million dollars!

Sergei Brin lists two motives for these awards: one, motivating existing employees to work harder, to compete for these awards, and two, to encourage (lure?) the best in the software industry to work for Google. The latter motive is particularly important for Google, considering it places such a high premium on hiring only the best of the best.

As another article reports, Google may be the last of the original “dot-coms”, companies with loads of “coolness”, genius and outrageous eccentricity. Here’s a photo feature on life inside Google. Very few organisations would invest so much in keeping employees motivated. Especially in the Indian IT industry. Even in the “big giants” in India, the way employees are treated in general is not at all encouraging.

The problem is that there are just so many IT professionals in the market (God, how I hate using jargon like that!) We’ve now begun to witness the “commoditisation” of the IT worker. I know at least one company that refers to its employees as “resources”. Some companies even treat them as such. Annual reports of a major IT services company gloated over the fact that “net employee utilisation” had gone up a few percent! This is apalling! About 3 years ago, being an “IT professional” was a matter of pride here in India. Now it’s just another job. In fact, the only people that even IT professionals can act condescending towards are BPO workers!

Perhaps the reason that we’ve reached this stage is that the Indian software industry seems content with doing low-end work. Yes, now matter how high we try to crawl up the “value chain”, we’re still performing low-end tasks. Why not try to be a member of the value chain instead? Why not try to own the chain instead? What I’m saying is that we need our industry to create products that the world uses, that the Enterprise depends on. Services on top of, or around those products will follow. World-class minds working for Indian companies won’t be able to translate their vision of tomorrow’s technologies, tomorrow’s business – into profit for India if we continue in the “services” rut.

On a partially-related note, I chanced upon an article in a national newspaper a few days ago, which stated that the attrition rate in the Chinese IT industry was very very low, almost one-fourth India’s. Now that isn’t too surprising, is it? Or even something to be concerned about. There are now so many IT companies here, in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Gurgaon, that an IT professional who aspires for a job better than the one he’s doing, doesn’t think too much before quitting his current job and being hired by another company – the job market (yech! that jargon again!) is big enough for a competent professional to be offered a reasonable increment in salary by a competing firm.

Returning finally to my original rant, perhaps what we need is a mindset change, from services towards products. I’m going to post more on this belief of mine later. For now, here’s some food for thought: what we need may not be 4 or 5 Infosys-es, but 10,000 CalSoft-s. What think?