Lessons learned from building an IT team in India

Let's go back to my experience of the startup! :) You'll know which one I am talking about :D

Get in touch if you are thinking about creating a off shore Indian team and I will be happy to lead a hand. LinkedIn

The first task I had as a CTO was to build a dev team to deliver on the first version of the product. This is usually a case with startups that have secured a seed fund purely based on the idea/product that they have proposed to develop. I am not going into the reason why I had to hire the dev team in India but talk more about my experience of doing so, my success and failings and, lastly, if it was worth it.

Fun Fact: Hiring software developers is hard, very hard actually

If you are hiring or about to do so then brace yourself as you are in for a ride. Hiring developers is just hard and finding the right ones is like finding a needle in a warehouse of haystack! It get's even worse when there is a defined budget, location constrains and tech constrains. It get's way way worse when you are a start-up and do not have any existing employees to say how awesome a team you are. 

Regardless of everything, a challenge is a challenge and can only be conquered by a plan. So the first stop was to find a decent firm in India which already had existing employees and were willing to partner with the current company. In hind-sight, it is the only way this can work.

The first Indian partner

We found our first partner in region of India we were looking for. The head of the firm was a software developer and confirmed his capabilities with the suite of existing projects that he had under his belt. We signed up and started doing the initial assessment of what the work would look like and how many devs we would need to hire. Very soon we started facing some alarming problems. They were not quite up to their words and seemed to not be very serious about timings. The meetings were almost always unattended or postponed. Then there was the problem of software development and implementation itself. I, as a CTO, thought best to implement things in a certain way while the partner firms head had other ideas. He often went on a tangent and did not consider it important to discuss it with me. While I almost always encourage such behaviour, it is not great when one's a startup and has very limited resources. PRAGMATISM-1/Experimentation-0 🤣 

The overall output was negligible and we had to call it a day with this one only after a month of working. 

Lessons Learned:

  1. Do not look for a partner led by a developer if you already have a CTO. 
  2. Lookout for markers like people being late to meetings, not delivering what they have promised without a just explanation and finally an overall vibe about the product itself. 
  3. Do a thorough research into the projects the firm has previously done. Recommendations are key in this business. If you can't find any then stop!
  4. Don't try to save too much money at this stage. You might lose a lot of valuable time otherwise.
Partner Number II

While we were back to the drawing board, I had some experience under my belt. With that the first thing I made sure was to not look for another developer but for another manager. Someone who has experience of hiring devs in India and setting up the base infrastructure. We were super fortunate to find Net-Edge Technologies. The husband and wife team took the challenge by it's teeth. 

The factor that swayed my decision was the owner of the tech firm was very technical himself and his wife was a very experienced HR professional. That, and the fact that they were progressive with their working patterns by Indian standards, no pun intended (I was born INDIAN)! They gave value to morals and employee well being. Understood that it is better to hire people with good attitude and train than otherwise. 

The arrangement worked like a charm and in no time we had our first 2 senior devs. Both starting on the same day and with decent amount of experience. 

The working pattern

So what happens when you have to hire on a budget. You can either choose to not do it or take on the challenge of hiring inexperienced devs, designing a framework for them to follow and helping them learn at all times. A framework where they could succeed and deliver their best outcomes. Indian work force, in general, is a lot more aggressive than in the west. The family structure means young people have a lot more time on their hands and their willingness to work is off the charts. The management should be careful when falling to the temptation to tap into that resource. 

The devs I hired were in the same bucket and were almost always willing to go the extra mile, which a startup needs more that anything. As a manager you have to make sure they have enough on their plate to do and clean up at the same time. 

The on-boarding time 

Spend a lot of time writing on-boarding documentation and making sure the process is clear as day. This begins at the HR stage and ends with the devs manager. Make sure there is a process for 121 in place.


One hard lesson I learned is it is not way way cheaper to have an offshore team. The factor I would say is that it is around 2/3rd the cost. If a senior dev in London can expect £50K then a dev in India with the same calibre would expect about ~£20k depending on where they are based and extras. The problem however is the fact that a lot of Indian devs earning £50K end up being managers and forgetting how to code/architect. So you will really have to ensure the devs you are hiring are actually good coders.

Considering everything, I would most definitely recommend exploring the possibility. I think there is a definitive value in building an off shore team. Most definitely if you are willing to learn yourself and stay patient, and save a ton of money in the long run. The people are kind, conscious and very humble to say the least. The amount of love, honestly and hard work show by my team was something I still miss the most.