Why is India the main hub of app development?


A brief discussion into the demographics, discourses, and culture of a booming technology outsourcing hub brewing in the Indian subcontinent.

The Information Technology sector has had a brilliant relationship with the cultural interface of the Indian subcontinent. It started with some of the earliest breakthroughs in personal computing and associated services, following through the nineties’ dot-com boom and accelerating rapidly through an era of decentralized app development in India.

This trend heavily promoted the availability of outsourcing as a service for almost every category of business that one can imagine – with the portfolio of Indian talent being quite as diverse as ranging from modular programmers, web developers (skilled in both front-end and back-end software development), product managers, growth hackers, and technical support engineers.

Talent alone, however, does not begin to form even a miniature model of this giant riddle about why India seems to be the focal point of this revolution and no other geographical locations that exhibit similar exuberance in terms of the sheer volume of software development professionals. Surely, Silicon Valley itself has no dearth of skilled technical labor worth outsourcing a project.

But when we ask the right questions and give it the right amount of analytical investment, we are sure to arrive at the right answers. Industry gurus have often speculated on a myriad of cultural nitty-gritty that promotes and bolsters the pillars of outsourcing and app development in India. Some even go as far as attributing it to the food or the weather. In this article, however, we aim to perform a deeper dive into the Indian IT scene’s dynamics and present a clear picture that balances both answers and expectations.

A Billion-Strong Native English-Speaking Population And Its Associated Outsourcing Benefits

India is by and large home to the largest English-speaking population in the world. With over 1.2 billion people in the country, a vast majority of whom possess native fluency in the English language, we produce more than 3.1 million graduates every year, a vast pool of employable & skilled talent. Trained and groomed in the right direction, this talent pool can be leveraged to perform large-scale outsourcing operations in every imaginable IT domain.

The first line of support in the international technology community comes from India, almost by a natural extension of this vast majority of English speakers. Many of the world’s largest enterprise software development firms and service delivery organizations such as Dell, Hewlett Packard, and IBM, have multiple GCCs (Global Capability Centers) distributed across Indian metropolitan hubs such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai, for this same reason.

If you were to take any mass-recruiting global organization at random and study the ratio of the number of employees that they have in India against the number of employees they have positioned in various other locations around the globe (including in most cases, their own company headquarters), you wouldn’t be surprised to find that the proportion almost always yields and tilts generously in favor of the Indian subcontinent.

Low PPP/Cost Of Living Equals High Value For Money In An Outsourcing Environment
There is a reason why even popular cultural outlets, including Hollywood, have formed massively popular content properties – movies, web shows, documentaries, and more, chronicling the adventures and misadventures of “Site Management Experts” who travel to India, lured by the charms of inexpensive labor. And the basis for these stories is not unfounded. A fresh Indian graduate engineer looks forward to an annual pay-scale (or cost-to-company) of INR 3 to 5 Lakhs, roughly $4000 to $7000.

This is a ridiculously low number when you compare it with the prevalent pay grades of software development engineers who reside in the Valley, in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, or even in less populous hubs in the US, like Minneapolis or Iowa.

This simple difference in cost of living and the associated low salary expectation range has contributed hugely towards shaping India as a preferred destination for firms that want to reduce their overheads and streamline their software development costs.

Nevertheless, since the evolution and wide-spread adoption of the world wide web as a common household commodity even in Indian residences, there is an increased degree of pay parity when outsourcing a software development project or signing up with a company for app development in India. There is now a finitely accepted range of hourly development rates when you opt for an Indian firm to develop your app. This depends mostly on the economics of the source location, from whence the contract is being managed.

For instance:

The average hourly software development rate (range) applicable to clients/customers based in North America (specifically for US-based clients) is around $165-170. The minimum hourly rate will go as low as $10 for some service providers.

The average hourly outsourcing cost (range) as seen for clients/customers who are based in the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia (the primary surviving shadows of a colonial economy), is around $70-80, with the minimum hourly rate going as low as $32 for some service providers.

Clients from Eastern Europe and South America will generally have to shell out an average hourly rate of $30-40, with the outsourcing bill capping out at a neat $100/hour in most cases.

High Quality Of Software Development Services & Patent Innovation In India
A key piece of information worth remembering is that the quality of work delivered at these rates is easily comparable and at par (if not better, sometimes) with that of the services that can be availed through the local US, UK, and Europe-based technical labor. Outsourcing your software development needs to India and opting for app development in India are driven by both the need to conserve money and the pursuit of superior quality in the resulting applications or modules.

Some of the world’s most promising (and leading) and most highly valued tech startups with proprietary (and in some cases, patented) B2C technology, such as Onco.com in cancer-tech, Cure.fit in health-tech, Swiggy in consumer logistics, The Urban Company in hyperlocal service delivery, Amagi Corporation in cloud-based broadcast, and more, were developed to fruition from scratch in the subcontinent. Since almost all of these companies are now considered unicorns globally, this is a huge testament to the qualitative excellence of India’s software development.

The Indian IT Act Of 2000 – A Stable Administrative Framework For Sustainable Technological Growth

India enjoys a bicameral legislature. While the subcontinent politics is largely binary, all government versions in the country, starting with the PV Narasimha Rao-led administration of 1991, have remained focused on increasing the gross IT revenue (incoming) from direct or indirect foreign sources.

Another strategy of successive administrations that has immensely helped the cause of positioning India as a global IT superpower is that the local IT laws do not change quite frequently compared to other global destinations. This allows companies to scale up their operations, add more resources to a thriving talent pool, and reach out to an even larger global audience with relative ease.

High IQ, Quick Learning Curves, and Faster Innovation Life Cycles

Indian graduates (and adults, to cover a larger segment of the population) display higher-than-average scores on various intelligence quotients, such as logical IQ, mathematical IQ, and even the ability to think “differently” and come up with innovative solutions (creative intelligence).

This, combined with a steady boom in the amount of training and educational material available to Indians via the internet, has created a marvelous landscape that fosters superior technological prowess and unfettered degrees of innovative thinking.

Indians are consequently better at learning new concepts faster than other native populations and pushed into academic excellence with a brutal degree of competition at a very early stage in their academic careers (such as some of the notoriously famous and equally difficult-to-crack competitive exams, namely IIT-JEE and the CAT, or the Common Admission Test). This results in an interface where an average 20-year-old Indian is both expected and equipped to handle the kind of pressure and deliver the level of innovation expected from a Caucasian counterpart who is at least a decade older or a decade more experienced.
India’s Unique Longitude Coordinates, And The IST Advantage In Outsourcing
Compared to other global outsourcing hubs such as the Philippines, Casablanca, Morocco, and more, India runs on a clock that allows its developers to interact perpetually with customers and clients across all time zones.

More specifically, in the absence of daylight savings, Indian Standard Time (IST) is usually five and a half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

When we drill this down in terms of actual calendar numbers, we get the following interesting results.

  • India runs at least 570 minutes (9 hours and 30 minutes) ahead of the United States (PST, CST, EST).
  • India runs at least 210 minutes (3 hours and 30 minutes) ahead of all of Europe (GMT)
  • India runs at least 270 minutes (4 hours and 30 minutes) ahead of the UK (GMT).

India only falls behind Australia as a major outsourcing “source” destination, with the land down under operating 270 minutes (4 hours and 30 minutes) ahead of the Indian subcontinent. This challenge is easily overcome by the prominence and popularity of what is colloquially known as the “Kiwi Shift” in the Indian IT industry. In this shift, workers get started with their day at the wee hours of their local time, as early as 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM IST, and end up finishing their day earlier too! Indians are masters at creating win-wins, after all.

Almost all the other major geographical destinations that enjoy a clear time/longitudinal advantage over the Indian subcontinent, such as Japan, focus on their emergence as manufacturing or R&D hubs.

One of the main reasons companies worldwide rely on Indian outsourcing firms and opt for app development in India is that Indians can afford quality services, maintenance, and/or support round-the-clock, irrespective of the client’s physical location.

The Go-Getter Attitude And The Emergence Of New Leadership

Gone are the days when Indian software development talent was evaluated merely based on academic scores or the number of payroll dates recorded in one’s curriculum vitae.

This multi-cultural interface has now been supplemented and augmented by the presence of not just some of the world’s leading engineering schools (such as the Indian Institutes of Technology – IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Madras, etc., the National Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institutes of Science and other nationalized technological institutions, and private institutions such as the Vellore University, Manipal University), but also some of the world’s most celebrated business schools, such as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM Bangalore, IIM Lucknow, IIM Kolkata, IIM Kozhikode to name a few), and other non-nationalized institutes such as the Indian School of Business, The Indian Institute of Business Management, the Manipal School of Business, and much more.

Fun fact? The current CEO of Microsoft Corporation is a former graduate and alumnus of the Manipal Institute of Technology in India. And that’s not all. Many of today’s best technology management personnel in India also opt to receive their training in schools outside India. Indian tech firms are widely populated with Ivy League graduates. For instance, Rashie Jain, a Wharton School of Business alumnus running a million-dollar tech firm in Bengaluru. This gradual change in the techno-business climate is also a byproduct of the vast native English fluency that allows Indians to pursue a global education of their choice, unbound by language or instruction limitations.

With European nations such as Germany relaxing their higher education guidelines, many Indians are also getting trained in technology after becoming fluent in speaking German. This easy-going attitude in learning and adapting to new cultures also plays a huge part in the final part of the puzzle: Account Management.
Best In Class Client Servicing & Account Management – The Breadwinner Of Outsourcing and App Development In India
Developing an app in today’s time and age is not a matter of extreme skill but an episode marked by extreme patience and perseverance. If you look at a case study that involves a non-technical person building a technical app in the US, one of the brightest examples that comes to mind is that of Kevin Systrom. Most people know him as the former CEO and founder of the massively popular social networking app called Instagram.

Most people don’t know, though, that Systrom had very little support from his peers or “co-founders” in that sense of the word when he set about building the first version of his app (which was then called Burbn). He worked at a nine-to-five job, and he wasn’t a coder. In effect, it took him about six months to learn the basics of code that would allow him to compare frameworks and create a rudimentary version of the app.

Today, however, the process of finding a technical co-founder is no longer the same nightmare that Systrom and his peers faced. In fact, as Sriharsha Majety, the CEO of the billion-dollar consumer logistics startup “Swiggy“ recently revealed, the core founding team of Swiggy never had a technical founder. They never even had a coder on the list of their initial directors. This was possible only in a country like India, where it is ridiculously easy to find the right developer and find the associated skill interfaces. For example, product managers and UI/UX designers who can understand your app development needs in detail, who can fit themselves into the shoes of your desired users/customers, and weed out any possible bugs that sometimes even the core founders may miss out on.

Now, this is a service that you cannot expect from a huge part of the globe. In fact, you cannot expect this from almost any other country, and this is thanks to one simple fact:
India is home to the largest Internet-using native population (500 mn+ Internet users).
This overarching reason rules over every other argument when discussing software development outsourcing or when contemplating app development in India. India offers the least in class costs for user research, market research, UX/UI research, and user testing, mainly because India has the largest number of English-speaking internet users in the world.

In the year 2020, India had 560 million Internet users compared to 330 million in the US. This statistically means, any consumer application worth its money will eventually find a market in India. This almost automatically places India at the top of the mantle when comparing destinations to outsource your next software development project.

So what’s it going to be? The amazingly cheap hours, the fantastic people, the unbelievable hours of operation, or maybe the food, even? Irrespective of your choice of culture, benefits, or indulgence, one thing remains clear – India is definitely the primary hub of app development on the world stage.