People talk a lot about developer productivity but some points that people don't talk about are the environmental issues, available options, and pricing at which the tools are available to the developers in a particular country. Building & maintaining a productive work environment as an independent developer in India is very costly. So costly that on average we pay 2 to 3 times & sometimes even higher for the same hardware, software, and accessories than what people have to pay outside India.
But it's not just the price but many other factors that I want to bring to your attention:
- Costly Hardware: General cost of hardware (laptops/computers) and their accessories (monitors/keyboard/mice) are much higher in India compared to the US or East Asian market. My current laptop (Dell 7570) which I procured from the US cost me 25% lesser than what was available in India. My recent research into external monitor pricing also revealed a difference of good 30% to 50% between various models. And all these differences are direct market pricing and don't even consider the various deals that can increase the difference to approx double.
- Subpar Configuration: The configuration that is available in India for laptops, computers, monitors, etc, for the most part, can be categorized as aftermarket leftover. The kind of configurations that are offered specially for the pre-build machines like laptops is bare-bones at a price point which will generally fetch a medium level config in other markets. And even the configurations which are supposedly "maxed out" have limited RAM, SSD, or Display options. For e.g. the laptop I own now has a 4K display (which I got from the US) was not even an option in any of the configurations available in India. And again going back to the first point, the prices at which these machines are offered are way more than the maxed out options in other countries. Similarly, for monitors, the specs with which they are available in India are generally many generations old but we still have to pay the full price that is of the current generation one.
- Limited Companies & options: The number of companies that are actively selling their products are just limited to very high-end brands. It's a bit contrasting in nature when compared to the mobile industry where the devices are launched in India as soon as they are announced but for computer hardware peripherals we have to wait for months and sometimes years for products to start selling locally. Sometimes they are never even bought to the Indian market altogether. Logitech, Razer, and other such peripheral companies are another example where they don't offer most of the range of their devices in the Indian market.
- Non-existent Customer Support: The idea of customer support is a joke in India. Anytime you have to deal with customer support for most of the organizations, you can very well kiss your product goodbye. Apart from the handful of companies like Logitech with which I have had good experience with, most companies just fail to deliver on the concept of customer support. Whereas in the US I have heard of easy exchange or repair policies in case the hardware faces any issue, no such policy exists in India. At max, they will offer to repair your device at prices that are close to the price of the original device and take many months to repair, that too when your product is under warranty. And even if you bought your product outside India which on paper has an International warranty, customer support will deny any help citing unavailability of the configuration in India. In the end, even if you are willing to pay money for a product, keeping it alive for a natural lifespan of the product is solely based on luck.
- Taxes: With the new GST (Goods & Service Tax) introduced in India in 2017 coupled with the hefty and ever-increasing import duties levied on most of the products and peripherals, we end up paying upwards of 25% of the actual price in taxes. This includes both Hardware & Software.
- No deals or discounts: Indian markets don't offer the kind of deals the US or other countries might enjoy on a regular basis. And especially no Black Fridays here as well. This limits a lot of opportunities for Indian consumers to buy discounted peripherals. It's not that we don't have deals per se but when the so-called Amazon Lightning deals hover in the range of 10% discounts, it doesn't make it the most lucrative of offers.
- Dust & Heat: Geographically, most of India has summers or rather hot temperatures for close to 9 months in a year topping at a good 50 degrees Celsius. This makes cooling a big challenge, especially for laptops and computers. And the more we have to cool the devices artificially, the more we have to deal with DUST. Dust is one of the biggest reasons for the small lifespan of electronic products here. Laptops & computers face the biggest challenge since they get clogged very frequently with dust and have to be cleaned regularly in order to keep them operational. Mice have it the worst when it comes to dust. Because when dust gets inside the mouse, it accumulates inside the small click mechanism of the buttons and then they start misfiring or getting stuck. Until the time I was using the regular Logitech Mouse I had to buy a new one every year since they wouldn't last more than that. The latest mouse I own is a Logitech G603, which has a 3-year warranty and I have already got it exchanged once because of the dust issue.
- Difficult to create Home Offices: Room sizes in Indian Homes are generally very small and keeping a full desk with a complete external monitor setup in a regular bedroom is out of the question. And so is having a separate room for your home office. And that's because Indian homes don't have a concept of centralized cooling/heating. So every room in the house needs to be individually cooled with separate air conditioning units. And thanks to the high electricity prices, cooling multiple rooms in the house at the same time becomes financially unviable. The only option that we have is to work on our laptops and adjust between working on bed or small temporary tables.
I understand that there might be business reasons for many of the points I have shared above but at the end the fact is that we are deprived of the tools which increase the quality and the quantity of the work we put out and unless these companies start selling their products and advertise them, how can they expect to grow in one of the world's largest markets. I also understand that the government rules for entering the market and selling products in India are very difficult to work with.
For environmental reasons, there is obviously nothing that can be done and creating a setup that counters these factors are more a matter of sunk costs and high running costs.
I hope that companies around the world who work with India based Freelance Developers have some insight into issues we face that might not look apparent but are our reality with which we have to deal with. And if they really care about their productivity, they can help contribute to it by buying the required hardware and peripherals for them, as they would for an on-premise employee.
P.S. I am aware that there can be many counter-arguments to the points I have shared but do understand that they come from my personal experience of working remotely for the past 5 years from Delhi, in conditions that might be very personal to me.