Com­pa­nies seek tech tal­ent abroad

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

FACED with an up­hill task find­ing tech de­vel­op­ers in Sin­ga­pore, food and bev­er­age start-up Eatsy turned to Viet­nam last Novem­ber.

With the help of Sin­ga­pore off­shoring firm Fetch, Eatsy did not need to nav­i­gate Viet­namese laws be­fore gain­ing ac­cess to a team of six de­vel­op­ers in Ho Chi Minh City.

The de­vel­op­ers are em­ploy­ees of Fetch and sec­onded to work ex­clu­sively for its clients like Eatsy, a mo­bile order­ing and pay­ment app that al­lows din­ers to or­der, pay and split the bill when din­ing out.

For S$3,500 a month, Fetch’s clients are able to hire an ex­pe­ri­enced de­vel­oper in Viet­nam.

In Sin­ga­pore, that sum is the go­ing rate for a fresh grad­u­ate.

The lim­ited num­ber of coders and de­vel­op­ers here means “the re­ally good ones will be ex­pen­sive as every tech­nol­ogy com­pany in Sin­ga­pore will be fight­ing for the same small pool of re­sources”, said Eatsy chief ex­ec­u­tive Shaun Heng.

As Sin­ga­pore’s pipeline of tech and cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts plays catch-up to grow­ing de­mand, more com­pa­nies – es­pe­cially small and medium en­ter­prises – are turn­ing to off­shoring firms.

The man­power crunch has grown worse, said Mr Keith Tan, co-founder of Won­der­labs, an­other off­shoring firm that op­er­ates in In­done­sia and Viet­nam.

“Three years ago, for every vi­able, com­pe­tent tal­ent, we would have two em­ploy­ers vy­ing for that tal­ent. To­day, that num­ber is seven,” he said.

Salaries com­manded by the tech work­ers have gone up, and ex­pe­ri­enced de­vel­op­ers in In­done­sia and Viet­nam can earn as much as S$6,700 a month, said Mr Tan.

Won­der­labs started in 2015 and ser­vices 32 com­pa­nies cur­rently. Pre­vi­ous clients in­clude IBM, Sing­tel and the Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore. Eighty per cent of its em­ploy­ees, who num­ber more than 350, are de­vel­op­ers.

Fetch cur­rently has close to 20 cor­po­rate clients and hires 120 coders in its two of­fices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Sin­ga­pore com­pa­nies make up 80 per cent of both firms’ clien­tele.

OFF­SHORING OVER FREE­LANCERS Clients pay a ser­vice fee to the off­shoring firms. In re­turn, they do not have to deal with the un­cer­tain­ties or risk of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft that may come with the hir­ing of free­lancers, who may do their work in a cafe or cowork­ing space.

The off­shoring firms pro­vide equip­ment and of­fice space for their coders and de­vel­op­ers.

Clients get can­di­dates pro­fi­cient in English and who have been trained to the stan­dards that in­ter­na­tional and Sin­ga­pore firms re­quire.

Fetch, for in­stance, has part­nered with five uni­ver­si­ties in Viet­nam in­clud­ing the Ho Chi Minh City Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

The com­pany trains fresh grad­u­ates for four to six months, said its chief ex­ec­u­tive Adrian Lim, who co­founded the ven­ture in 2015 with Mr Chia Luck Yong.

Won­der­labs does not usu­ally hire fresh grad­u­ates. But if it does, they un­dergo an eight-month train­ing pro­gramme to hone the skills that are in de­mand, such as two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion and Re­act (a li­brary of the JavaScript pro­gram­ming lan­guage).

It of­fers free ac­com­mo­da­tion for staff when they are in Sin­ga­pore for fa­mil­iari­sa­tion pro­grammes, while Fetch flies its de­vel­op­ers to clients’ head­quar­ters to build rap­port for two weeks.


The hunt for tech tal­ent is a chal­lenge world­wide, with good tech­ni­cal po­si­tions cur­rently stay­ing open for more than three months on aver­age, said Mr Pho­ram Me­hta, pay­ment ser­vices provider PayPal’s head of in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity (Asia Pa­cific).

Ef­forts in Sin­ga­pore to ad­dress the short­age in­clude the TechSkills Ac­cel­er­a­tor, a Skill­sFu­ture ini­tia­tive driven by the In­fo­comm Me­dia De­vel­op­ment Author­ity in part­ner­ship with other agen­cies and the in­dus­try.

As of Septem­ber, more than 50,000 train­ing places have been taken up or com­mit­ted in pro­grammes un­der the TechSkills Ac­cel­er­a­tor.

But an­other is­sue here is that busi­nesses are not us­ing their de­vel­op­ers ef­fec­tively, said Ms Piruze Sabuncu, pay­ment tech­nol­ogy plat­form Stripe’s head of South­east Asia and Hong Kong.

“Not only are de­vel­op­ers scarce, de­vel­oper time is also be­ing wasted on tech­ni­cal debt and main­tain­ing legacy sys­tems – com­pound­ing the strain on de­vel­oper re­sources,” she said.

A re­search re­port by Stripe this year found that 72 per cent of Sin­ga­pore busi­nesses are look­ing to hire de­vel­op­ers in the next year, but 69 per cent of the to­tal find it chal­leng­ing to do so.

Em­ploy­ers should in­vest in soft­ware in­fra­struc­ture tools to make their com­pa­nies more flex­i­ble and re­spon­sive, which would also in­crease the pro­duc­tiv­ity of de­vel­op­ers, Ms Sabuncu sug­gested. – TO­DAY

Photo: EPA

Job ap­pli­cants at a job fair in Sin­ga­pore, but em­ploy­ers are now look­ing abroad.

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