Thursday, 27 March 2008

Web-development Outfits

Hi,

This post is about my efforts in finding an affordable, trust-worthy, knowledgeable web-development outfits in Delhi. A small background to my requirement first:

We, at Grehom, have two e-commerce website (http://www.grehom.com/ for Europe and http://www.grehom.co.in/ for India) that has been developed and now maintained in house. We were doing fine, when we realised that our wish list was growing at a faster pace than the pace that our in house team could manage to deliver. This raised two possibilities:

a) We hire more people and continue with in house work
b) We look at getting this work out-sourced...after all the entire world is out-sourcing their requirements to India...and we sitting in India are unable to do that

Our collective decision was to start working on both options simultaneously, since we didn't know what would hit us in either of these options. To look for a young, energetic resource we went from one training institute to the other - only to be told

"Please send us your proposal and we will look at it"

This so completely boiled my blood - thinking here I am there at your doorstep telling you that I have an exciting offer for a youngster to start working on an e-commerce website straight away and I am in turn told to send a proposal to the administration officer!!! Call me old-fashioned, but I think that an institute should still respect people coming in with placement opportunities. i refuse to believe that Indian employment scenario has changed to much that there is more demand and supply - which leads the AO's to throw attitude.

But, not everything was as dim in hope. We did meet some people who understood what we required, they also gave us confidence that their students are getting the right sort of training to handle work like what we had in mind. I am as of now only hopeful in taking this forward and managing to find a resource who can fit the bill!

Now, what happened to us when we went scouting for web-development outfits, I have made contact with three so far...this is even better...

I called up a renowned multimedia school- trying to find out if they have any web-development course, if they do - then I would have been interested in possibly hiring someone. I have Mr. X on the phone, who patiently listens to my query and then asks for the URL of my website. When I asked if they have any course running on web-development, I am requested to hold and in a minute one Ms. Y comes online. She asks me a few intelligent questions - who am I / why have I called / what is my contact number / what kind of work do I want on my website / am I looking for freelancers or not...after about two minutes of interrogation and possible unending list of questions, I repeated my first question - "do you have a web-development program that prepares students to build / manage websites?"

The answer was NO! I was not only exasperated but also completely at the end of my wits - having answered all of Ms Y's intelligent questions intelligently - I was told that all this for Ms. Y to confirm that her multimedia school does not have any web-development program. I nearly screamed to find out the reason for all her questions...guess what Ms. Y had in mind...she told me that she had in the meantime passed on my contact number to a friend who has his own web-development outfit and that this 'friend' would get in touch with me.

Indeed I got a call from friend of Ms. Y - who told me that he will be glad to work on my requirements and gives me the URL of his website. I came back to office and opened this friend's website, found it an okay information vehicle - clicked on the portfolio, found one name that I thought was recognizable and clicked on that web site's link...only to find it had another website developer's name written on it!!! This so completely broke my heart...

The next day I got a call from the same friend who showed interest in meeting me and invited me over to his office. Since his office was stone-throws distance away from my office - I decided to go there and see what kind of operation does this friend manage. This was a house-office, no offence meant...had 5-6 men (3 were introduced as partners, with another partner settled in Australia). Now, the friend was introduced as the marketing guy while friends of friend were techies.

I sat with them for about twenty minutes, trying to understand what do they do, how do they do what they do and in general trying to grasp their depth of knowledge - so that Grehom and friend's outfit could work together. These twenty minutes were good for me to understand that the friend was really running just a 'friendly' outfit, which could do well with a little more professional approach and mind-set. Excerpts of my discussion with the friend and his friends:

Me: Hi...I come to you in order to see if I can get someone to manage my website, develop it further and give it a look that I want...
Friend: Yeah, no problem! We are here for you - we have been doing this for three years now. Please tell us your requirement.
Me: I am looking at someone who knows OS Commerce...
Friend's Friend (interruptingly): Yeah Yeah...we know OS Commerce!
Me: Okay...that's great. Can you tell me any site that you have developed on OS Commerce then.
Friend's Friend (apologetically): Oh no...actually we have not done this, but we know.
Me (ignoring the interruption brought earlier, deciding to continue with my requirements): I need someone who has developed e-commerce websites and not just online catalogues / content / social networking sites...
Friend (himself): Yes yes, we do that all the time...
Me: Great...Can you tell me any e-commerce site that you have developed?
Friend (lightly shrugs off my question): We have done a lot of projects, we don't actually work from the scratch - but work on a project basis...
Me (by now knowing that I am only wasting my time with them): Okay, one last question - what kind of fees would you charge to a customer like me?
Friend's Friend number 2: Well...we have a hourly fee structure of INR500 per hour...


This comment completely sealed the deal in my mind. If I had USD100 per man day to spend on people who claim to know all and have done all...but can't back their statements / claims by sharing live examples...I would not be a rich guy...but the biggest fool around!

Now, my second experience was with an outfit, whose website I came across while Googling. Interesting website, talked a lot about who they were, what they believed in (Success) and also said what all they could do. BUT - soon I realised that none of the other links on that website worked. Testimonials - under construction / Portfolio - under construction!!! Their contact us link thankfully did lead to a page, which had a form to fill and a Submit button. I did fill up that form and clicked on Submit - hoping they would receive my query - will respond and then we will take it further from there. Well - as it turned out - that was way too much to hope for from a website of a web-development outfit! That Submit button didn't work as well...

With these two, I was beginning to get worried. Started questioning my own requirements, thinking that probably I was expecting too much. In all this - I came across another such site, which had promise in its look. I cautiously attempted browsing through it - all links worked. They had a working functional site - this suddenly became a wow factor in itself.

I found out that they were based in Delhi - found their contact number and called them up. After about a couple of rings, the phone was answered by a smart sounding voice - let's call him voice. Following are the excerpts of my brief chat with voice:

Me: Hi, I am looking at getting some development and maintenance work done for my website.
Voice: Well sir, you have called just the place for that work. Please tell me the URL of your website?
Me: Great...please go to http://www.grehom.co.in/
Voice (after couple of moments, while he typed in the URL and opened the site): Okay, I have opened this site - now can you please give me your contact details?
Me: Look my friend, I would be glad to give all information, which is anyways available on the website as well in the Write to Us link...but first I need to understand if you can deliver what I want?
Voice: Sir, don't worry about our ability - we have been in this business for the last six years and have a total number of 5000 man hours of experience amongst our team.
(I was a little confused...this is a company that has been in this line of work for six years, with a total of 5000 man hours of experience!!! With a single person, working for 200 days in one year and 8 hours a day...
1 man x 6 years x 200 man days per year x 8 man hours per day = 9600 man hours!!!)
Voice (while I am calculating all this): Sir, by the way - let me tell you that your site needs a lot of improvements...
Me: Excuse me?
Voice: Yes, I don't find your site to be user friendly at all...can't see the Write to Us link!!!
I ended that call then and there...I didn't want someone telling me that my site is not user friendly because Voice actually had no eyes!!!

All in all - I am disappointed with my current efforts' results in finding an affordable, trust-worthy, knowledgeable web-development outfits in Delhi. I am sure that I have only met the worse of the lot and that the better of the lot is just a little more difficult to find...so - hoping against hope to find one such outfit...I sign out today!

If you know of any, or are working with any such web-development outfit that does not over-promise, whose own website works and who is not out there to fleece me - please leave a comment and I shall gladly touch base with you. Thanks in advance!

2 comments:

unforgiven said...

I can understand your pain.
What exactly are you looking to get done on the site? If you know what all needs to be improved and in what way (for example, it would be great if it were possible to sort the list of items by different fields!) a possibility may be to find a freelancer and have them do it. Might end up being much cheaper too.

Let me see if I can find some good web development companies that I know people have gotten work done from. If I find anyway, I'll mail you with their info.

Mudit said...

Hi Rahul,

Good to know that someone has indeed understood my 'pain' here.

Now, the requirement for finding someone to do regular development / maintenance work comes from my already ready list of pending issues. It is a scenario where my current tech-resource is not enough for me to make changes at the pace that I would want to. This is for no other reason but human limitation.

So - my friend you would do a great deal for me if you can help me find a person (freelancer) or a company that can be of help, without being cheats!