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Globally, there are about 26.9 million software developers, out of which India is predicted to make up 5 million, overtaking the US’ developers by 2023. Due to the high developer concentration in the country, India has become a premier market for those in the dev tools business. Among them, Replit, a San Francisco-based startup, emerging as one of the most active members building a developer community in India.
“A lot of people in India code using their phones… In college classrooms under their tables, students are coding on their phones to practise what they’re learning in real time,” said Anshul Bhide, BizOps, India Head at Replit, in an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine.
Indeed, India has one of the lowest penetration of powerful PC devices (23% of urban population), but has a huge penetration when it comes to mobile phones (66.2% of the population). It seems that this extends even to coding tasks, as Anshul stated.
Phones are one of Indians’ most preferred interface with the net, and this preference is working in Replit’s favour. Recounting an anecdote, Anshul said, “I spoke to someone from a small town that faces a lot of power outages. The Replit mobile app has been amazing for them because they can’t charge their laptop that quickly, but their mobile can always be charge super quickly, and so they’re able to code seamlessly.”
Looks like Replit has its eyes on India for reasons other than its considerable talent base and user base. When asked about the company’s presence in India, Anshul stated, “India has always been critical for Replit. It’s our second largest market, it’s one of our fastest, if not the fastest growing market today. The reason why it’s super powerful in places like India is that you don’t need a super high-end laptop to run code anymore, it’s done all on Replit’s servers.”
As a company offering tools for developers, this has resulted in an extremely tight product market fit for Replit in India. Anshul elaborated, “We have a unique product market fit in India because of a lot of the needs of the users, for example mobile over desktop, and having a fast 5G internet, are getting fulfilled and everyone’s obsessed with learning how to code. There are always these organic communities and YouTube channels with massive followings. All of these are factors that have allowed Replit to grow super organically, super fast.”
Software Developers in Dilemma
In India, coding has become a new passion for those entering the job market. At last count, over 1.08 million students were enrolled in computer science undergraduate courses in India, with more pursuing their interest through the Internet. Even as Indians look to upskill themselves and enter the industry, auto-coding platforms seem to be diluting the value proposition of developers.
With the rise of auto-coding platforms like Replit’s Ghostwriter, developers’ jobs seem to be at stake now more than ever. Just last month, GitHub wiped out its Indian team numbering over 140. After remarking that Replit would be happy to interview and speak to some of these laid off GitHub developers, Anshul elaborated on the current state of the software market, stating, “Making 1x developers into 10x and 100x developers with the help of all of our compute capabilities, our storage capabilities, our hosting and deployment capabilities, and with obviously Ghostwriter on the top of it, that’s what we see. The median set of developers are going to become supercharged, overall it’s a productive decade; it’s not going to take away developer jobs.”
Replit to the Rescue
LLM-based coding platforms are continuing to improve themselves, with Google researchers demonstrating last week that they can be used to self-debug. In the age of Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot, Amazon CodeWhisperer, and more, how does Replit stand apart?
Replit has also instituted an undertaking known as Replit bounties, which are a way for ‘0x developers to become 1x developers’. Non-developers can put up a bounty or a problem to solve on the Replit app, and developers can solve these problems to earn ‘cycles’ — Replit’s virtual currency. Recounting another story, Anshul stated, “I was just speaking to somebody, a college student who has won multiple bounties, and now he’s gotten a job, earning in dollars with a Silicon Valley-based company. Remote work is real, bounties are a great place to earn.”
Even though developers have been at the forefront of AI and automation ever since the field came to be, it seems that ChatGPT woke the world up to what is possible with AI. Speaking on this, Anshul said, “GPT-4 has really captured consumer imagination and a large part of this is the first time that a consumer-facing app has been put out there, and that’s why outside of 25 million developers in the world, everybody else is aware of this as well. The new paradigm shift is going to be generative AI.”
Even as the world shifts around it, India is uniquely poised to make the most of the situation. Anshul elaborated, “India is actually already becoming the hub for all of this. I’m in a bunch of conversations with communities of people who are actually building things with generative AI and I think that is something powerful.”