GitHub COO Erica Brescia reveals why the company chose to launch in India before China

GitHub, the world's leading software developer and open-source platform, sprung a surprise when it chose India before going to China, a bigger market. For the Microsoft subsidiary, India, which is its third-largest market, is a bigger opportunity, GitHub's Chief Operating Officer Erica Brescia tells Tech2 in an interview in New Delhi.

“In China, we have been very focussed on connecting with the community and developers, and in India, we are focussed on connecting with universities and the educational system as well as really focussed on driving enterprise sales,” Brescia says of 12 February India launch.

GitHub, acquired by Microsoft for $7.5 billion in 2018, is also building an engineering team in India to tap local talent. “We thought this is a great place from a wholistic approach to focus all our efforts,” Brescia says. But this could have been done in China, too? It probably could, but India is a more approachable place to start with, she says. A large number of the 40 million developers on the platform are based in India.

Brescia is reluctant to put a number to it but cites one of GitHub's leadership principles — the growth mindset — to contour the India story.


GitHub’s Chief Operating Officer, Erica Brescia.

“I don't want to be too presumptuous about what we can do to best support Indian developers because it is my first time in India…,” she says. For now, GitHub wants to get the lay of its new land. It will focus on bringing Hubbers to India, start building a team, participate in developer events, hackathons and get their feedback on their expectations from GitHub.

“So, there is not currently a unique set of work that we are looking for from the India team,” Brescia says. Brescia also talked about the inherent contradiction of GitHub, an open-source platform, and Microsoft, the big daddy of proprietary software.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Tech2: From co-founder to an employee — how has the shift been from Bitnami to GitHub?

Brescia: I haven't had a boss in the past 15 years. The honest truth is that I was a little concerned about how that experience would be. I am fortunate that I am part of the senior executive team, so it doesn't feel so much that I am an employee, rather I am part of the team that is driving GitHub's success… I am part of launching GitHub in India. How exciting that can be. India is the second-largest developers' market in the world, and the third-largest for GitHub, for now.

Tech2: How did India become GitHub's third-largest market even before the launch?

Brescia: It is really the power of the open-source community. We talked before about the level of drive and passion with developers and students in India. That drive and passion coupled with the opportunity that open source brings. Most open-source developments happen on GitHub.

Tech2: Culturally, how does an open-source world like that of GitHub's exist alongside a proprietary world of Microsoft?

Brescia: We operate incredibly independently from Microsoft and that's the key. GitHub is the home for all developers, no matter where they want to build, and in what technologies they want to build, and Microsoft understands that and keeps the GitHub culture as it is. I have never worked with Microsoft but I would say that Microsoft's culture and approach to open source have changed dramatically over the last several years, and in particular, since Satya (Nadella) took over as CEO… Microsoft bought the company because it understood that open source is the future and developers are the future. And in order to support the great work that is happening in the developer ecosystem, they needed to buy GitHub but leave it alone.

Tech2: Even IBM is opening up to open source.

Brescia: It was interesting to see Jim Whitehurst (CEO of Red Hat) being promoted to president of IBM. He is someone I have known for a long time. He is a fantastic business person and a human and he brings some great aspects of open source and Red Hat's culture into IBM.

Tech2: Last year you said that open source is broken (when it comes to revenue)?

Brescia: I didn't. Somebody put a very terrible headline on the article where I said nothing of this sort. This is very frustrating for me.

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