Hiring Software Developers From Belarus - What Do You Need To Know?
Apr 11, 20229 min read
Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.
A beautiful European country known for its picturesque landscapes, man-made salt mountains, and a special love for delicious confectionery, Belarus these days is also increasingly known for its rapid development in the field of technology and IT services in particular. Due to the ever-increasing number of talented developers who speak English well, and the proximity of the time zone to the UK among other factors, it has recently become popular to hire software developers from this country.
However, two factors stop western investments from flowing into the country:
in mid-2020 the United States imposed sanctions on Belarus over a disputed presidential election
Belarus, a close ally of Russia, backed its eastern neighbor during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
How do these cases affect Belarus developers? Is it still a good destination for software development outsourcing? Let’s figure these out!
Why this IT outsourcing destination? Why choose Belarusian developers?
Belarus is a popular outsourcing destination in Eastern Europe. The country has a sizable workforce, good technical education, a time zone convenient for Western Europe, and competitive rates. Belarus has implemented several nationwide technology initiatives in recent years, including government subsidies, tax incentives, and free economic technology zones. All these factors make software development outsourcing in Belarus an attractive option for businesses from all over the world.
So, let's take a closer look at the current state of the Belarusian IT sector, its capacity, growth potential, and some other important indicators.
More than 45,000 developers work in Belarus, and about 7,000 students graduate from local universities every year. These figures are impressive given that the population of Belarus is relatively small (9.6 million people).
The Belarusian IT sector attracts the best talent and lures professionals from other industries for several reasons.
First, it opens up many career opportunities, including international networks and business travel.
Secondly, IT professionals have relatively high salaries. Belarusian IT specialists earn about $1800-2000 per month, while average salaries in other industries are four times lower ($450-500).
In total, about 1000 Belarusian IT companies are concentrated in the cities of the country, including Brest, Grodno, Minsk, and Gomel. The capital of Belarus Minsk is considered the largest technological center of the country. The city with the largest number of developers in Belarus, as well as the largest Belarusian IT cluster - Hi-Tech Park.
However, the Hi-Tech Park is not only the physical location of hundreds of Belarusian resident software companies. It is also a special extraterritorial tax regime that provides substantial tax benefits to businesses registered under it. Since the Hi-Tech Park creates favorable conditions for the development of industry and IT outsourcing in Belarus, local media and the government often proudly call it the "Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe".
The majority of programmers in Belarus (60.5%) work in the field of software development and design outsourcing. This means that there are thousands of highly qualified professionals ready to take on projects for offshore clients. Some of the largest IT outsourcing companies in Belarus include EPAM, Itransition, ISsoft, and Intetics.
The market share of food companies in Belarus is smaller, but still significant (39.5%).
World-famous digital products developed in Belarus include Viber, Flo, and World of Tanks (more on that later).
As one of the largest software development outsourcing destinations in Eastern Europe, Belarus attracted significant investment from foreign companies. For example, the volume of foreign investment in HTP resident companies in 2019 amounted to $263.2 million. In the same year, the HTP generated about $2.2 billion in exports.
Is it safe to hire software developers from Belarus?
Given the extended scope of sanctions on Russia and Belarus, devs from the latter will face significant changes. Of the important industries that will suffer losses is IT. This is already a systemically significant part of the Belarusian economy, 7.5% of GDP in 2021 falls on it. Here an additional mechanism is activated - people employed in this area can quickly leave the country, they are not tied to a geographical location. Now there is a stir in their midst, another wave of mass relocation of IT business from the country is likely. This industry will almost certainly suffer.
Difficulties may arise for companies that work, for example, in external European and American markets. These difficulties will primarily affect financial transactions related to the receipt of funds for services rendered and the remuneration of external employees.
Especially if the company conducts its transactions through banking institutions that have fallen under sanctions. Intra-industry competition for the client may become more acute. When the boundaries narrow, it affects the capacity of the market. A large market means that everyone will find a place for themselves and there will be no fierce competition. Narrowing the market and its possibilities with the same number of performers can make it less friendly and force you to compete for the client. But on the other hand, it will motivate IT companies to become better, provide better services, offer quality service to customers, etc.
If earlier the geography of clients was unlimited (USA, EU, Russia, India, China, etc.), now there may be an objective need to work with customers located only in your region in order to minimize financial risks and risks associated with the system of international calculations.
We do not rule out that reputational risks will arise when companies, due to the general trend of demonization of the Russian Federation and Belarus, will refuse the services of domestic developers.
How sanctions affect Belarus developers
As a rule, sanctions are imposed on oligarchs and prominent businessmen working in key sectors of the economy that provide a significant source of income for the Russian Federation. However, ordinary people will also see the consequences of its government decisions.
For example, the most explicit outcome for Belarus developers will be the inability to use SWIFT for international transfers and consequently work of their bank cards issued by the domestic banks. Moreover, the overall economic recession will force software developers in Belarus to raise wage demands.
Today we can already see that designers from Belarus and Russia can’t resume their work as they’ve lost access to Figma.
Pros and cons of software outsourcing to Belarus
Main benefits of Belarus IT outsourcing
Huge talent pool supported by technical education in Belarus
Belarus annually graduates thousands of talented and highly qualified specialists, and this has become possible largely due to the fact that the country pays more and more attention to education. The country boasts an exemplary high literacy rate of over 99% for both male and female populations of all age groups. Future education statistics are high and exceed 98%.
In addition, higher education is actively encouraged by the country's universities and institutions, such as the renowned National Academy of Sciences, which has been recognized for excellent courses in various subjects and extensive research and development in everything from science and technology to the humanities.
Creating more opportunities for future IT professionals and stimulating the growth of talented developers are the technological universities in Minsk, such as the Belarusian National Technical University and the Belarusian State Technological University.
In this way, UK companies can be sure that the Belarusian IT professionals and developers they hire for software development projects are of the highest quality because they have received such a strong education and grew up in a research-based environment, targeted research, and innovation.
The growing infrastructure power of Belarusian IT
As we stated before, over the past decade, the information technology industry in Belarus has grown rapidly. With a large number of R&D labs located in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, about 60.5% of developers in the industry today work in offshore software development.
Among other Eastern European countries, Belarus is also known for being a leader in R&D, and technology innovation, and the Belarusian IT industry is estimated to be growing four to five times faster than global IT growth, which is impressive and means a lot.
The Government of Belarus is constantly investing in research and development, especially in technology, which accounted for 71.89% of the gross investment as of 2018.
Close time zones between Belarus and Western Europe
One of the challenges companies in the UK and the US face when outsourcing software development to other countries is the difference in time zones.
However, with a country like Belarus in Eastern Europe, British companies do not need to worry about this because the country is only two hours ahead of the UK, which makes quick communication possible and allows the development team and the company to collaborate easily. Thus, there is no time wasted waiting for hours on end for the other party to respond, and there is no delay in moving the project forward. This makes Belarus and its IT sector an excellent choice for outsourcing software development services.
Belarus developers currently enjoy working in a very fast-growing and thriving software industry, and since there are ample opportunities for success in their current jobs and development teams, they tend to stay with that job/team for quite a long time.
This benefits UK companies looking to bring in developers from Eastern European countries such as Belarus, as it means the chances of the same development team working on a project to completion are very high.
Every IT outsourcing company knows that whenever a developer leaves the team and leaves in the middle of a project, there is a certain risk of losing technical knowledge and disrupting the entire project and business processes as a whole. But in the case of Belarus, this is unlikely to happen, since the members of the development team with whom you start the project will most likely be the same with whom you complete it.
Multilingual and experienced Belarus developers
Often when looking for outsourcing development teams from European countries, many companies are concerned that the developers from the outsourcing company they hire will have communication problems due to the language barrier and inability to speak English fluently.
However, this is unlikely to be a problem when outsourcing from Belarus, as Belarusians speak English very well. They scored a respectable 38th place out of 112 on the English Proficiency Index as of 2021. Belarus is well aware of how much it is in demand in terms of software development outsourcing, and developers, accordingly, are fluent in English.
Hiring cost savings is actually a key factor why companies choose to outsource IT services. Hiring in-house software developers can be quite expensive for western companies as the hiring process includes not only high salaries but also other costs such as onboarding, training, etc.
Choosing Belarus as a destination for outsourcing can offer great cost benefits as the average Belarusian developer earns around 17500 Belarusian rubles (£5500), while a UK software developer earns around £31000, which is a very significant difference.
After all, even after paying additional costs such as bonuses and the overall cost of hiring, dealing with remote developers from this country will cost you a lot less than hiring in-house developers for your project.
Common pitfalls of software outsourcing to Belarus
Another possible disadvantage that a company may or may not face, depending on the services required, concerns Belarusian legislation. Although the government is known to have enacted several laws to encourage foreign entry into outsourcing exports, the entire system of the country is surrounded by many complex legal regulations and laws that must be strictly enforced. Every company should become familiar with these laws, especially regarding the entry and exit of foreign firms, before proceeding to outsource software development from that location.
Instability in the country
2020 has been a revolutionary year for Belarus and brought some instability to the country. At the same time, Belarusian outsourcing companies working with international clients appreciate the opportunity to keep their jobs in the unstable situation in the country and do their best to maintain a high level of results.
The current political crisis in Belarus has also affected its IT sector. During mass protests following the results of the last presidential elections, Belarusian IT companies faced restrictions on Internet access and disruptions in the mobile network. Some of them have decided to move their offices to other countries. But even those companies that remain are going through hard times, as many individual developers have moved to Ukraine or Poland. This movement of developers opened up a lot of new opportunities for hiring software developers from Poland and also in Ukraine.
Given all of these, make sure both your Product Owner and CEO have shared their thoughts on this outsourcing destination.
Top 5 “Made in Belarus”
Wargaming, founded by Viktor Kisly, initially focused on multiplayer strategy games for PC. Their very first game, DBA Online, released in 2000, was a version of the popular board game.
The mobile developers released hundreds of games, but only World of Tanks made the company really famous. Released in 2011, it was an online fighting game that gave way to many popular sequels and variations. It now boasts over 10 million players, with up to 1.5 million concurrent players in North America, Europe, and Asia.
In 2013, they acquired Day 1 Studios and brought them into the console game market. The company has now grown to over 4,500 employees worldwide in 18 different locations.
Viber, founded by two former Israel Defense Forces information officers, has created a secure communications platform that competes directly with Skype. It has grown to 1 billion users in 193 countries, making it one of the most popular and used communication platforms.
With secure encryption at the heart of the app, Viber is heavily used in war-torn areas and places where communication is controlled or restricted. The application, developed exclusively in Belarus, has a relatively more efficient communication protocol and consumes much fewer network resources than some other messengers.
This fun and successful mobile app allow users to apply various face filters in real-time to record videos and take selfies. Bought by Facebook to compete with Snapchat's similar features, the Belarusian startup started out by developing a highly acclaimed mobile app.
While the company has expanded to over 115 employees worldwide, with offices in Buffalo, New York, London, and Berlin, the development team remains in Minsk. They made the news in 2018 with a Series A funding round some 14 years after they were founded and plan to use the money to expand into new markets by growing their sales and marketing team.
They now serve over 1,000 corporate clients worldwide, including companies such as ePay, Vinci Energies, and CallRail. A great example of an efficient programmer workforce available in Belarus is the company's plans to keep the development team where it started.
This health tracking app uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to track women's periods and provides a forum for discussing women's health issues. They claim to have helped 4.6 million women get pregnant, adding 500,000 to that total each month, and are consistently ranked as the most popular health and fitness app on the App Store.
The company is headquartered in Redwood City, California, and the company does all of its development at its facility in Minsk, where it was founded by founder Yuri Gursky (who also founded MSQRD and Prisma).
Nobody knows what Belarus developers are going to face in the coming months. Perhaps at the time of this writing, their self-proclaimed president has already invaded Ukraine. The situation in the CEE region is changing every day.
Robert is a co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.