An Online Grocer’s Tech Stack

May 9, 2018

“Culture eats everything else for lunch.”

Before he could dive deep into the tech stack at Bigbasket (BB), Pramod Jajoo (Ex-CTO of Bigbasket & Partner- Kalaari Capital) our guest speaker for the April session of CTOTalk by OrangeScape took us through his early days at BB and pointed out that the first thing he did when he joined was to put down the values deck and reinforce it within the team.

“All new hires need to imbibe the startup spirit. Recognise the intangibles that make up the culture and reinforce these within your team- these are largely missing in many startups today.”

Technology as a business-enabler

Pramod explained how its not always about the technology, and that the focus must always be on the business needs. Some problems are mundane to solve from a tech perspective, but they will have a huge business impact.

“We most often don’t care in what language the code of whatsapp is written in; the only thing that matters is that it works and works well. So don’t just go after the next shiny new toy. It should be about making a difference to the customer.”

Cloud & Security

Pramod spoke in detail about the pervasive use of the cloud today and highlighted the pros & cons. While doing business on the cloud is great, it comes with high costs especially for early-stage startups, and it will be worthwhile to keep an eye out before they spiral out of control. With using the cloud also comes security issues.

“If needed, use third party consultant/expert to help you understand the landscape, and get your architecture validated by outside expert/cloud providers. You can use cloud ‘managed’ services over doing it yourself. Get your team to understand the recommended practices from your cloud provider and get an audit done. Internal threats will increase as you go along.”

Understanding the security aspects of all the tools and services you use is important. BB implemented what they called a Bug Bounty project, a program for the ethical hacker community, and rewarded valid contributions.

Robustness of architecture

“When it comes to architecture, the pecking order for me is robustness, performance and scalability in that order.”

Pramod’s talk was peppered with lots of examples of how processes and functions where improved at BB. He specifically laid stress on the KiSS principle: keep it simple stupid. He explained it thus:

“All techies love complexity and algorithms- but it’s important to keep things simple and reduce the number of moving parts. Use technology/framework that is suitable for the problem at hand rather than ‘bleeding edge, cool technology’. Don’t just go after the next, newest, shiniest tool. Use what makes the most sense and reuse the same if you can. Do NOT keep introducing new tech stack components without a good thought.”

Once insightful point that really stood out and was well-taken by the participants was this: “As a tech leader you not only need to be hands on, but also should have the vision and capability to look ahead. The technology and architecture needs to be 12 months ahead of your business. Not less and not more than that.”

Pramod spoke in great detail about BB’s tech stack, the various front end tools such as Gulp, Google Workbox Boot Strap 3, data storage tools like Aerospike & ElasticSearch. He concluded by highlighting how important Analytics is, and recommended tech leaders to inculcate in their teams a culture of data-driven decision making.

CTOTalk’s April session saw participants from Coimbatore and Madurai remotely participating through a webinar and also got to join in the Q&A with the Guest Speaker.

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