Interview with Aparajita Mukhopadhyay, VP | Business Development @ RailYatri

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[This interview is sponsored by workspot.in, India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on workspot.in. If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit workspot.in]

 

RailYatri is an android and web based app that provides crowd sourced decision making information about train travel in India. It was launched in the year 2014 under Noida based Stellant Technologies, a startup co-founded by Manish Rathi, Kapil Raizada and Sachin Saxena in the year 2011. In no time at all the app has gone on to become the most popular train information app in India and crossed a million downloads mark within the first year of its launch.

The app provides a lot of valuable information related to train travel in India such as train status, seat availability, predictions, facilities at stations, etc. Among its other services, the company has also partnered with taxi services and food vendors across 20 cities. It has recently launched the ‘RailRadar GPS’ which would provide the users with real-time tracking of trains across the country on a Google map. In its constant efforts to serve its customer better, the startup has also partnered with WeChat to provide the travelers with train information through the popular social messaging app.

We interviewed Aparajita Mukhopadhyay on behalf of the Digifire readers to learn a little more about this fast growing travel start-up.

Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.

I joined TCS through campus placement after completing my B.Tech and M.Tech from Jadavpur University, both in Computer Science and Engineering. I learned and grew with TCS for 13 years in various roles and responsibilities from working on unix internals, enterprise applications, databases to process frameworks for delivery management.

After TCS, I joined GlobalLogic in 2006 and it was a wholesome experience as I worked on various technologies majorly in web-based deliveries and ensured delivery using the agile delivery model. I was a part of the business unit where we helped with startup deliveries and took Version 1.0 products to the market, starting from conceptual design and architecture to handling delivery. I also led a team in Cloud integration technologies which proved to be a great learning experience.

Last year, I joined RailYatri as startup culture opens up immense opportunities to directly handle a wide range of areas that excites me – from core technology to different aspects of product delivery management.

When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?

Working for products for startups at GlobalLogic taught me a great deal about bringing up a startup from scratch, which was very different from traditional project or product engagements. I liked the challenge of taking maverick approaches and owning the whole outcome of such measures.

RailYatri is exactly the same and much more than what I had in mind when I made the move. The culture and environment is challenging yet comforting.

What were the early days at RailYatri like?

When I joined RailYatri, we had a small team of about 15 people and yet it was already on rails. My day used to start with looking at the code, and then the rest of the day comprised of HR discussions regarding new hirings for the engineering and development team, sitting with someone to do the debugs and discussions on the team’s deliverables ahead. That was the most exciting time of my professional life.

Today, we have teams for every function and things run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. We have grown to a team size of 50+, moved to a bigger office space and venturing into many new segments.

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Can you please describe what a typical day at office is like?

We go through the normal processes of daily standup and reviews. Apart from that, we also look at the forthcoming releases, working with team for designs, debugging etc. And as we are growing, it is imperative to spend some time in the hiring activities as well.

Can you tell us about the technology stack used at RailYatri.in?

Our backend is in Ruby on Rails. We have apps for almost all platforms – Android, iOS and Windows. We use a combination of RDBMS and document databases.

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Is there any technology that you’re personally betting on to help you scale up?

Yes, it has to be Big Data. I expect it to be the platform of mobile upsurge for the next several years.

How are you using Business Intelligence and analytics at your company?

Analytics is the core USP of RailYatri. It also helps in deriving business intelligence. We extensively work on predictive analysis and other data sciences; one example is Confirmation Probability of wait-listed PNRs, which is also one of the most popular features in the app. We derive intelligence from the available data for the benefit of our users and provide it at the right time and in the right context.

How else does technology help your company stand apart from its rivals?

First of all, I do not see anyone else offering analytics, service and information across wide spectrum as RailYatri. However, we understand that there is no place of complacency and we work hard to provide new values and improve existing user experience.  

Technology is the only means to stay ahead of the curve and for “Crossing the Chasm”.  Our leaders and engineers are encouraged to explore, experiment and fail, as only then can disruptive innovations happen.

What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running RailYatri.com?

We continuously review and revamp our deployment strategy to ensure that we are able to deliver user requested content despite the huge scale. Also, the usage of GPS on phone to determine real time train locations has a huge algorithmic and real time processing complexity.

What are some of the attributes you look out for in prospective technology employees?

It has to be the courage to question the status quo and try out new things to achieve results.

How do you keep up to date with the latest happenings in the technology world?

I read a lot, and along with that working directly with technology leaders and young engineers also helps in staying on top of things.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

Being a part of RailYatri is quite exciting. The idea of helping millions of unknown Indians who travel by trains everyday for various reasons of duty, joy and sorrow is a feeling that connects me with the country. My thoughts and my work touch millions of lives every day. There is a definitive purpose of doing things beyond career growth, profit or technology learning.

Nevertheless, the team is another factor that pulls me to work every morning. Highly cohesive and energetic, this is the best team that I have ever worked with.

What sets RailYatri engineering culture apart?

Our mantra is – ‘No boundaries’. All employees – managers and team members, seniors and juniors – work, share and enjoy the journey together. Everyone is accessible, approachable and always ready to help.

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Which RailYatri value resonates best with you?

Openness and mutual trust; this has resulted into a truly self managed team, ready to take up the ownership and face challenges.

Any piece of advice for the techies out there?

Connect with the bigger picture, then only you can see the value of your role and responsibility in the whole scheme of things. You are not doing just ROR, Java, android coding, you are possibly enabling an unknown Indian in a distant village to reach to his family on time. Once you realize that, you will not need quality processes to write correct codes and you will not need a manager’s monitoring to test your features. You will do what is right on your own.

 

[This interview is sponsored by workspot.in, India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on workspot.in. If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit workspot.in]

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