Interview with Niraj Ranjan Rout, Co-Founder @ Hiver

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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]

 

Emails have surely become an indispensable part of almost every person’s work routine and with the rise in the number of emails that we deal each day it becomes imperative to have a handful tools for email optimization. Hiver is one such software that facilitates email collaboration by allowing the users to share their email labels from their inbox and thus turning Gmail into a collaboration platform. Apart from that it also lets its users assign emails as tasks and track them, create and share email templates, write notes on emails and share them, etc.

Hiver was founded by Niraj and Nitesh, two IIT alumni, in mid 2011 to build a collaboration tool that would let them work efficiently without having to switch from their inbox every time they want to perform some mail related task. The app has become really popular over time and is currently being used in a number of companies daily. It is also one of the highest rated apps on the Google Apps marketplace with more than a 100,000 downloads. This Bangalore based company was started as Grexit but later got it name changed to Hiver.

We caught up with Niraj Ranjan Rout, the co-founder of the company.

Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.

I started my career at the Electronic Design Automation firm Mentor Graphics back in 2002 after grauduating with a B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur. I was at Mentor Graphics for 5 years, after which I started my first venture Mobicules, a product consulting and development firm. I had a great time running it and serving customers across the world for around 3.5 years, when I exited from Mobicules and started Hiver. It was called Grexit then.

My co-founder Nitesh and I have been at Hiver since 2011, and it has been a great ride – building a great product, acquiring customers globally, and building a profitable SAAS business.

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When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?

I started thinking of starting up after around 4 years of my professional career, when I wanted to work on something that I was passionate about, and would demand from me much more than just my technical skills.

What were the early days at Hiver like?

Awesome. We worked really hard – for the first 1.5 years, we were just a four-people team, working through nights building the product, listening to customer feedback and improving things. We were really driven to get to a point where we were sure that we had a product that solved a real world problem for a large number of people.

It was stressful, but a lot of fun as well.

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

Both me and my co-founder attempt to split our time in a 50:50 ratio between things of long term strategic importance and things that just need to be done to keep things running.

I spend a lot of time on our usage analytics, product, working on our product roadmap, and working directly with our engineering team and designers to make sure we build things that solve real problems. I also spend some time daily on customer support so that I have a first hand experience of what our users need and how we can do what we do better.

In a week, on 3 out of 5 days, I’d spend at least an hour on hiring.

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Can you tell us about the technology stack used at Hiver?

Our stack has undergone a lot of change over the last 3 years, but this is how it stands now – Python, a fair bit of PHP, Redis, MySQL, Beanstalk for queue management, and tonnes of Javascript packages.

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

Amazon AWS has worked wonders for us till now, and I’m sure it’ll continue to work well.

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

We use a mix of dashboards that we’ve built ourselves, apart from Kissmetrics. Kissmetrics helps us track every user action, and understand what people are using and how. It also helps understand gaps in our activation and upgrade funnels, and fix things quickly if we break something.

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

We’re a product company, so technology is the core to our business. Additionally, we integrate deeply into Gmail, so we have to meet and exceed Gmail’s high level of usability and experience. That sets a really high benchmark for us, and we love the challenge.

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What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running Hiver?

We deal with Gmail’s servers a lot through IMAP and their new Gmail API, and writing our services in a scalable way (we do millions of transactions with Gmail’s servers daily) has been a challenge. It’s constantly a work in progress, and we have a dedicated group of people working on this and improving this continuously.

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

We focus on figuring out if the candidate has the attitude of staying with problems and working on them until they solve them. Our selection process is very simple – a 2 hour online programming test followed by a 1.5 hour interview. We don’t ask very ‘difficult’ questions, and we’re not essentially looking for very high levels of aptitude. What we’re looking for is a problem solving attitude.

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

I follow tonnes of technical publications on Flipboard. I also have a lot of geek and founder friends, so Twitter and Facebook are the places where I get a lot of my news.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

It is really exciting to realize that with our tool we’re helping companies all over the world solve problems which are critical to their businesses. Looking at the the number of people using our product at any given time gives us the biggest kick possible.

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What sets Hiver engineering culture apart?

Our focus is on getting things done. Our team spends less than 3 minutes on an average in meetings. We focus on helping the people figure out what they need to do, and then leaving them alone to do that.

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Which Hiver value resonates best with you?

Our goal for our product is – Simpler, Smarter, Faster. This philosophy drives not just our product, but our marketing and customer success teams too.

Any piece of advice for the techies out there?

Getting the code shipped is as important as perfection, if not more. If you’re in the early days of building something, figure out how you can cut down your time to release by half, without impacting the functionality and quality too much. There’s always a way!
[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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