As many organizations, both government and private, have started using open-source software, such as Linux, it is quite clear that price is not the only advantage that these software hold. They also offers the companies the benefits of customizability, flexibility, interoperability, auditability, etc. A company that is counting on the power of the open source is a Noida based startup, Webkul.
Webkul is a company that creates software solutions for enterprise level e-commerce businesses. It is a web and mobile based company that focuses on creating open source platforms and plugins. The company which was launched in the year 2010 in a 150 square feet room has more than 150+ creative engineers now and has more than 40,000 customers. This exciting startup was founded by two young engineers, Vipin Sahu and Vinay Yadav just after their college. It has since then developed more than 700 extensions and apps, which are being used by a number of companies in more than 150 countries, including some of the coolest startups in the Silicon Valley.
Here is a small interview with one of the co-founders of the company, Vinay.
Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.
I completed my B.tech in 2009 from JSS Noida in IT Branch and cofounded webkul with Vipin and Prakash just after college. So my professional journey is limited to Webkul. In the startup, you need to wear multiple hats, so it gave me a unique opportunity to learn about all parts of business including programming, hiring , training, customer interaction, employee motivation accounting, etc. Starting a company without any experience and then scaling it to cover 150+ countries, 7+ platforms, 40,000+ customers, 700+ plugins, 150+ headcount is really an awesome journey so far and in this journey I have been able to learn a lot about technology and ecommerce space.
When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?
This would be very interesting story. In my early childhood, I’ve had the perception that business people are greedy and unethical as shown in many movies. Since then I was 100% sure that business is not my cup of tea. Before joining College, I was in kind of a rat race, score well in class 10th, score well in class 12th, crack Engineering entrance. But once I joined college, I had no further goal. I am quite ambitious from my childhood and I need a goal to live. I can’t live without it which created a very unique void in my brain. For this ‘unique void’ I really want to thank my parents. They never put any expectation in front of me. Although, I belong to a middle class family but never saw my father being sad about money. My father is like my hero because silently he injected a lot of morality in me. I started searching for a goal and started asking a genuine question “what I want to do in my life? “. I wanted to do something which must be very logical (matching my passion for mathematics and computer science) , should not be boring, must have day by day challenges, should have bigger impact on the world, should not be unethical/fraud/cheating, etc.
So at the end I penned down a few options: Mathematics scholar, Big Programmer, Chess player or something in social side like NGO. So running a startup was not even in the list. I chose to be a programmer because it met all the parameters. It is very logical, a dynamic field and also has great impact on society. I was excited about the impact of open-source software on the society. For Example hundred thousands of companies are running on Magento (Opensource Ecommerce Platform). So by creating an open-source solution, a developer creates more jobs than any government policy and spreads wealth more than any NGO.
I was very much passionate about computer science hence, started learning more and more about computer science. In this period I came close to the stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Stallman, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Narayan Murthy, etc. Then I realised my previous perception about business people is wrong especially in Computer science Industry. For running a business you need to be very much ethical, you can’t run a company in this industry on the basis of nepotism/fraud/cheat etc. So the basic reason behind not to do business became weak. At the end of the first year, it was 100% clear to me that this is something I can do happily do throughout my life without any regrets .
What were the early days at Webkul like?
The starting days were tough but passion and energy dominated the pain. We (I and Vipin ) used to live in hardly 150 sqft rented room. I still remember when we hired an intern but we didn’t have any extra computer for him. Vipin used to sleep in the day time so that the intern can work on his computer. We didn’t earn single penny the first 2-3 months but we never gave up and more than money we were very much enjoying the process. Initially the money part was weak and not showing any sign of improvement. We sat and decided our minimum monthly expense and came to the conclusion that we can eat Maggi both time and then food budget would come to Rs 600. So our monthly expenses were limited to Rent (2000 Per head), Internet (700 per head ) and Food (600 per head). We knew if we were able to manage at 10000 per month then it is more than sufficient for both of us. But thank God, just after this meeting we saw money flowing in, we never had to actually depend on Maggi and we both are quite foodie now.
Few months later Prakash joined us as the third co-founder,he had 2 years of experience, better bank balance and more organisation skills. So it eased our initial problems.
Can you please describe what a typical day at office is like?
My day starts with looking at sales figure of last night and then leave for office. At office the first thing is meeting with business development team about sales queries and then with developers about any bottleneck they are facing. These two are compulsory activities, after that it depends on the day, mainly it includes new module discussion, flow, technology stack to use and usually end with attending ppt on any new emerging technology.
Can you tell us about the technology stack used at Webkul?
Webkul is all about technology. We created this as a community of software developers (Web = Technology and Kul = Community). We started with LAMP stack but we keep adding new platforms and language. Now in webkul we are developing plugins on more than 7 platforms. Every platform has its own technology stack. Mostly we use the following:
Platforms: Magento, Prestashop, Odoo, Joomla, Opencart, shopify, salesforce, CScart
Framework: Symfony, openobject, express, apart from this every platform has own framework too.
Language :PHP, Python, Java, node.js, Apex, knockout.js, backbone.js, jquery, bootstarp, angular.js.
Template engine: Smarty, Twig, zade
Database: Mysql, redis, sqlite, postgres
Server: For all server need we use Amazon AWS: EC2, Elastic Load balance, RDS, Route53, Autoscaling, Reserved Instance, S3.
Cloudflare for CDN as well as for Web Application Firewall and Boto for AWS automation.
Is there any technology that you’re personally betting on to help you scale up?
We are living in the most exciting era of a technology revolution. Every week new technology/frameworks are popping up. So we need to keep learning new technologies. In web and mobile domain we are betting high on real time scalable technology like node.js /NOSQL and even PHP7 is looking very promising. Now computer science is more about the architecture than programming. You need to build your platform architecture in such a manner that you can replace any part of it easily with market hot-trend without breaking the things. Apart from this I am personally very much excited about IOT (Internet of thing), VR (Virtual Reality ) and AR (Augmented Reality), especially their effect on Ecommerce and ERP industry.Now we have good headset for VR and AR. VR example: Think, in future you can see an Ecommerce site completely like a Virtual Store wearing VR headset and you can see/feel product in their real size and 360 degree view. Same for AR: you can actually see product like Bed/furniture inside your room before buying, so that you can have better matching and less aftersale surprise.
How are you using Business Intelligence and analytics at your company?
We believe in the famous Narayan Murthy’s quote:
“In God we trust, everybody else bring data to the table”
As we are growing we are giving more and more stress to Data. For the business side we are using Google analytics and webmastertool in a very deep manner. We are also doing A/B testing. On coding side we are using New Relic to find bottlenecks, have also build many modules on odoo (ERP system using in-house) to have better and action oriented report. For the longer run we have decided to build a complete team of Data scientists to have more insights and we’ll soon be starting hiring for the same.
How else does technology help your company stand apart from its rivals?
In Today’s era only technology can help you stand apart from your rivals. Very specifically speaking it’s all about how fast you can ship and keep improving your product. For example we had seen a battle between Google and Yahoo for dominating the search market. Google won that race due to its speed of improvement and at the end Yahoo just gave up on the search business and Google became the single dominating player in the search domain. Actually you need to create a “Technology first” culture inside your company and make the team very agile in shipping and fixing issues. Facebook beats orkut only due to its agility.
Secondly, you should not depend on a single hit product, with time you must keep adding new products in your bucket, the same as Google/Apple/Microsoft did. Take any long lasting company, they keep adding new things to their offerings But you need to ensure that you are not losing focus from your hit products. Google wouldn’t have been such a big success if it was based on only search, without Adwords, Gmail, Android, etc.
At Webkul we keep adding new platforms since inception and now we are the only company in the world which builds plugins on more than 7 platforms. Now apart from making plugins, we are also building a platform to solve other unsolved problems like Hotel reservation. Ecommerce is a solved problem but still for hoteliers launching a booking site is a big trouble. We are trying to solve this problem by launching a completely open-source free solution for hotel industry Qloapps (http://qloapps.com). So that a community can build around it and together we can make it easy for any hoteliers to launch their own booking sites.
What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running Webkul?
Because we are a completely technical company, we faced technical challenges everyday and at least one big technical problem in a month. But thanks to those challenges as they keep our brains healthy. I can recall one almost 2 years back when we faced the problem in scaling our server with growing demand As we were attracting more and more traffic, keeping our server ready for such demands was a huge challenge because at that time we were not on the cloud server and it was not feasible to scale normal server with dynamic demands. At the end, we decided to move on to cloud server (AWS) and then we had lots of way to play around and make our server ready for growing demand. First we started with the single server model for everything (both for code and database) and then we moved to the different servers for codebase and database so that we can scale vertically, after this we moved our database server to RDS and then load balancer model, eventually now we are able to make a technology stack ( including load balance /s3/Ec2 /RDS) which enables us to autoscale our server with growing demand and update our server without any down time .
We always look at the problem in a global sense, which means whenever we faced any problem, we knew this it is not only our problem, there might be thousands of companies facing a similar issue .We try to make a solution around it so that others can also get benefitted with our research and experience. We did a partnership with Amazon and launched our cloud division for AWS clients to help them make a scalable server architecture like ours (http://cloudkul.com).
Similarly a few months back we wanted to launch our own mobile app for our store (https://store.webkul.com) and we realised that launching an ecommerce site is easy but making a mobile app is still an unsolved problem. and we launched Mobikul (https://mobikul.com), Using this anyone can launch their Mobile app for their ecommerce site and keep both of his channels in sync with each other.
What are some of the attributes you look out for in prospective technology employees?
First and foremost is “Shut Up & Code” attitude. In the technical round, we completely focus on whether he can code or not and if he has that logical ability to code or not. In this round we don’t care about how he/she speaks /dressed up, etc. We also don’t have any language preference and we really don’t care whether he can speak English well or not.
If candidate is able to qualify technical round he has almost won 70% of the game. In the HR round we mainly look for passion and attitude.
How do you keep up to date with the latest happenings in the technology world?
I like reading a lot. Whatever I am able to do at Webkul is only due to my reading passion in college life. During my college life, especially in holidays, I used to read 150 + blogs a day and that helped me shape my vision. At that time I was a great Fan of Google Reader but sadly Google dropped this product. Now I use feedly app .
I’ve subscribed almost all the top tech news sites and Ecommerce industry based blogs. I try to read it before going to sleep or at-least in the weekend.
What gets you excited about coming to work every day?
If you are really doing what you love to do then you don’t need any extra excitation for coming. You just need to follow your passion madly without any insecurities and fear. If you are surrounded by fear and insecurities then you wouldn’t enjoy your journey.
What sets Webkul engineering culture apart?
Since the inception of Webkul, we focussed very much on culture. Whatever your product is, your competitor is going to copy it and create exact mimic of it but what your competitor can’t copy is your culture. So you need to build agile culture from day one so that you can surprise your competitor and your customer by faster and better products. We build a culture of intrapreneur. Due to this intrapreneur we are able to touch 150+ countries, 7+ platforms, 700+ plugins and 150+ team strength. It wouldn’t have been possible if we had failed to create a team of intrapreneurs. The main ingredients of our culture are ‘focussed on learning’, ‘open communication’, ‘loose hierarchy’,’No Bias’, etc.
Which Webkul value resonates best with you?
One core value of webkul mission is “Solve Problem using technology ”. Currently we are building problem solving apps in Ecommerce and ERP domain. Whatever shortcoming we see in this industry we try to solve that by the use of technology. In the longer run we want to become a company like GE and would build 100s of tools to solve problems of all domains.
Any piece of advice for techies out there?
Those who are still in college, I want to say to them that they are in the best phase of their life. They must use this period for understanding the basics of computer science and also learn new emerging technologies without thinking about job, stability, security, money, etc. All these social parameter suppress your inner voice and stop you from follow your passion.
Those who are in the industry, “please be restless“. This industry is changing fast and you need to keep learning new things and keep sharpening your skills. It is not sufficient if you can do CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operation in a language, you need to go deep. CRUD operation is just the first step, whether you can build scalable,flexible and extendable solutions or not is what matters. So don’t stop learning about both Programming language and Architecture. If you stop learning, you would be obsolete in the next 5 years. If you keep learning you are the most important asset for any company .