By Sramana Mitra and guest author Rajdeep Ramsay
Sramana Mitra: You said you have 250,000 investors working on this platform?
Dan Raju: Yes.
SM: The reason I ask this question is that from a cloud technology problem point of view, the problem is serving these 250,000 customers, which is the scale of the customers you are serving, correct?
DR: And these are the most demanding customers, especially for retail. They are not going and buying a pair of shoes as you would for a typical retail transaction. This money is their hard-earned money. This is the money they have saved throughout their lifetime. So, they are extremely savvy, analytically skilled and powerful. We call them self-directed investors because they know what they are doing. The average person is not into commodity merchandising. They are not the retail customers you generally think about. You are dealing with a different, highly intellectually skilled customer.
SM: And will you add something to your platform?
DR: We have evolved over the past six years, and we have recently launched an entire new API. We are trying to facilitate the development and integration of platforms on top of our offering. You have to think about it as a platform-as-a-service offering, so we have moved toward that approach over the past five years and done some innovation. We use cloud platforms and delivery service to our customers, and we have been gradually warming up to APIs and providing our own cloud platforms that other businesses can consume. It has been an amazing journey, and we have come far over the past six years.
SM: Very interesting. What has been your technology strategy to deal with this? For cloud deployment and across the board, what are significant strategic answers that are worth discussing?
DR: The way I have looked at the cloud capability is exactly that. It is to take a look at the cloud not as something that we have to make a decision about, whether to use the cloud or not. Rather, we look at the cloud as a wealth of additional capabilities that bring to the tool box tools we never had before. We looked at the cloud and the capabilities it brings, so we started by saying that we would selectively identify the capabilities that clouds stacks of technologies bring and how can we get the maximum benefit from them. That is where we have found ourselves. Gradually, this approach has offered more and more in conjunction as technology has greatly matured over the past couple of years.
One of the conversations we try to avoid is trying to define the cloud. I never believed that trying to define it has an outcome to it. We wanted to put aside, and we said, let’s try to put the cloud aside, let’s try to look more at what capabilities the cloud has, what it is bringing to us and what capabilities it will bring to us. We have gone ahead and adopted the most mature components of what has come out of those conversations, and we have grown along with that as part of our adoption. I have been doing this for 15 years and have seen so many companies get lost in trying to define a cloud in the box and then trying to figure out where it fits, if the cloud is good or not – and I have spent a lot of time trying to define that. We have figured a way out so that we would not get lost by going in what I think is the wrong direction, if that is the right way to say what I am trying to say.
SM: You are saying that the way you look at the cloud is, how do I use it? What are the main ways in I can use it?
DR: Yes. So, we looked at how to best use the cloud. This is a good question. In terms of how we thought we would use it, let’s start from the top down. At the end of the day we wanted a granular way to manage our capital investments and track the operational variations and costs. That was one key point coming from the top down that the cloud provided us. It has helped tremendously with the budgeting and forecasting process because the cloud offers many, what I call, granular tracking and investment capabilities that you would not have in the traditional in-house setup. These are what I call procure[ment] and provision types of laws, which are very powerful budgeting capabilities.