“Open source helps us brew and de­liver the per­fect chai”

AI. Shirish Sruti, VP, Chai Point

OpenSource For You - - Contents -

Q Does open source make sense for a startup like yours?

Yes, when you are start­ing small, it is im­pos­si­ble to in­vest in tech­nol­ogy. You can't blindly ex­pect good re­turns. That is where open source tech­nolo­gies play an im­por­tant role. If you are start­ing small but look­ing to do quick busi­ness, then adopt­ing open source helps you jump-start your tech so­lu­tions.

Q What role has open source played in the suc­cess of Chai Point?

Open source is the per­fect tech­nol­ogy in­gre­di­ent for Chai Point. We use a lot of open source tech­nolo­gies. Right from our IDE, which is Eclipse, to other en­ter­prise tech­nolo­gies like Tom­cat, Spring, Linux, Redis and MySQL, we rely heav­ily on open source projects.

Just to share an ex­am­ple, an open source data­base like CouchDB, with its sup­port for repli­ca­tion, helped us to cap­ture daily sales re­ports from across the coun­try into a cen­tral server.

Q Can you elab­o­rate on the ben­e­fits of us­ing CouchDB for e-com­merce?

Since Chai Point stores are spread across In­dia, the big­gest chal­lenge was to keep track of the con­sump­tion data on a daily ba­sis. Also, we wanted to con­sol­i­date the pan-In­dia data on to a sin­gle cen­tral server, to be able to plan in­ven­tory for the next day. In to­day's world, in which an F&B (food and bev­er­age) busi­ness needs to be avail­able in a multi-chan­nel en­vi­ron­ment, a lot of or­ders come from on­line chan­nels and this needs to be com­mu­ni­cated to the stores.

This is when hav­ing In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity in the stores and a cloud based Shark plat­form helped us with au­to­ma­tion. While we wanted to do this us­ing tech­nol­ogy, at the same time we did not want to al­low In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity to ham­per walkin trans­ac­tions. Power fail­ures, line break­ages, sig­nal fluc­tu­a­tions, etc, were some other fac­tors that could have dis­rupted the In­ter­net at the stores. If In­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity breaks, the POS de­vice in the store needs to con­tinue func­tion­ing, al­low­ing or­ders to be placed. And these or­ders need to be com­mu­ni­cated to the cloud server, once the In­ter­net is re­stored. This is where CouchDB has played an im­por­tant role. In a nut­shell, open source helps us brew and de­liver the per­fect chai.

CouchDB is an open source NoSQL data­base. Its repli­ca­tion pro­to­col helps repli­cate data be­tween mul­ti­ple ma­chines, hid­ing the com­plex­ity from other ap­pli­ca­tions built over it. With its seam­less multi-mas­ter syn­chro­ni­sa­tion, CouchDB helped ad­dress is­sues linked to two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion, i.e., from server to store and store to server.

This is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of how open source tech­nolo­gies have helped us jump-start our tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions.

Q You are us­ing open source to stream­line your op­er­a­tions. Does open source fea­ture in boxC.in or the Shark plat­form?

We are us­ing open source to power all the tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions that we de­velop. Both boxC.in and the Shark plat­form use open source so­lu­tions. boxC.in com­prises IoT en­abled ma­chines, which al­low cap­tur­ing data about ev­ery cup con­sumed, while the Shark plat­form helps ev­ery store con­nect to the cen­tral plat­form, which helps us with sup­ply chain readi­ness.

Q Tell us more about your cur­rent IT team.

We heav­ily lever­age open source frame­works and tools. We have an in­house tech­nol­ogy team com­pris­ing en­gi­neers with dif­fer­ent skill sets. We have ob­served that com­mu­ni­ty­de­vel­oped soft­ware are sta­ble and well doc­u­mented, mak­ing them ideal for adop­tion. In the fu­ture, we look for­ward to con­tribut­ing to the open source world our­selves.

Q Any ex­pan­sion plans for your tech­nol­ogy team?

As Chai Point stores in­crease in num­ber and as our boxC.in busi­ness at­tains new heights, we have in­creas­ingly re­alised the im­por­tance of the role that tech­nol­ogy plays in to­day's world. In sync with this ob­ser­va­tion, we have been in­vest­ing in cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies since last year, and we will con­tinue that this year too. While hir­ing, we don't eval­u­ate soft­ware en­gi­neers on the ba­sis of any spe­cific tech­nol­ogy. We fo­cus on eval­u­at­ing soft­ware en­gi­neers based on the fun­da­men­tals of com­puter sci­ence like data struc­tures, al­go­rithms, data­bases, soft­ware de­sign­ing and cod­ing. If soft­ware en­gi­neers show a will­ing­ness to learn new tech­nolo­gies and demon­strate good logic skills, ir­re­spec­tive of past ex­pe­ri­ence, we hire them. But yes, peo­ple with past ex­pe­ri­ence in open source tech­nolo­gies do have an ad­van­tage.

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