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PhonePe’s Rahul Chari on building for the longer-term, and why hustle could be a bad thing

Entrepreneurship and hustling might be synonymous with each other, and might even be a good thing in the short term, especially for founders building from the ground up. But in the longer run, it could do more harm than good, believes Rahul Chari, Co-founder and chief technological officer at fintech giant PhonePe.

While ‘hustling’ could help a founder get their minimum viable product out of the door, it could start hurting the company, the team, and the product significantly in the long term if core systems are not built in line with where the product designers envision the company going, especially in terms of scale.

“If you’re really an entrepreneur who’s looking to hit it out of the ballpark, you have to be prepared that when it happens, you actually pull back and re-engineer your systems… there has to be the right amount of investment to predict your future,” he said on the sidelines of YourStory’s Future of Work event, the country’s biggest product and design conference, on Friday.

Talking about building and scaling a tech-enabled product the right way, Rahul dispelled the myth that using the principle of ‘simplicity’ meant only looking at the speed of product development, or how quickly one can get to the market. Simplicity should not be looked at from a product building perspective, but rather from a consumer’s perspective and their experience of the product, he said.

And if one were to ascribe to Rahul’s viewpoint at all, the amount of work that needs to be done in the background vis-a-vis the product, and ensure the focus remains on the consumer, grows exponentially.

“For example, if there were issues on your platform, and you want to ensure that the customer doesn’t hit a dead end, you’ll have to actually build a whole bunch of self-recovery flows —  it could be for your chatbot, it could be in terms of self-recovery of transactions (for payment companies), it could be in terms of automatic communications that gets sent out to the customer at various life cycles of management of their experience…all that means more work upfront, and thinking holistically about the product,” Rahul said.

“So simplicity leads to scalability, it doesn’t necessarily lead to less work or faster go-to-market,” he added.

FoW - Rahul Chari - phonepe

Rahul Chari, Co-founder and CTO, PhonePe, at YourStory’s Future of Work event

Defining the product’s tech roadmap

Rahul says in order to build a product that’s scalable, entrepreneurs need to start by identifying the right blueprint, and then translating that to the blueprint of the company’s tech systems —  essentially recognising where one wants the product to go and look like in the future, and then building that tech structure so robustly that it can withstand even rapid scaling.

Identifying the blueprint itself entails two things, according to Rahul:

  1. Recognising all the core systems that the product needs to remain robust, and ensuring that the skeleton for that gets built with a long-term view in terms of the number of years, as well as growth.
  2. Pinning down a clear design choice, and then keeping the overall technology choices as homogenous as possible. Having a homogenous set of systems will be helpful to solve issues of scale.

Building in these systems at an early stage can significantly help startups even experiment without worrying about glitches and breakdowns.

“When you’re actually starting off a new category, please go ahead and experiment as much as possible, mainly because you know that you have the air cover from the core systems, and you’re protected from a scale perspective,” Rahul said.

A big shout out to our Future of Work 2021 Co-presenting Sponsors Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Unique Solutions; Digital Excellence Partner, Google Cloud; Associate Sponsor HP and Intel; and Sponsors: Atlassian, Freight Tiger, Archon I Cohesity, TeamViewer, and Pocket Aces.


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