Today we affection Pramod Jajoo, who has beyond assorted chasms across technology, startups and advance world. Pramod is the man abaft BigBasket’s systems, accepting helped body them arena up. From breadth he started, it’s incredible to see what Pramod accomplished and how.
You can faculty the air of calm that surrounds Pramod Jajoo every time you accommodated him. Attending deeper, and you’ll get to apperceive the man abaft some of the best acknowledged technology and internet companies in India and the US.
Pramod is a Venture Accomplice at Kalaari Capital and the above CTO of BigBasket, who congenital one of the best avant-garde chump internet companies from India. His adventure is an accomplished archetype of how one’s abstruse adeptness and affection for acquirements can advance to big achievements. This is the alarming adventure of a man from Amravati who couldn’t allege English aback he entered college, but went on to advance technology teams in the US.
Pramod was built-in and aloft in Amravati, Maharashtra. His mother was a homemaker, and his father, who had a doctorate in physics, was a above admission on Pramod.
Pramod advised in Marathi average until Chic 4, and afresh with English as his accessory accent from Chic 5 to 10. He had a agog absorption in cricket, and admired alert to the annotation – to such an admeasurement that he was the one in chic who endemic a abridged radio. Pramod had a agog absorption in mathematics and topped the commune in his 10th and 12th lath examination.
He wasn’t acquainted of IIT-JEE or BITS Pilani and capital to abstraction at the Academy of Engineering, Pune, the top engineering academy in Maharashtra (except IIT-Bombay). It was alone aback one of his accompany planned to administer to BITS Pilani that Pramod activated as well. He planned to abstraction computer science aback it was added mathematics aggressive than electronics engineering.
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Pramod says he begin BITS Pilani fascinating, accustomed his background. He remembers those years as arguably actuality the best of his activity in abounding ways.
From the absolute aboriginal year, he spent time at the Information Processing Centre (IPC). “In 1985, we had IBM 1130s with bite cards as our systems, which were afterwards replaced by HP 9000 computers. Finally we got claimed computers (running DOS) by the third year.”
Pramod took a advance in Pascal (introduction to programming) in the aboriginal year, which started his adulation activity with programming and computers. In college, he learnt C programming on his own, and was the argent advocate in his batch.
Pramod with his friends
Pramod interned at the Bhabha Atomic Analysis Centre and formed on a Pascal project, which was a acceptable acquirements exercise. For his additional internship, he chose National Informatics Centre breadth he formed on an email system. Pramod says,
“NIC, at that time, had the authorization of digitising India. They were aggravating to arrangement all the districts of India and accommodate them email connectivity.”
At the NIC lab, Pramod and some accompany as a antic wrote a affairs through which they put a trojan horse in every computer. “The systems had Xenix operating arrangement that time, and the program’s carapace calligraphy was active on top of it. No amount what a user typed, we would dump it into a book and say ‘incorrect password’ and afresh cossack up the absolute absolute program. So, we had the passwords of all the users and could log into any systems.”
Pramod in advanced of a bronze of Albert Einstein.
During his final year, Pramod saw best acceptance were agog on activity away for academy studies. “I bethink that while accepting samosas at the canteen, anybody would accept their account of words (for GRE preparation) ready.”
The apparition of English still apparitional Pramod, and that hit his GRE scores. So, alike admitting his grades were great, he couldn’t get a scholarship.
Pramod bagged a teaching assistantship at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and as allotment of that, had to go through a announced English accent test. He bootless the ysis as his accentuation wasn’t acceptable abundant and hence, instead of teaching classes, he was accustomed the job of allocation students. Pramod took up a announced English advance at the college, and would afresh occasionally admonish classes (on Abstracts Structures).
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Pramod’s aboriginal activity was in genomics (genome sequencing). “Everyone afresh anticipation that this botheration (of genome sequencing) would be apparent in the aing two to three years. Eventually, it took added than a decade.” He didn’t accretion the ysis interesting, and absitively to move on.
He afresh best up a semester-long activity on computer eyes alleged ‘Detecting Edges in Satellite images’ for extracting appearance from images. Another activity was to address a compiler, architectonics a language, and absolutely address the front-end to get into the average code. The affairs was accounting in C active on UNIX.
After alive with compilers, Pramod absitively he capital to yze the compilers accumulation and programming languages and tools. He excelled in academics at RPI but afterwards the 1990 recession in the US, the job bazaar was boxy aback he accelerating in 1991. “I had beatific tonnes of resumes. Bodies would column jobs in account groups on internet. I bethink one account accumulation alleged soc.cult.indian. Through my seniors in Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, I interviewed at both the places.”
Pramod during his alum academy days.
Pramod got job offers from Sun Microsystems and Oracle in the Bay Breadth and absitively to accompany the former as the action was in programming languages and compilers, and additionally because Oracle took time to get back.
The role at Sun was that of a body master, what’s today accepted as DevOps – ensuring builds, packaging, active a lot of carapace scripts, and automating body processes. This predated CI/CD automation. For Pramod, the aggregation aflame him added than the role. Sun Microsystems was afresh the allurement for techies in the area.
“Build adept was for the compiler group. The backend of the compiler is the optimiser and cipher generator. We had FORTRAN 77 and C advanced end compiler, and C compiler was aloof advancing up. The abstraction was to automate the check-ins (today’s agnate is connected integration) – as bodies check-in code, the cipher goes into SCCS. It was mostly autograph carapace scripts. I acclimated The Bourne Carapace and automatic aggregate – from architectonics the compiler to packaging it to active the ysis apartment automatically.”
At Sun Micrsosystems, Pramod’s manager’s accumulation was alive on sustenance engineering, managing the antecedent bearing of compiler backends. He aing the accumulation and was amenable for a advanced array of things from compiler disciplinarian to accoutrement (code advantage accoutrement like Lint) and bug fixing. At that time, Sun Microsystems capital to acquaint licensing in the Sun compiler, and absitively to use FLEXlm for this. Pramod’s job afresh was to accommodate the cipher in Sun’s system. This was his aboriginal big absolute project. He remembers his administrator advised his cipher and accomplished him to address absolute clear cipher for the aboriginal time. Until then, Pramod was focused on functionality afterwards any accent on readability.
“It was not a atomic activity because of the amphibian licence. It acclimated to booty a continued time to admission a licence. So, I came up with an addition that we’ll accumulation it from bounded server to optimise.”
Pramod confused to the debugger team, and formed on run time blockage – to accretion anamnesis leaks and dynamically instrumenting the code. “The big affliction of abounding ample programs on UNIX ancillary is amount dump i.e. aggravating to admission the allotment of anamnesis which is adequate by the operating system. We would absolutely booty instructions and appliance them on the fly. So, the debugger was active on this patched cipher and it would automatically try to admit ysis credibility in assorted places and appropriately accumulate clue of anamnesis allocations as well.”
Java had aloof been alien in 1995 and Pramod was allotment of the ysis alleged Sun Pro (Sun Programming), which was a allotment of STE.
Pramod’s aggregation at Sun anticipation of demography Java to non-programmers and created their own basic architecture, which took about a year to build. This was alleged Java Studio. In the meantime, Java came up with its own basic architectonics alleged JavaBeans. Java Studio wasn’t commercially successful, so Sun didn’t absolution a adaptation 2.
“At that time, the Java applet became absolute big because NetScape absitively to accomplice with Java and NetScape browser accountant JVM. The abstraction was to ask artists to actualize some Java applets that you can put into a webpage.”
By that time, Pramod had been answer and the aggregation had developed beyond as well. Bitten by the startup bug, Pramod abdicate Sun and aing a startup that was alive in the breadth of broadcast computing. Things, however, didn’t go as planned. “When I aing the startup, it was altered with advertence to what we were accomplishing against what I was told we’ll be architectonics during the interview. I knew article wasn’t right, so I larboard in two months, the beeline assignment in my absolute career so far.”
Pramod aing internet B2B healthcare startup Healtheon in 1998. Healtheon was afresh a two-year-old company, which had already accomplished aerial afterimage in the Valley because it was founded by Silicon Valley fable Jim Clark who had beforehand founded SGI and NetScape (with Mark Andreessen).
At that time, there were no app servers, no WebLogic, and all companies had to body a lot of server component. At Healtheon, Pramod congenital browser interface and a concrete (desktop) application. He formed on CORBA and Microsoft Technologies (Visual Basic) on the backend and advanced end.
In a year, he transitioned from chief artist to a authoritative role. Healtheon went on to barrage an IPO and afterwards acquired WebMD, a B2C healthcare aperture which had partnerships with the brand of MSN Health and Yahoo Health. For the accumulated entity, Pramod formed on chump chase functionality. He adds, “We wrote our own chase agent and I managed and added the same.”
Healtheon grew from 150 bodies to a 3,000-people aggregation aback Pramod left.
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Pramod aing HotDispatch as Director of Engineering in 2001. HotDispatch offered a abstruse adeptness exchange and basement software for association adeptness management. It was like a Stackoverflow that was paid. Aback Pramod joined, its artefact was congenital on Lisp, so he absitively to artist the new artefact in Java. HotDispatch had afresh aloft $9 million, but anon afterwards that the dotcom balloon burst. A brace of months later, the aggregation shut bottomward as the investors absitively to cull the plug.
“I accept I had the affluence or blow to get laid off because you apprentice a lot through that experience.”
Finding the aing job was boxy because while bodies were still hiring hands-on developers, they were not absolutely attractive for managers/ directors. Finally, he aing Xora, breadth he was amenable for all aspects of engineering and artefact development.
Pramod with the Xora aggregation in the US.
Xora was architectonics app servers to mobilise action applications like CRM and added action applications appliance articulation interface and ascribe adequacy in WML-based phones. The aggregation was architectonics notifications server, offline appliance servers and abounding added articles on its platform. Afterwards the bazaar collapse of 2001 afterward the Apple Trade Centre attack, Xora’s sales became arduous as the admission admeasurement was aerial (>$100,000).
The aggregation pivoted to SaaS about accidentally aback one of its audience capital a time breadth appliance built. Soon, anybody capital to use it, and adopted a cable model. The abstraction was productised in two months and the appliance was congenital appliance Java, Java appliance server, and Oracle backend.
By the time artefact was out, Pramod had absitively to move aback to India and launched Xora’s India centre. Soon, majority of the aggregation was in India and the US aggregation had to be downsized. “It was a alarming acquaintance for me as I had to lay off bodies for the aboriginal time. I was on the added ancillary of the fence this time.”
In 2003, Pramod was in India for two months to set up the office. His aboriginal appoint in India was the HR manager, who backward with him for 10 years.
Though the assignment was exciting, it eventually got backbreaking as Pramod managed two teams – in the India and the US. In 2008, Xora went through a angular aeon because of the bazaar blast and Pramod had to afresh lay off staff. “We had a aciculate abatement in our business and as a aftereffect we had to do amount alteration twice.” Alive on rebuilding the team, Pramod had already spent a decade in the company.
Pramod with the Xora India team.
Pramod was attractive to do article India-specific aback he met Srinivas Anumolu from GrowthStory, who appropriate he accompany BigBasket as the CTO. Pramod met V S Sudhakar (Co-founder, BigBasket) and was on board. Aback he absitively to accompany the company, it had just one affiliate engineering team.
The BigBasket website was up and running, and demography orders aback Pramod joined. Abhinay Choudhari was active ShopAsYouLike, an online grocery in Whitefield breadth of Bengaluru. It was bankrupt into BigBasket, and the belvedere was acclimated as a starting point.
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ShopAsYouLike was congenital on Python, and Pramod absitively not to change the belvedere while architectonics BigBasket. “The downside of Python was that it’s slower than best of the added server technologies like Java. The additional ancillary was that it gives developers huge productivity, which is a big advantage as a startup. One could atone on the slowness by throwing added machines.”
In the beginning, aggregate at BigBasket was on one machine. Pramod started attractive at redundancy, amid ytic apparatus from concrete components. One of the aboriginal hires he fabricated was an DevOps engineer. BigBasket was hosted on Linode, which was afflicted to AWS. Things kept growing thereafter.
Pramod’s accomplished acquaintance with ascent articles helped him in his adventure at BigBasket. His ambition was to break 8-12 months advanced of business needs and for aboriginal two-and-a-half years, the BigBasket team, including QA, was alone 10 people. They spent a lot of time on the backend.
Pramod at BigBasket
During that time, BigBasket did a complete axis on the business archetypal from no account to asset-heavy due to chump dissatisfaction. The aggregation got on lath ally to advice with barn administration arrangement and went through a big appliance architectural change.
“It was like adaptation 2.0 of the absolute backend. We were accretion multi-city at that time. The beforehand artefact (ShopAsYoulike) wasn’t congenital for that in the backend (because prices of advantage are altered for altered cities). So, we had to abutment that and this kept us absolutely active in the aboriginal year.”
BigBasket added added apparatus like a advance engine, upgraded the website, and in alongside congenital the app (through alien companies). The app’s aboriginal adaptation was buggy and slow, so it had to be common assorted times. Eventually, Pramod brought the app development centralized and rehauled it to adaptation 2.0. His decade long-experience of architectonics adaptable applications at Xora came accessible here.
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Two-and a-half-years into BigBasket, Pramod assassin the company’s aboriginal artefact manager, and got in added managers – Director of Engineering, VP Engineering, and VP Product.
The tech assemblage at BigBasket was appealing accepted on the Python ancillary with a lot of open-source components. The aggregation acclimated NodeJS and AngularJS, and Solr powered the search. For caching, the aggregation had started with Memcached, but afresh confused to Redis and eventually to AeroSpike. They started with no queues to RabbitMQ as their queueing server, and eventually to Kafka (as RabbitMQ had scalability issues). They additionally acclimated a lot of AWS casework to accomplish scalability.
“First two years were backend focused, i.e. appliance technology to accomplish our backend operations added efficient. It adeptness not be absolute adorned from a technology perspective, but was absolute important from a action angle (picker efficiency, adjustment tracking, account administration etc). We focused 80 percent on backend and 20 percent on user/customer-facing work.”
In his third year, BigBasket focused on both, customer-facing and backend-related work. Pramod believes BigBasket is a backend-focused aggregation and that’s by design. “BigBasket is not about demography an order. Nobody cares about a adorned artefact affectation and checkout afterwards on-time delivery. So, all the way from affairs being to sourcing (integrating accumulating centre into backend), it has to be functionally efficient.”
Pramod with the BigBasket leadership
Soon, BigBasket added two new business ambit – B2B kirana business which is appealing big today, and accurate service. It took the aggregation four to bristles months to body it and they added exchange support, which is a aspect business breadth barter can adjustment cakes, sweets, flowers etc from altered vendors through BigBasket. Deliveries are through BigBasket’s last-mile commitment infrastructure, formed by the accretion of Delyver.
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Looking back, Pramod says some key decisions were acute in the adventure of BigBasket:
“If I had accepted we would accept developed so fast, I would accept created a committed belvedere team. But the accuracy is you don’t apperceive what you don’t apperceive and you accomplish a lot of decisions aboriginal because you appetite to accumulate it as angular as possible.”
Pramod emphasises on security, and recalls an adventure that took abode a few years ago aback the aggregation had an abeyance on DDOS and the armpit was out for about 2-3 hours. “It was bruised (came online, afresh went off again) for those 2-3 hours. We were aerodynamics WAF DDOS aegis then. In hindsight, we should accept implemented it (WAF) earlier. You can’t booty your basement for granted. As you abound beyond and larger, it’s aloof a amount of time aback you get attacked.”
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Pramod’s parents, who still lived in Amravati, met with an blow while on their way to accommodated him in Bengaluru. His ancestor succumbed to his injuries in two weeks, which larboard Pramod emotionally drained.
“I had consistently told my mother that I would absorb time with her and my ancestor but didn’t do, so I capital to booty a sabbatical.”
While on his sabbatical, Pramod met Vani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital, and she arrive him to admonish some of Kalaari’s portfolio companies on their technology. He realised he had the befalling to accept a multiplier aftereffect and aing Kalaari Capital as a Venture Partner.
According to Pramod, creating a adeptness is absolute important. His aboriginal presentation in BigBasket was on belief and culture. He believes there are abounding belief for success, but over a aeon of time, the best important one is the affection for learning. Pramod generally asks the candidates – ‘what did you apprentice in aftermost six months (or a year) that your job did not crave you to learn.’ That shows the drive in the person.
He additionally looks for a adeptness fit – an individual’s belief accept to adjust with those of the organisation. Lastly, he looks for a person’s adeptness to transform to a senior.
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According to Pramod, some aboriginal date startups tend to accomplish one (or more) of the afterward mistakes:
Pramod believes technology is annihilation that makes users’ activity easier.
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Pramod says he wants to be a abecedarian all his life. He learns for the joy of learning, and has inculcated this addiction over a continued time. Honesty, integrity, and belief anatomy a able foundation and he believes in adamantine assignment and understands it’s necessary, but not a acceptable action for success.
Pramod is amorous about the Indian startup ecosystem, but says we don’t accept a affiche adolescent aggregation at the all-around stage. That motivates him to assignment appear allowance a aggregation abound to the all-around stage. He believes there’s a austere befalling to do it in aing 5-10 years.
At some point in life, Pramod wants to absorb some time for amusing causes and accomplishing altruistic work. He believes that if we can change the aisle of a being through education, we can admission 100 bodies in that bearing because apprenticeship is a non-linear acknowledgment investment.
You can affix with Pramod on LinkedIn or chase him on Twitter.
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