ContractIQ interviews: Mukesh Unnikrishnan
This interview marks the beginning of a new interview series with some ContractIQ alumni as well as existing employees and advisors. We begin with Mukesh, the happy-go-lucky, startup-loving developer who was with us from August 2014 until the end of 2015. Kozhikode in Kerala is his hometown and he worked in a tech startup called Ruby Kitchen before he joined ContractIQ. Read on to find out more about Mukesh and his experiences while working in ContractIQ:
Me: ContractIQ offered dev teams in India app/web development leads every month for a flat fee. You were instrumental in bringing that project to life. Could you tell me something about the challenges you faced while building this feature?
Mukesh: The flat fee leads project was actually the first feature in ContractIQ which dealt with money, where the developers had to pay the monthly fee via a payment gateway. Since money was involved, we had to make sure everything was perfect right from the get-go. Apart from making sure the transaction was secure, the design needed to be responsive, neat and aesthetically sound for the developers looking at their interface. It was a new service being offered by us and we needed people to sign up right away. This added pressure on us to make sure that everything worked properly and looked good.
Me: What were the technologies that were used in building this?
Mukesh: We stuck with Ruby on Rails for the backend, which the rest of the ContractIQ website is built on as well. On the frontend, we used Jquery.
Me: I remember you telling once that you still haven’t graduated from college but I believe your self-reliance and willingness to try and learn new things are what make you such a valuable resource. Is this something I can add in your interview[laughs nervously]?
Mukesh: [laughs loudly]Of course! I’ve never really been a big fan of conventional education and have always wanted to work at a place where I’m more important than the degree I hold. Startups are the ideal place for that. I’ve also never worked or wanted to work in an MNC for this very reason.
Me: So you must have friends who work in MNCs and other large IT corporations. What is the difference you see between the startup work culture and the corporate one?
Mukesh: The startup business is a risky one. Though many may see this as a bad thing, I don’t see it that way. It is what forces people who work for startups to constantly learn new things and employ the knowledge to generate more revenue directly or indirectly. Since the risk involved for big corporations in a single resource is significantly lesser, the employees can tend to slack off and have it easy. Startups also offer developers unique opportunities to grow and achieve bigger goals in their career as compared to MNCs.
Me: Yes, that sounds just about right. So where are you working now?
Mukesh: I’m working for a startup called Chillr. It’s a money-transfer platform where you can send money to anyone in your phonebook. I call it the ‘whatsapp for money’.
Me: So what is your role right now in the company?
Mukesh: I’m a backend developer here. The backend here is also written in Ruby on Rails. I’m currently posted in Mumbai, setting up a new module for the in-house business team here.
Me: You’re in a company that is in the fund transfer/payments segments and there are certainly a lot of options available today in India. What are the challenges Chillr currently faces?
Mukesh: Our users perform transactions totally amounting to almost 43 crore rupees a day. Due to this, we are always under pressure to ensure that the service doesn’t go down for even a second. Also, our service involves only money and due to that, the risk that comes with servicing our customers is always higher. Also since we are in the B2C space, retaining users is tough and our marketing campaigns and customer engagement strategies have to be more proactive. A significant chunk of our customer base is comprised of merchants who use ‘Chillr business’ app. Their customers can use Chillr to make payments to the merchant and the money is received without any delay. It is faster and more reliable than the card swiping machines.
Me: Sounds like your plate is full with interesting work and new opportunities! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. It was nice speaking to you after so long. Please do drop by our office when you’re in Chennai next!
Mukesh: Absolutely! Thanks for the interview. See you soon and all the best!