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“Open source and problem solving attitude is the way to work at Zopper”

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Mr Ashish Baweja, CTO, Zopper

Zopper, the hyper-local mobile marketplace, recently unveiled its revamped app. The latest version of the app features several improvements upon the existing framework for additional user convenience. Zopper app now allows users to search product by model number, category or brand to find out the best local prices for any product on the go from nearby trusted stores within the blink of an eye. The app even allows user to request for price quotes from nearby merchants who usually respond within minutes of getting a lead. The app can also be personalised by entering a few details, which would then allow it to recommend products based on customer preferences and shopping patterns. Users also have the option of buying from the app itself, avail cash on delivery or even visit the nearby store to experience the product and then buy.

What is exiting for the readers of Open Source For You is that Zopper app is completely based on open source technologies. Ashish Baweja, CTO, Zopper, is proud of the fact that he is an open source freak. After all, he gets to explore the ‘best of the tech world.’

Open Source is the way Zopper works

When asked whether he uses open source technologies at Zopper, he candidly responds, “A lot! Our core platform is in Python. We use Django and Falcom frameworks for database. We are using MySQL, Redis, MongoDB, et al. Everything essentially we do is in open source based.”

Being a strict follower of open source technology, Zopper’s CTO believes that open source technologies can really do it all. He asserts, “I have been using open source since my college days. It has been over 17-18 years, right from the days when we used to get Linux on floppies. My encounter with open source technology began with some Linux CDs provided with magazines. During college days, I started a few small ventures based on open source technologies, even at that time. At that time, Perl was a popular language. I used to experiment with codes and that was a whole lot of fun. This ‘fun’ of Linux has been the driving force behind my passion for open source technologies. And I continued with that fun in my career too. Prior to my job at Zopper, I have been a technical consultant for many companies where I have propagated open source technologies. I also worked with Macmillan, where I took a lot of their processes to the open source way.”

It’s just about advantages…

When you talk to an open source freak like Ashish, you know you will get nothing but positives of the freedom-friendly technology. Ashish has his reasons of banking on open source technology. He shares, “The best is that open source technology allows access to the code, further allowing us techies to have a full control of the system. Open source technologies, of course, are free and affordable. They are essentially driven by an entire community and that is a big advantage. Using open source technologies allows us to be a part of that entire community eco-system, where other tech majors are also contributing. With so many players being a part of a product development, the robustness of the product increases manifolds.”

The other advantage he shares is that the scalability he gets with open source tech. He says, “Zopper is India’s largest hyper local mobile marketplace featuring over 500,000 offline retailers. Founded by serial entrepreneurs Surjendu Kuila and Neeraj Jain, Zopper taps on the benefits of shopping at a retail store and marries them with the convenience of shopping via mobile phones. Users can buy from the comfort of their homes/offices and get the product instantly from their nearby trusted stores. And in all these efforts, technology is at the forefront. If we need to add more and more retailers and customers, we need technology that allows scalability. With open source, you definitely have the bandwidth to scale as much as you want.”

Community is really important…

When it comes to interacting with the communities in the open source world, Ashish is definitely up for it. About talking to the community, he says, “Yes, we do that a lot. We try and participate in every possible way. While we participate in the events like PyCon and other similar conferences, we also closely interact with the communities of technologies like Python, Django and other such technologies that we use. As far as our contributions go, we have contributed some of our bits and pieces to the community in the past, but that contribution is not as much as we would like to do. That is definitely going to be one of our focus areas in future.”

Wanna a job at Zopper? Update your Github profile

Zopper houses an engineering team of about 40 people. And they have a very unique way of hiring too. Ashish says, “Our standard hiring process involves solving a problem and submitting it in Github. We look at a candidate’s Github profile and evaluate the kind of work they have done. Essentially we look for problem solvers. Knowledge of a specific technology is not all that important. What we look at is the right attitude to handle a problem and a situation. In a nutshell, we look at the core engineering skills and the problem solving attitude. I believe that if someone is good with Java can also work with Python or any other programming language. Learning programming language is simple, if someone has the problem solving attitude. Open source technologies contribute a lot in that direction. I know people who randomly keep installing open source technologies that are available and try them out and figure out what all can be done with them. So it is the ‘other way round’ approach. Instead of looking for a solution, we look for what best can be done with a software and then fit it as a solution. I understand that people who do that have a much better approach towards problem solving.”

What are the disadvantages that you face with open source technologies?

From Zopper’s perspective, I don’t think we are facing any disadvantage of using open source technologies. However, from the perspective of larger corporates, they may face some disadvantages because they may want instant solutions and may not have all the time in hand to explore the options and solve the problems in the open source domain. For us, such issues are handled by ourselves.