Engineering culture makes a substantial contribution to the outstanding performance of top tech companies. It determines the hiring and job execution processes, both of which significantly affect the calibre of the finished product.
Ramkumar Venkatesan, CTO, Cashfree Payments, feels how engineers witness first-hand impact of their work, from both appreciation and negative feedback, it can be a game-changer. In the case of criticism, a direct interaction can often trigger solutions that are true innovations.
Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: Please talk about your journey in the industry and an overview about it?
The fact that the products we created have impacted billions of people gives me a great sense of satisfaction. My journey has been really great, and being a part of great product companies over the years, working with great colleagues who have built great products, and being mentored by great leaders over the years have all contributed to this.
Additionally, the code I wrote is probably still being used to help our customers, which is satisfying. The internet and mobile phones were just becoming commonplace when I first began out; I imagine that today’s generation, who have witnessed much of this shift of the internet truly entering every home and every person’s life, may not even realise that those things did not exist a few years ago. So far, so good. I get a lot of knowledge from all the fantastic product companies I have the chance to deal with. We create products that have had a significant impact on billions of people, according to the executives I’ve worked with.
And it’s been a rewarding career, and Cashfree has also given me a great opportunity to build Fintech for India, making India bank for the world. And it’s a great opportunity that I’m loving.
How many payments does Cashfree payments process annually, and what kind of problems you’re trying to solve in Fintech ecosystem at Cashfree payments?
Cashfree has been sort of growing exponentially or the every single year. And as we grow, our denominator also becomes bigger, but we’re still growing at a very, very rapid pace, doubling the payments that we are processing every year. Therefore, we are now processing annual GTB uploads of $50 million. And you must agree that’s a great responsibility. $50 million is being transferred through cashless payments from customers, businesses, businesses, partners, etc. And a Fintech voice is what we are developing.
We might refer it as a tech platform that offers the building blocks on which all of our partners and merchants can develop their products. In order to handle your payments, we have no-code and low-code alternatives. Disbursements from money going out, money coming in, or even refunds—after all, who doesn’t love a good refund experience when things don’t go as planned? Cashfree makes it possible for our partners to receive rapid refunds, which enhances their partners’ customer service.
Additionally, we offer a verification suite because you always want to confirm who is dealing with you when payments are involved. To ensure that your other DSD, etc., can all be validated, we have OCR there. A set of solutions known as “banking as a service” also enables our merchants to open bank accounts and then work with us to obtain their prepaid cards, etc. Cashfree has the individual who holds the PPG licence, the BPI licence, and the cross-border payment capability. Indian enterprises are expanding internationally as India’s stature and GDP both rise. Since their customers and suppliers could be located outside of India, they require a partner in payments if they wish to expand their business internationally after solving the local market problem.
Additionally, we give them the ability to transfer money both ways. Thus, the crossing boundaries suite also makes them possible. As you can see, Cashfree essentially provides a 360-degree view of all payment-related needs, taking care of them with very straightforward, no-code, low-code products that can be integrated into their applications in a matter of hours rather than spending days and months integrating and developing their own payment infrastructure.
So that they can invest their time in creating their products, we wish to power our enterprises. Additionally, we will handle all of their payment-related needs.
How are you at Cashfree payments making world class software products under the Make in India initiative?
Right now, software in India is in an advanced stage of development. When we first started out, we assisted other companies with their digital transformation. We’ve come a long way and I would say that the evolution has sort of completed and now we are level playing field, with the best of software product companies out there, wherever you build are comparable and better than the products being built anywhere else in the world, right. And that’s sort of a great place to be. Making India is a great initiative, I think all of us are to be proud of products that are being built out of India, for the Indian market, as well as for the global market.
Regarding Fintech, we are the global leaders in digital payments, so to say that we are at the top of the globe is accurate. We publicly use digital payments more than the US, UK, Germany, and France do and that is a remarkable accomplishment. Therefore, I believe Cashfree lies at the nexus of these two issues.
Why it is important to have a customer connected engineering culture?
We are here because of our customers, and we can succeed only if our customers succeed. They’ll use more of our products as the market grows and their revenue rises. Therefore, the more the customer succeeds, the more successful we will also be. That is a aspect of it.
The second aspect is, developers are core to building all these great products that we are building. When they connect to the customer, they can when they’re building their product, they can visualize how my product is going to be used by our customers.
What are some of the biggest challenges in building the customer connected engineering culture, how can we address them?
One of the difficulties is that the engineer is involved in many different elements of product development, such as requirements, architecture, design, testing, moving products into production, handling problems, etc. They must wear many different hats in a variety of contexts, which requires different parts of the brain to be engaged in various ways. It can be a little bit overwhelming if we add, “Connect to the customer,” on top of all of this. But without that, it causes a lot of rework and a certain amount of burnout because we build something without keeping the customer in mind, without understanding their needs or our pain points, and then realise that it is either not exactly what they wanted or that a competitor has created a better product. This is a drawback of not being connected. Therefore, I believe the benefits will exceed the drawbacks once engineers are able to recognise the added value in decreasing effort and the opportunity to satisfy customers.
As of right now, there must be alternative ways to get the customer’s voice via the channels into the engineer because Cashfree has hundreds of thousands of machines on our platform, and we can’t reasonably connect to everyone. And you realise that needs to be cracked. This means that every department inside the firm needs to be customer-focused, not just one team. This will ensure that the customer’s voice is not changed or lost as it passes through the many layers of the various teams. And that presents a problem.
Perhaps a lot of the consumers have provided similar feedback. They combined and made the flow of combined user feedback to the technical and product teams incredibly easy. Who can again, so that’s the one, right? I believe that time and context wage are the two main obstacles. And that sort of has to be overcome with the idea that I will ultimately save time, as well as with how we handle having a lot of consumers. How do we condense the input such that we can use it to fund innovation.
What is the tech code used at cash free payments?
The tech code we use is based on the requirements of that specific product; a certain product will require a particular set of tech in order to be used, whilst another product will imply a different meaning. Both people and technology are adaptable. I personally know more programming languages than human communication languages, so what was available five years ago is not what is available today, and that has changed over time.
Additionally, it will keep evolving, and in the end, our code or any other tool we use is really a tool; only a human being is capable of performing magic with it. We are not overly dependent on that. We only use what is needed and when it comes to open source software, we are currently quite gumbo. We have a wonderful advantage in that we are not relying on another individual to make the modifications because it is open and we can even tweak it and add to it, and it’s economical.
Being open source also tends to make it more secure because everyone has access to the code and can identify and correct any faults. Additionally, we purchase some software whose total cost of ownership is expected to be lower than that of maintaining some open source software. In order to answer the call, we use tools such as Kubernetes, Spark, Kafka, and Flame Docker. And the list goes on on the oceans of software. But in very, very certain critical areas where our total cost of ownership is going to be less, we do go in for software that we buy from our window.
What role regulatory frameworks and policies play in building trust in the digital world and how can they be improved?
In my opinion, regulatory policies are very important, and given that India ranks among the top 10 countries for the number of digital attacks, there is obviously room for some malicious actors to identify weaknesses and exploit them. Regulations are therefore crucial for creating a level playing field and protecting good actors from bad ones. As a result, we are currently a regulated entity. That’s good, too, and those are the kinds of regular tasks that all of our competitors must complete by people who are unable to, say, cut corners. The end user will gain from this regulation once they are aware that Cashfree is a regulated entity as well as all the other players in the market because it gives them confidence that there is good governance in place and that the overall system is safe. This confidence will allow them to make their payments online with confidence.
Another area where regulation is beneficial is the fact that we use several participants and layers in all of our products, meaning that we are on top of the banks. Now that we are aware that our partner banks are also subject to regulations, there are rules in place for them as well. As a result, a particular degree of security, quality, uptime, etc. is ensured, and we can now focus on staying on top of that. Once more, we will be safe, secure, and available, etc. Similar to this, some of our larger merchants may demand us to obtain specific certifications in order to use particular items that they use currently.
Again, the fact that they have been audited and certified provides us peace of mind that our partners and merchants are likewise certified. As of right now. The ecosystem is now secure because all the levels have been secured. Therefore, in my opinion, regulation is absolutely essential to fostering systemic trust.
How can companies and organizations ensure that their digital product and services are secure, and reliable, and what are the some best practices for doing so?
As we spoke, security is crucial, and I believe that everyone has a loss aversion bias. I’m always very unwilling to lose the 1000 rupees, even if I don’t get a specific benefit of, let’s say, 1000 rupees. even if there is a 50% probability that I will either make 50,000 or lose 1000. In the end, I won’t argue that because of loss aversion bias, which makes individuals fearful of being duped or losing money and doesn’t want that to happen. Therefore, it must be safe. We can now create products to make it extremely, extremely secure. If you ask for your password once again, I can send you an OTP on your phone, send it to your email as an additional layer, etc. I could potentially add ten layers to this to make it really safe. However, the user experience or performance will suffer because nobody will want to utilise such a product. They therefore desire the security of, say, a traditional bank or cash, along with the performance and convenience of digital goods.
Sometimes it will appear contradictory that in order to make something secure, I must sacrifice performance or user pleasure. In order to make both conceivable, we must implement innovations like adaptive security, how can I determine whether a person or actor is a good actor based on the actions they have taken.
Or do I raise security if there is something suspicious? Consequently, adaptive security is like a green channel for good actors and increased vigilance for bad actors. And since we don’t want it messed up and the bad guys smashing through the windscreen, we need to prevent that, which is easier said than done. That is a component. Security comes in second. In addition, just as we discussed the need for customer connection to permeate all teams.
One gatekeeper who handles everything is not possible. Right. So, what we’ve done is created a central security team that builds shared services, libraries, or other resources that the entire firm may use. Then there are experts in each team that have a little bit more interest in and knowledge of security best practises as well as staying current on the state of vulnerabilities.
How can we safeguard ourselves against that. As a result, the hub-and-spoke structure of a central security team and local security teams in each of our divisions enables us to cascade security information and the most recent developments to every team and engineer, enabling them to create secure products while they are being developed rather than only at a very, very late stage or after they are put into production. In addition to this, we are automating a lot of the tasks that can be done because we have technologies that can detect security flaws in the system’s core and immediately identify and address security anomalies in our cloud. I think it’s going to be a both people and tools coming together to make makeup products secure.
Is there something else you’d like to add to this?
We are extremely passionate about “Make in India.” We take immense delight in producing goods for India. More than 100 million people worldwide use cashless payments, including 50 million Indians. And we want to see that reach billion-dollar levels in India before spreading to all other nations and assisting them on their FinTech journeys. That is our goal. We are working on that. And yes, this place grows every year. And that’s what distinguishes each day.