Becoming one of India’s few unicorns in record time, CRED has positioned itself at the heart of the industry with a powerful yet simple motto—Rewarding the Trustworthy. With their P2P investment product Mint making an entrance in the market, they’re the talk of the town yet again. The booming start-up’s product suite has long been known for its attention to detail in design, and the incredible user journey it facilitates.
We invited CRED’s technology leaders - Kunal Shah, Ganesh Subramaniam, Ketan Jogani, Srinivas Iyengar, Swamy Seetharaman, and Kiran Biliyawala - to have a wide-ranging conversation about their obsession with design, how engineering is a largely creative process, and what makes CRED’s work culture stand out.
Continue reading for highlights from our discussion or click below to playback our livestream.
Trust is at the Center of Everything CRED does.
“Though trust should ideally be a component of every work culture, it became a strong value proposition for us because we’re a low-trust nation,” Kunal says. “Workers in our country struggle with micromanagement, oversight, and discouraging policies at their workplace.”
In recent times, poor work culture in companies around the world has ushered in what’s being dubbed as The Great Resignation Era. CRED’s trust-centered work culture is a breath of fresh air amidst the dankness of tattleware and isolating work practices.
Kunal elaborates on the small ways they establish trust, “We’ve instituted small policies like disbursing salaries at the beginning of months and giving potential employees their laptops before their offer letters. We also got rid of the non-compete clause in our contracts for employees.”
“We don’t view the activity of hiring employees as just that; we’re hiring shareholders of the company as everyone at CRED received ESOPs. When employees think and behave like shareholders, they do their best work,” he says.
An excerpt from a Harvard Business Review study dating all the way back to 1984 reads “73% of the ESOP companies in our sample significantly improved their performance after they set up their plans.” To this day, employee ownership continues to be a harbinger of success.
Speaking about the qualities they look for in potential employees, Srinivas says “We look for people who think about solving elegantly, who think like artists.” A snippet from CRED’s career page reads “most likely you will be talking to a singer, standup comic, artist, writer, athlete, maybe a magician (here)”.
Srinivas continues, “If you’re able to build something from scratch or break down something into its atoms, then that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re a master of your craft. So, we're looking for people who can deconstruct elegantly.”
Addressing The I vs T-shaped Developer Debate.
I-shaped, T-shaped, M-shaped, E-shaped.. though it sounds far from it, these are terms being used to describe employees in organizations around the world, based on their expertise and skills.
An I-shaped employee is used to refer to an employee who specializes in a single area, whereas a T-shaped one is more of a generalized specialist. The discussion about generalization and specialization has been gaining momentum in recent years; Thomas Epstein’s book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” and the Forbes’ Human Resources Council’s article are great summaries of the discourse.
“My advice to early-career developers is to start their career as an I-shaped developer.” Swamy says, “I think it’s important to master something when you’re young. Nothing compares to the knowledge you gain when you’re delving into the nitty-gritty. Identify your interests, narrow your focus, and arrange the building blocks.”
“If you try to spread yourself too thin when you're beginning your career, your learning experience will be unsatisfactory and your knowledge, shallow.”, he continues
“Evolving into a T-shaped developer will almost be natural as you walk further down your career path. At CRED, we enable this by providing employees a soft boundary and progressive learning program. If a front-end engineer wants to transition to a full-stack position, they’re equipped to do so.”
Beautiful Things Last.
The CRED app has received countless accolades for its UI design, and Ketan tells us why.
“Everyone at CRED believes beautiful things last.” he says, “For a moment, let’s compare a suburban train station and a metro station in a city in India. They’re both a part of similar means of transport, but commuters treat them very differently.”
A 2019 Swacch Rail Swacch Bharat survey revealing the cleanliness scores of non-suburban and suburban railways stations in India backs up Ketan’s statement. The relatively new metro stations have been praised for their polished looks and world-class standards. “Visual appeal plays a big role in how well people treat something.”
“There’s a common confusion in companies’ product teams when it comes to design, development, and which aspects of these should come first. We’re a design-first company to the core.” Ketan says.
“The design team is free to build whatever they want and whenever they want, and we proceed by building frameworks and platforms around it to make it come to life.” he details the steps of building at CRED.
“Next, we do something called dogfooding where we internally test out the feature with a close-knit beta testing group. We have a rigorous feedback process, and we test every little thing.”
On Building a Perfect Tech Stack.
Talking about the process of choosing tools for a stack, Kiran says, “While it’s tempting to run to the next best thing in the market, it’s important to keep in mind the company’s needs, goals, and your employee’s expertise.”
Some common architectures in the industry today are Event-driven, Microkernel, and Microservices architecture - the latter seeing a rise in adoption of late.
“Choosing an architecture and the technologies accompanying it is an elaborate process. The most important thing to keep in mind is the cost of development and maintenance and the possible future extensions,” she concludes.
What does CRED’s tech stack look like? Ganesh answers, “Our infrastructure runs on AWS cloud. We try to leverage AWS’ features for all of our functions. Self-managing a database is not an easy task, so the industry is moving towards fully managed services.”
AWS has proved to be a boon for many companies shifting to the cloud, and Amazon reported a whopping 37% revenue growth for AWS in Q2 2021.
“We use Java to develop microservices and rely on the Spring Boot framework quite a lot. On the database front, we prefer MySQL or RDS.” Ganesh says.
“We’re also constantly exploring, and recent entrants to our tech stack are Golang and gRPC in place of REST.” Some advantages of using gRPC over REST are better speed and capabilities like duplex streaming. In recent years, many tech-first companies have made the shift to gRPC in their environments.