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- In today’s economy it’s not about bigger eating smaller or faster eating slower, it’s about collaborating to maximise value for customers
- Being a start-up provides an opportunity to find innovative ways to solve problems and not be restricted with bureaucracy
- Outsourcing should not be about cost cutting but about gaining access to skills and talent which may not be available locally
- When working across cultures it helps to have people from different cultures/countries in the local office
- Small teams with end to end ownership of their product enable agility at scale
Ajey Gore is one of the speakers at the upcoming Agile Impact conference 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Ajey is currently the Group CTO at Go-Jek. Go-Jek is one of the big players in transportation in Indonesia. You cannot walk around Java or Bali without seeing Go-Jek motorcycles everywhere. Ajey drives the technology side. He is ‘in between’ India where a big part of the IT team resides and Indonesia, the Go-Jek HQ, where his payments, platform and mobile teams are, and Singapore as an additional pit stop, where his fraud engineering and data sciences teams are located.
InfoQ – Ajey, tell us a bit more about yourself? How did you get started on your IT journey and how did you ‘end up’ in Go-Jek?
Ajey Gore: I’ve been in the industry for around 18 years, and I’m currently serving as the group CTO for GO-JEK. I “ended up” at GO-JEK through CodeIgnition, a startup I founded which was acquired by GO-JEK. Before that, I served as ThoughtWorks Head of Technology for India. I served as a CTO at Hoppr previously, a startup which was acquired by Hike Messenger.
At GO-JEK, I primarily focus on payments, organization-wide technology, and team strategies. Essentially, I help the company deliver a transport, logistics, lifestyle, and payments platform for 18+ products.
I’m also a trustee of the Emerging Technology Trust, which is a non-profit organization with the sole purpose of creating a like-minded community of tech enthusiasts.
InfoQ – One of the stories I often share with big enterprises is how today ‘the fast fish eats the slow fish’, whereas in the past ‘the big fish ate the small fish’. As an illustration I often show how Go-Jek eats Bluebird. How do you see that story in general and specifically in regards to Bluebird versus Go-Jek?
Gore: I believe the story is not about who eats whom, but how we collaborate and complement each other to bring the best services for customers. As a technology platform, our spirit is to collaborate with others, including businesses like Bluebird or micro entrepreneur like our driver partners. By enabling them to leverage our technology, we provide access for them to expand their market.
In March 2017, we announced our strategic partnership with Bluebird. There are two main components of this partnership. First, the Bluebird fleet strengthens our GO-CAR services, and the second, we launch a new taxi booking feature on our platform called GO-Bluebird. And from what I heard from the media, upon the partnership, Bluebird’s share in Indonesia stock exchange soared.
InfoQ – Big enterprises are all embarking on a digital and/or agile transformation journey. In my view, what they ultimately (should) aspire to is ‘becoming more like a startup’. What would be your advice to a board of directors of a large financial enterprise (in Indonesia)? Why and how do they embark on this digital, agile, startup journey?
Gore: A “start-up” is all about being agile and nimble. Here at GO-JEK, our principles of lean engineering enable us to handle 100 million orders monthly with a team of 250-odd engineers across all our offices. Being a start-up gives us to an opportunity to find innovative ways to solve problems and not be restricted with bureaucracy.
I believe in Steve Jobs’s approach to people. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE TO HIRE SMART PEOPLE AND THEN TELL THEM WHAT TO DO. WE HIRE SMART PEOPLE SO THEY can TELL US WHAT TO DO. An integral part of how we function is that everyone that is part of the GO-JEK Tech team codes. Our exhaustive recruitment process is another area where we invest considerable time and effort in. This is almost unheard of in a bigger enterprise which causes a disconnect between those at the managerial level and engineers. A strong team of capable engineers can achieve a lot more than a large group of engineers.
InfoQ – Another thing I see happen in Indonesia currently is ‘the move to India’. We both have a lot of experience in the technology and outsourcing scene. I think Go-Jek was one of the first Indonesian companies to jump to India. What I see happen today is similar to what happened 10 years back in Europe: companies realize there’s a shortage of talented IT people. First they have resistance towards outsourcing, towards ‘India’. Over time, as more people gain experience, it becomes normal. I think we’re at the beginning o that change process now. How do you see the ‘outsourcing to India’ cycle evolve for Indonesia?
Gore: There is a fundamental difference in how you look at “outsourcing”. The old school way of looking at this was to outsource for a pure labor arbitrage reason. It was implied cheaper to get work done in India. For us, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s significantly more expensive to set shop in India, but we’re in it for the talent. There is also the added benefit of India being in the top 5 countries with the largest English speaking population. Quality of talent has always been the main focus for us and there is no dearth of the type of talent we’re looking for in India. The quality of talent outweighs the higher price point because we believe in the long run the talent will prove to be more valuable than the savings.
In Indonesia, especially with tech-focused companies, I feel the trend of ‘outsourcing to India’ will start to grow slowly as more companies will start to understand the value of experienced and talented developers and their contribution to the long-term goals of a company.
InfoQ – Some of the big challenges in working with people in other countries is communication, cultural alignment, process. At Go-Jek you have quite an interesting approach to ‘distributed agile’. Can you enlighten our readers on how you organize your India-Indonesia teams?
Gore: We have offices and employees in Indonesia, Singapore, and Bangalore. Communicating across different time zones, countries and offices is a challenge for international companies everywhere. Hence, we try and have at least a few employees in each office from a foreign country so that there is a higher cultural understanding amongst our employees.
With teams across countries and working across closely-linked verticals, there is always the risk of communication roadblocks and loss of information. To reduce this communication overhead, we apply ‘The Unix philosophy’, of doing one thing and doing it well to working in a team. To move fast, the team should work towards a common goal. A team should be solving one problem at a time.
We’ve accomplished that by making a small stream of two pairs dedicated to a task. This way, additional work can be easily parallelized as we add more work-streams in the future. Having product ownership gives everyone responsibility to put their best and gives meaning to our daily work. Apart from Pair Programming, we also believe in Bezos’ Two Pizza team philosophy. Our nimble teams are built to move fast, take ownership and that’s exactly why we have 18 products and developing more. GO-JEK essentially provides the opportunity to build a startup within a startup.
About the Author
Hugo Messer has been building and managing teams around the world for over 10 years. His passion is to enable people that are spread across cultures, geography and time zones to cooperate. He’s the owner of Bridge Global, a global software powerhouse and ekipa.co, the education platform for distributed teams.