Following up on our series of co-founder and CTO interviews, we met Farooq Adam, Co-Founder of upcoming online fashion retailer, Fynd. An IIT-Bombay graduate, Farooq has worked for four years with the leading analytics company Opera Solutions before starting Fynd with two other fellow IIT-Bombay graduates, in 2012.
Fynd is an online portal that helps users discover and buy fashion or lifestyle products from brand stores all around them and have it delivered to their doorstep. Fynd has raised a total funding of ~INR 30 crore from leading investors like IIFL Seed Ventures, GrowX and Tracxn Labs with the latest funding round of $3.4 million coming in this June.
Utkarsh from the UpGrad team talked to Farooq about how IT professionals can transition to the product industry and what skill sets they need to acquire in order to excel in this space.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Q. Tell us about Fynd and what role has tech played in its growth?
In simple words, Fynd is an online platform for buying fashion and lifestyle products. It helps bring offline inventory online through integrations with hundreds of POS (Point-of-sale systems) and ERP systems in offline stores. We then reflect this inventory on our applications found on Android, iOS and the web.
We are getting to the old technologies of POS and ERP and exposing them to our new layer of APIs, which is the backbone of this business. Technology has played an important part in our growth as through leveraging tech we are quickly bridging the gap between online and offline businesses.
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Q. How have you structured your technology team and what is the general profile of a developer in your company?
We currently have around 35 engineers in our companies who are divided across teams based on their expertise. In terms of specific roles, we have principal architects as heads of teams. These are people who have programming experience of more than seven years. They have extensive experience creating software products and hence help the team decide on which tools to operate on and how to structure the overall functionality.
Next, we have a large pool of senior and junior engineers who either have a few years of programming experience or are freshers. We generally get a lot of our developers from large IT firms like TCS, Infosys and Wipro.
Q. You talked about hiring professionals from IT companies. What challenges do you think they face transitioning from IT services to product companies like yourself?
I think the major challenges such professionals face are twofold: switching their mindset from a service-oriented to product-oriented one and secondly, dealing with a variety of software tools.
Here, they have to exercise much more creativity in terms of thinking of a solution rather than working on a predefined one that is handed to them. Also, development cycles are much faster in a typical product company compared to IT companies. We release a new version of the product every 2-3 weeks while in IT companies they generally work on 2-3 month long software development cycles.
In terms of working on software tools, IT professionals need to very quickly learn a variety of tools that a software developer uses in these product companies. They also need to learn engineering skills and automation. As in IT companies, you don’t have an army of QA and DevOps in product companies to help you with deployment and maintenance. Hence, it’s important for every developer to be independent in creating products end to end.
Q. Do you hire full stack developers for your team? How do you find them different from regular software developers?
When we had started off as a company, we were looking to hire only very specialised developers with expertise in just one stack. However, as we scaled up we realised that we needed to build a team which was flexible and agile as that is crucial for the growth of both the developer and the company.
We moved our software developers across both frontend and backend teams to enable them to get full stack capabilities. The experiment was extremely successful as today, almost 80% of our developers are full-stack enabled. This has helped us scale growth both in terms of numbers and pace.
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Q. For building your team, how do you interview developers?
We have a 5 to 6 steps long interview process for hiring developers across varied work experience levels. We start off in the first 2 rounds by knowing more about the candidate, their background, their motivation and the sort of work they have done prior to this. Then, we quiz them on the basics of software development as we believe that is the most crucial element for any developer. If the basics of data structures and algorithms are in place, then it is very easy for any developer to go about creating a new software.
Post these 3 rounds, we give them an actual software product to create. For example, we may ask them to create an app that would show the top 100 movies of IMDB for any language. This gives us a fairly good indicator of their programming and thinking skills. Any candidate, who makes it good in these rounds is then extended an offer from our side.
Q. Lastly, we would love to get your thoughts on the curriculum for the UpGrad PG Diploma in Software Development program with IIIT-B. How useful do you think it would be for an IT professional looking to transition to a product company?
This is a very relevant program for anyone who wishes to move to a product company or a startup. It’s got a good mix – covering the basics really well plus being really hands-on with a large spectrum of technologies. Any learner going through the program would have a great chance of doing well in the software product industry. They would surely be well versed in all the technologies and software practices.
What are the qualifications Fynd looks for in a candidate?
Till date, Fynd is a team of 35 members, they hire engineers with different expertise. As team heads, they choose candidates who have an experience of 7 years or more. It is important that they must have programming experience and have skills for creating software products. They must be able to lead the team and decide the next course of action. The next level of employees are also engineers but experience is not required for the position. Fynd usually hires candidates from the leading companies like TCS, Wipro, and Infosys.
Is Fynd a service-oriented company?
No, Fynd is basically a product-oriented startup. It is an online platform which sells fashion and lifestyle products. It brings offline store inventories on an online platform. It is helpful for both the buyers and the sellers. There is an application of Fynd which is available for android users, apple users and is also available on browser. The inventory available in the offline store is reflected on the app. It is an entirely tech startup and bridges the gap between online and offline markets. Product oriented companies like Fynd are often high-tech and innovative, and they are built on a foundation of quality.
Is it easy to get a job in Fynd?
There are multiple levels of interviews which a candidate has to undergo before being selected for Fynd. There are approximately 5-6 interviews which take place. Initially, the company understands whether the motives and values of the candidate matches with that of the firm. The next levels are a bit tougher as it demands a deep knowledge of programming and software development. The quiz is held in the further round to check the understanding of algorithms and basic structures of data. After these rounds candidates are given a task of making an actual software. All the stages of the selection process are well designed to choose the best match for the company.