Hasura: Year One

The story of Hasura starts as all of the best stories do - I was pining for some good food. Having just moved to Chennai after a year long teaching stint with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana, I was looking forward to sampling some of Chennai’s mouthwatering cuisine. However my schedule left me heavily dependent on existing food delivery networks, none of whom gave any weight to healthy/wholesome/local food; Instead I was lucky enough to discover that Chennai has more pizza/burger joints than New York. Uncompromising person that I am (especially when it comes to my hunger pangs), I decided to take matters into my own hands, and start a food delivery company that would focus exclusively on home cooked food.

Things came to a boil when I met Tanmai (co-founder/CTO at Hasura; all-around nice guy), who had just finished his master’s degree in computer science from one of India’s best engineering colleges. Tanmai was on his own search for a business partner, having turned down lucrative offers from both corporates and academia. He was equally uncompromising when it came to food. Clearly, destiny also wants you to have healthy wholesome food.

Tanmai expected that he would be able to dive straight into application development and that building the apps themselves would be the easiest part of the whole process - he did have two degrees after all, and had worked on the cutting edge of technology - computer vision, machine learning, the works. That was when Tanmai first met the app development ecosystem. As someone who had spent his entire life discerning patterns, he was baffled by the lack of common standards among the various design/frontend/backend/deployment frameworks. The only point of agreement was that the process of application development needs to be made easier - a contention he shared, particularly in light of the excellent job that the hundred million different frameworks had made in simplifying the same. Tanmai likens the encounter to that fateful day in his childhood when he made the connection between Santa being more svelte than he appeared in all the pictures he had seen, and his dad being a thin person - he was devastated.

Wanting to make the process as simple as possible for his team, he dived headlong into the various frameworks and technology choices, and set about developing a combination of informed judgements and tooling that would streamline the entire effort. His favourite phrase became in my humble opinion, and his favourite acronym IMHO - he was 100% committed. The utility of his endeavour had been further bolstered by the difficulty we had in onboarding new developers to our team, and to our chosen technology stack in particular. Tanmai’s pattern loving heart broke every time he had to direct them to some online resource or the other.

The first outcome of this effort was a platform named procrust.es. In keeping with the elegant simplicity of its mythological namesake, procrust.es was a database platform that combined the ease of use of a noSQL API with the ability to handle transactions. It freed up developers from having to worry about consistency every time there was a database change, so they could instead focus on the more important customer side of the application. In parallel, Tanmai also developed a set of guidelines for choosing and implementing a front end stack, and started experimenting with Docker for application deployment.

The penny finally dropped when several of Chennai’s developers started dropping by our office to enquire about Tanmai’s work, and to ask if it were possible for them to use procrust.es themselves. Realising the value of the work we had done on the technology front, we (very reluctantly, I might add - my love for food still persists) decided to abandon our food industry revolutionising dreams and switch to make technology the core focus of our company. Procrust.es itself underwent several iterations and eventually evolved into the Hasura platform, our core offering.

At its heart, Hasura is a set of informed opinions. Our opinions on how one should go about architecting an application have been packaged into the Hasura platform - a Platform as a Service offering that leverages PostgreSQL, Elastic Search, Docker, Kubernetes and CoreOS, while still retaining the simplicity of a noSQL API. To those clients who avail of our technical consulting and software development services through our Special Projects Division, we offer our opinions on the people, tooling and workflow practices you need to adopt to remain current and future proof, and the guarantee that these opinions will always remain on the cutting edge. To those who are new to the application development space and would like an easy way to grasp current best practices, we are developing a series of MOOCs in association with NPTEL and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (the first one will go live in September) where again, we offer you our opinions on modern application development.

And why do our opinions matter? We are firm believers that technology should never be developed in a silo. At Hasura we also have a strong product development team, that has developed and taken to production 35 products, including POS systems, e-commerce websites, ERP systems, and web and mobile apps. Their feedback has been continuously incorporated into both the Hasura platform, and into our service offerings, and the experience of taking multiple applications across several domains into production have given us a unique perspective. Our offerings have already been proven to add significant value to our clients’ business processes, as evidenced by our extremely high customer retention rate, and this has been important validation of our work over the last 1.5 years.

We had evaluated several alternatives before deciding to build our own platform. However, we wanted to retain the ability to customise our backend at every point, something that was impossible to get with BaaS platforms. This has also been our abiding philosophy when building products. We have always refrained from locking in our customers, whether they be customers using the Hasura platform and wanting full control over their backend stack, or customers using our service offerings and wanting to transfer the technology to a different stack (for any reason). With regard to the Hasura platform specially, you can read more about this here.

Hasura is now a 40 member strong team with offices in Chennai, Bangalore and Singapore, and we have on our payroll some of the finest developers in the world. We are actively looking to scale up both our product and service offerings and would love to collaborate with anyone looking for a technology partner, from UX/design agencies to advertising companies to anyone looking to build specific software. Do give us a shout out at [email protected] in case you would like to get in touch.

Rajoshi Ghosh,
Co-founder/CEO, Hasura

Rajoshi

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