Retailers had reason to rejoice in the last year as their products flew off digital shelves.
While this unprecedented boom of eCommerce was taking place globally, Dunzo set its sights on the hyper-local stage and carried out several thousand deliveries of essential commodities, groceries, and restaurant food to people across India.
Soon enough, the phrase “Just Dunzo It” became a commonly heard one as the company doubled its active user base.
We invited Mukund Jha, Dunzo’s CTO for a conversation with our Senior Director of Marketing, Aadil Bandukwala and Co-Founder & CTO, Harishankaran K, about the technologies powering the growth of eCommerce at large, what it’s like to work as an engineer at Dunzo and the company's obsession with data.
Read on for highlights from the conversation, or watch the recording here.
1. Go is Dunzo engineers’ language of choice
Previously champions of Python, Dunzo fell in love with the Go language when they were designing their allocation system.
“The high level of concurrency Go provides was what exactly we were looking for”, Mukund says, “and we’ve made it our primary language since.”A relatively new language designed at Google, Go is finding popularity among coders and is quickly becoming a favorite among large organizations.
For their data needs, Dunzo uses PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and the other usual suspects like Redis, ElasticSearch, and BigTable.
“Thanks to my time as an employee at Google, I fully understand the power of data and the actionable insights it can provide”, says Mukund. He has adopted and spread this data-loving culture at Dunzo, and it’s safe to say that Dunzo is obsessed with data.
To address the challenge of how they can sift through and organize the heaps of data they generate every day, the engineers at Dunzo built a platform that pushes the data through transformers, removes PIIs, combines all of it into giant fact tables where they can query and look out for anomaly alerts.
2. The convenience economy is spurring quick commerce
“We are naturally progressing towards a lifestyle that revolves around convenience and the demand for quick commerce has skyrocketed in the last year”, says Mukund, “and technology is building the answer to this demand. Machine learning, IoT, drone technology, AR and VR are all playing roles here.”
Speaking of drone technology, Mukund talks about the exciting news that Dunzo is piloting drone delivery of medicines in India.
They are currently in the pilot phase of drone projects in the states of Karnataka and Telangana, and he highlights the recently eased unmanned aircraft systems regulations as a positive development.
While countries like Iceland and Tanzania already use drones for deliveries, Mukund says that there are still a few country-specific challenges that must be addressed before drone deliveries become mainstream.
Augmented Reality, which allows users to preview products through a screen in their physical surroundings, has already become a part of Ikea and Amazon’s services. “It will mostly only be used in the luxury and interior design retail spaces for a few years to come'' Mukund predicts.
3. Dunzo regularly runs exercises of empathy
In the early days of the start-up, Dunzo’s customer support team was relatively small. “When inquiries came in gushing”, Mukund says, “all of us would pause our work to help and take on customer support duty.”
A deliberate variation of this practice, called “support connects” takes place to this day at Dunzo. Everyone in the office spends an hour or two being a support representative.
“This practice helps us empathize with the customers and our fellow employees”, he says. It has become the origin of other exercises of fellowship.
A recent example is the “user letter” - every team writes letters to users, explaining the what, why, and how of every feature they build. All employees at Dunzo are also encouraged to go on delivery runs at least once every quarter.
4. Autonomy is the magic word at Dunzo
In 2018, Dunzo had about 150-200 merchants. “We were still chiseling the onboarding process”, Mukund says, “and there were a lot of doubts about the necessity, security, and effectiveness of a digital platform like ours among merchants.”
Today, they partner with over 11,000 merchants across 8 cities. Mukund believes that the autonomy and transparency they offer merchants have helped them come this far.
“They can see how much money they’re making in real-time, which products of theirs are selling like hotcakes, and an array of options of offers that they can provide their customers along with other information”, he says, “so they can make informed decisions that they believe will accelerate their business online.”
This theme of autonomy is ubiquitous at Dunzo.
“We view every developer as an owner regardless of their experience level, so they actively participate in the conception, deployment, monitoring, and maintenance.”, says Mukund. “Even our interns push things to production regularly.”
He adds, “They get to choose the language, frameworks, and other technologies that they’d like to work with to solve problems.”
“The learning curve for an engineer at Dunzo is steep,” admits Mukund, “because our business problems and scale are constantly changing but it’s worth it because everyone at Dunzo gets to have a significant impact.”