We talked to Gautam Rege, Co-founder and Director of Josh Software about innovating in the open source sphere, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Gautam Rege: It has been a year since Covid-19 hit, and while I don’t think any of us saw this coming, we have definitely managed to make the best out of this situation. I am grateful that my family and I are doing well, despite all the uncertainty around us. Slowly, yet steadily, we have gotten used to working from home – my daughter is attending online classes as well. I’ve also spent a lot of time with the family due to this remote working situation, and that’s been a saving grace!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Josh Software.
Gautam Rege: I hail from an army background. Everyone in my family, be it, my uncles and aunts, from my mother’s side, father’s side, and even my grandfathers, were all in the army, navy, or air-force! So it was a natural choice for me to join the National Defense Academy! Destiny had other plans, though. After 12th grade, I gave my Service Selection Board exam, cleared my medical, and even got into the merit list to join the NDA. It was 1996, and I had 3 months before the NDA course started. Dad didn’t want me sitting at home, so I joined PICT, the premiere Engineering College for Computer Science, and fell in love with programming and coding. My family was a little upset that I didn’t join the forces, but they accepted my decision, and that’s where I began. I got married in 2005, and my decision to start up went on the back burner as I entered a new phase of my life, but the itch to create something awesome was back in 2007. At that time, I had worked for about 8 years, and a few years earlier, I had met my friend and co-founder Sethu (Sethupathi Asokan) in Veritas. We quit our jobs on a whim one day and started Josh Software — with no business plan, no finance, no savings, no insurance, no customer contacts, nothing; just two dudes who were very confident of their programming skills! We did have complete support from our wives and families, who put all their faith in this decision. They have sacrificed as much as we have in this journey. Having said this, I do feel I will never be able to start up again the way we did, but I truly believe that taking that step with Sethu was the BEST decision of my life!
How does Josh Software innovate?
Gautam Rege: Josh is a people-first company, and that philosophy guides our innovations. We started with a clear vision to innovate in the Open source sphere and grew from there. Open source still lies as our core. Added to that, we follow a lean team / agile workplace culture, where we take on projects that allow us to disrupt and innovate either pre-existing infrastructure or build exciting new solutions from scratch. We have regular internal workshops to enable the upskilling of our teams and follow an agile approach towards building our solutions. Our employee-centric culture that keeps employees motivated is our biggest growth enabler.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Gautam Rege: Adapting to the new normal was easy for us as an organization as we were already remote-working much before the pandemic. We had multiple project management tools in place, as we have a diverse range of clients across different countries and time zones who we work with on a daily basis. It is a manner of immense pride for me to say that our team has been able to maintain, or rather, exceed the delivery expectations of our clients through clear communication and proactive solution strategies.
In the initial phase of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty with both the internal team as well as the clients. There was a reduction in the financials, but the operational costs had risen in spite of remote working in place, and there was a drop in the productivity due to logistical and infrastructural problems faced by the team. With people working from areas that had minimum or no internet connectivity, collaborations had gone down. Hence the revenues dipped. As soon as clients and the employees adopted to the ‘new normal’ and there was some semblance established, we were back to our original revenue figures.
In terms of finances, we have seen a steady increment in our numbers, as we were able to get new clients even during the pandemic! With the pandemic having leveled the playing field for ITES, companies and organizations have embraced the concept of remote working/ outsourcing projects to partners; we were able to acquire new clients. This shift in attitude has helped to streamline businesses.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Gautam Rege: Every company has been facing challenges, especially from the Human Resources front. HR has taken the front seat on operational and business development aspects during the course of the pandemic. I would like to state two points that we have noticed as a business ecosystem:
1. We are a people-first organization. I feel that remote working is a temporary fix and not good for a long-term perspective. Employee morale has gone down. Water cooler conversations, coffee breaks, brainstorms over a game of table tennis, weekly cricket matches have completely stopped. People are getting affected and feeling the fatigue. This starts affecting work as people are working in isolation. While there are tools and events that help accentuate the working experience, a placebo cannot be implemented. This negative perception about the culture has led to us losing some of our earnest talent, which has inadvertently affected the business.
2. As a part of our organizational culture, we had taken the decision very early in the pandemic that we would not initiate any pay-cuts for our employees nor engage in lay-offs. Salary cuts were only introduced for the core leadership team, and we did not pass down the buck to our employees or our vendors and partners. We have, in fact, conducted hiring drives throughout the course of the pandemic and were able to grow our team sizably. Our clients supported us during the pandemic, which further helped in not affecting even a single link.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Gautam Rege: We have been using project management tools like GitHub, Trello, Pivotal Tracker, Jira, Clickup, and GSuite for a very long time that has aided easy adaptability to remote working and the ‘new normal.’ All internal processes have also been streamlined in line with custom client interactions, which has helped us to enable greater efficiency through work from home setups. And the client interaction has increased as an effect of the pandemic. There has been no disruption in client relationships. Clients are now collaborating with us for not just solutions but also consulting us for business processes and deriving a consolidated solution.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Gautam Rege: We have been benefitted across geographies because of the tax benefits offered by governments. This has helped manage cash flow for us in both India and the US. Tax relief measures played an important role as part of the broad-based initiatives that governments are undertaking to counteract the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
Our business has been kept afloat through our clients and the team who is ready to take on big and small projects and don’t shy away from long hours of work whenever required!
Your final thoughts?
Gautam Rege: Honestly, the last few months have been a crazy ride for all of us, right from the C suite to the freshers in the teams. But we love a good challenge! There has been a tremendous amount of learning that each of us is taking back from this, and we are very excited to make the most of what lies ahead. Adversity brings about the most learning-worthy opportunities, and we are sure it will enable us to build a future-ready enterprise!
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