'If You Have to be a Successful Enterprise, You Have to Play in the Space'

Srini Srinivasan worked for companies like IBM, VerdiSoft, Yahoo, and CitrusLeaf before he co-founded Aerospike in 2009. The Aerospike's real-time data platform enables organizations to act instantly across billions of transactions. He opens up more with Entrepreneur India on how his company is competing with other players, adoption of real-time data by enterprises in the last few years and much more...

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Adoption of real-time technology in enterprises

Srini Srinivasan, CTO & Founder, Aerospike

Back in 2007, when the iPhone was introduced in the US, it changed the behavior of people. The adoption essentially skyrocketed. Any enterprise that wanted to survive in this environment had to be savvy enough and create a user experience for consumers which is in line with what they are used to seeing in mobile devices from the usual suspects. And this dynamic we predicted would crossover to the standard enterprises and that's precisely what we have seen over the years. There is a nonlinearity of the Internet, which is at play.

The same user experience that you provided to the first user, you have to provide to the millionth user, the 100 millionth user, the billionth user, and so on. And that creates challenges. And if you are to be a successful enterprise, you have to play in the space at a level where you are on par or better than competitors and that's the trend, we are seeing continuing to move across enterprise verticals. So, we are seeing more and more enterprises adopting real-time technology. Traditional banks, for example, have also had to work with the API and our Dream 11 essentially uses this technology in their fantasy cricket applications.

Any difference in solutions for corporates and start-ups

We focus on a series of support for real-time decision-making. The start-ups, which are starting now, started on things from scratch because they don't have this existing business that they're running. A lot of start-ups started using aerospace when they were small, and they kept growing by 10 or hundred level fold. This level of exponential growth is costly because of user experience trends. Enterprises also have to compete in this space. Let's take a large bank, for example. First of all, they have to operate with start-ups like Dream 11 in terms of transactions, but more importantly, they have to provide a level of engagement to their customers. There is a generation that has never gone into a bank. They're mobile savvy. But the point is it's a completely different behavior. Enterprises essentially have to use this technology.

Customers who have made big with your platform

There is Dream 11. Then there is InMobi, which is another one which is an ad-tech company. Payment companies in India like Paytm, PhonePe, for example, are heavy users of Aerospike in various aspects of their ecosystem. Not everybody is using it everywhere. Some of them use it a lot, and some of them use it a little bit less. Some are in the middle. PayPal, for example, is using Aerospike for fraud detection. A very large brokerage firm in the US has used Aerospike for risk analysis. They analyze risk on their customer's portfolios every couple of minutes. So, if I look at telcos, Airtel, for example, we are a key part of that platform.

Platform helping clients roll out 5G

5G is a new thing that's happening, and it's going to essentially be the norm maybe like two or three years down the road. A lot of new applications in 5G require a lot of real-time data processing. So, we expect to see a number of use cases. This one kind to some extent aligns with that start-up question you asked because 5G is not a start-up, but it's starting up as a new area where you are going to expand the kinds of applications and the usage of the network by consumers in a huge way. So, we have like dozens of use cases, I'm sure with all the telcos that we are already working with them. On many of these, they're using Aerospike there. We are a key component of those technologies and of those use cases in 5G that are going to be deployed in the next year or so.

Competing with other players in the market

Aerospike can store 10 times more real-time data per normal node of a cluster than comparable products. We also compete based on the amount of high availability that we can provide for applications. There are many of our customers who have run Aerospike for almost a decade or more, and who have never had outages. And they're not running simple systems. They're running systems at scale, have millions of users, and they need very low latencies to provide a great user experience because people are impatient with their phones. So that is essentially how we compete. We provide much better SLAs for applications. The user experience is much better. It consists of high availability, low latency, and strong consistency. We have money transfer applications where we don't lose any data.

Benefits of NoSQL databases over other ones

When I say NoSQL, I don't mean that we don't support SQL. In fact, we don't have a query language apart from SQL in Aerospike. However, when I say NoSQL, there are other models of data, and one of them is a key value. This is where we started. The other one is document oriented. So, think of it as transactional data, which has a certain data model, which means if you have an application, many naturally occurring applications are mapped into documents.

When you look at NoSQL, what we're saying is it's more than relational. Now, SQL typically has been used for relational, doesn't mean SQL cannot be used for non-relational systems. That's why we are also allowed SQL to query our documents. We don't necessarily build the query processing engine. We use other systems too. So basically, a system like Aerospike can support key values. It also supports document access. All of that is a different way of accessing data than relational. And so that's kind of what NoSQL is, more than the basic classical databases do. We have this platform, which is good in terms of processing lots of data really fast.

Plans and growth strategies for the Indian market

We have been in India from day one. As we were building the product, we essentially had very early customers from India like InMobi, Snap-deal, Flipkart, BookMyShow, and Flipkart. So, we've always been in the Indian market. So, our plan has always included India and what we have seen over the last few years, and we, to some extent have seen the growth of the internet applications and the mobile applications in India, and we've been a huge part of it over the last 10 years. Going forward, we see a great future. We have support, we have people who work with us. Everything that happens in Asia is actually run out of Bangalore. We see enormous growth here this year. We are going to continue to see that over the next few years. So, therefore, we are investing more in this market.

Advice to the budding entrepreneurs

Start in an area where you are reasonably knowledgeable. Being passionate is equally important because a start-up by nature is extremely hard, which means there are times when one doesn't know exactly what to do as one goes through this process. So, your passion has to be strong enough so that you have the motivation to go through the ups and downs in the first few years. Also, when you are an entrepreneur, there's always a lot of noise and you don't know which one to focus on. So having advisors and mentors and reaching out to them is important. It doesn't mean you have to listen to a particular person and do exactly what they say because that doesn't work either. Be open and honest about everything, including one situation as well as how you deal with customers and so on.