Caravel Labs

May 2, 2023

High Performance Software Delivery in Brunei - Grominda Podcast

Ashu Chatterji

Podcast Grominda Transcript


Hello to all of us joining today. I'm joined here by my colleague and good friend Aiman Minorhadi from Bandarsari Begavan in Brunei. Aiman is the founder and CEO of Graminda Sanderian Verhat, an amazing startup in the Southeast Asian country. And without further ado, I'll ask Aiman to tell us a little more about Gravinda and how that was founded and what was the motivation behind that Aiman


Yeah. Hi guys and thanks Ashu for having me. Yeah. And yeah, so, so we first started we're just a small consulting company based in Brunei. So, Brunei is
part of or is one of the Southeast Asian countries. And we're yeah. So basically, we started off. I personally started off with my co-founder when we were still a student. That was back in 2016. So, and I guess we were when we first started, we wanted to solve a problem. The problem was basically how do we help.


Our friends and close ones to be more employable and then we ended up coming up with a solution where we believe that, you know, exposing people with the right experiences, it would create portfolio building for themselves and then by the end of the day, they'll be more marketable. Yeah. And so, the that's the easy part. The hard part was, was that we had to also understand how to make money.


So, the entrepreneur side of us came a bit later. Yeah. And yeah, so that's how we first started. I think we're just bunch of guys who likes to throw in ideas. And then we've always believed in building capacity and helping people to grow. Yeah. And yeah, and I think just a little bit in depth on what we do and who we are. So, we're Grominda Serumbahat.


So Grumin, Nasramahat is a consulting company that focuses on building solutions for consumer experience and also digital adoption for the ease of use, right. And yeah, so we're big dreamers, but at the same time we also aim to be realistic with our solutions. Yeah, that's amazing and how did you get into software development specifically?


Yeah, I well I think at first, it's something that's unavoidable. I think when we first realized when we wanted to come up with a solution, we it's you know it's it has to be digitally enabled and I think throughout this process we had to our background is far different from a software develop or software development or software engineering background.


We're coming from an economics background, but I think I'm having to understand how it works. What are the terms to have those kinds of conversations just for us to understand. And with all with the aim to improve digital adoption for consumers, especially as a consulting company, our focus is more towards people and for them to have.


To make it easier for them to be adopted in anything that's digital. Yeah. So, we I think I think it's safe to say that we our focus is more on digital innovation rather. Yes, we are in Brunei, but I guess I think the other advantage of being Brunei is that you know we our we are quite bilingual especially in English.


And then you know if you look into the market rather than just Brunei, there are other countries within Southeast Asia that speak in the same language such as Malaysia, Indonesia and also Singapore. So, we do have a big, I want to say not big. We do have a very friendly network around the region that shares the same value. So yeah, we've, we've always gone out and try to improve ourselves and also try to understand a bit more.


And how, how we can work closely in in providing the right solutions that is reliable, viable and visible. Yeah, for our consumers. And I think additional to that I think just want to say that you know we're, we're lucky enough to be acquainted and to be connected with the likes of Ashu and the guys from Caravel Labs. I think we; we shared the same vision and mission. So that's why.


We're working closely together. I think now we're clicked 10 to front. So yeah so, so this brings me to my question to you Ashu. It was Southeast Asia seems to be a priority for parallel Caravel labs. Why is that? Yeah, that's a great question Aiman. And actually, that probably you know I might have to start a little earlier than just answering that question before I get there.


So, you know, when my four friends and I, we decided to leave Microsoft and you know, go on this crazy journey called Caravel Labs, the primary motivation behind that was our realization that while we were doing amazing work, life changing work, really improving the world through our profession, it needed to be a lot more intentional about where the needs were most.


Right. And that's why we focused on sustainability. We happen to live in a time when, you know, we have the most amazing innovation, technological innovation ever imagined. At the same time, we also have the greatest existential threats to humanity. So, and you know, if one looks at that, you know, the climate crisis is probably, is a great example of, you know, the biggest threat that we are facing at the moment.


And by all indications, that battle, if you will, will be won or lost in Asia. I was attending a session yesterday. By the way, that was not my quote. That was actually from the US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank. I was listening to her yesterday and I thought it was very profound about the battle for climate crisis being won or lost in in Asia. Half the world's population is in Asia.


I'm talking about broadly about Asia, which is which is massive, right? And even there there's a lot of variations. But Asia is 4 times more likely to be adversely affected by climate change or climate crisis related natural disasters than Africa, 25 times more likely than Europe. And we're not even talking about Southeast Asia, which is probably even more affected by that.


So, so that was kind of why we believe that if our mission, the whole point about leaving the corporate world and building a company were meaningful then we have to focus on Southeast Asia. And the other thing of course is the fact that you know we had, we had had a lot of great experience working in Southeast Asian countries. You know the last time I was in in July that was my third trip. You know one of our co-founders Adam had you know is practically local, he had spent you know s
everal months over there and then other parts of you know Southeast Asia too. We had, we had, we had done a lot of work and one of the things that we had learnt in along the way was that Southeast Asia has a lot of innovation. It is just not as it is. It is very resilient. Just going around Brunei for example, one can see that it's very resilient, it is very unique it, but it is subtle and not you know it is not projected as much.


So, it is a very understated part of the world where there is a lot of potential. So yes, there's need, there's potential and that's why you know Southeast Asia, when we set up the company, we have all this stayed focused in Southeast Asia. We just couldn't work as much in the first couple of years because of the pandemic. But yeah, Southeast Asia is very special to us. And I don't think there's much more evidence of what I'm saying. This is, this is just not something that we believe in the truth lies everywhere.


I mean the AI TI tech immersion program that you and I and our two other companies had the chance of working together was amazing. Just you know complete strangers getting together in five weeks and producing working software that is you know impresses the clients you know that is that is just another proof of that and anyway I did mention the AI TI tech immersion program and I have a.


View from 10,000 miles away. But I I would really like for you to tell our audience about that program and why is it different from you know anything else that you know you've seen in in in Southeast Asia. Yeah, yeah, yeah, OK, great. Awesome. So, so I think I think a little bit of a back story about who ATI is. So, so ATI is, is w
as basically our client. So, ATI is the authority for info, communication and technology industry for Brunei. So yeah, we were lucky enough to be working on that project together with you guys. So, the idea of tech immersion program was basically to build a tech workforce in a high-income country, and I think the tech workforce also.


You know they part of the requirement was that they must have more than just technical skills in order to commend high incomes or otherwise they will end up competing with the lease paid jobs in the tech industry. So again, this is also it's the backside of the story between both of us where we are working on this. I think this was the shared value and the shared vision that we had you know to expose.


And to influence and or better word aspire the tech talents to see the other side where you know where you know there's a different way on approaching digital solutions especially on becoming a high performing engineering team. Yeah, and again, you know being a Brunei and being local here it's this is also something that's fairly new I'm sure there's also other p
rograms existing within the region, but for local Brunei's, this is something that we have always wanted. And also, you know, there's a lot of programs that's teaching, for instance, like hackathon or other specific IT or tech, tech technology programs that's teaching people how to develop. But it's never about teaching people or the participants on how to deliver, right. And there's a lot of aspects and a lot of factors that needs to be considered in those.


And yeah, so, so that's why we, you know, especially in focusing on human centered problem-solving skills, iterative, sorry, iteratively and incrementally solutioning those software delivery solutions. So yeah, so, so you know, as a local Brune and not just as a local Brune, but as a local South Asian we've always been exposed through.


Screens on how it was how it is in Silicon Valley. So, we always wondered like how it how you know what is all programs that was existing there and then that made that actually spur that actually made the talents to be able to deliver this So yeah so we're lucky enough to be working with you guys such experienced people such experienced skilled friends as well and yeah so.


And coming back to the participants, I think when they first came in it was a 5-week program. When they first came in it was a somewhat of a of a new approach that they were really embedded into. I think what they knew off in terms of Agile, Scrum or even you know human centered approach is only by reading or by what there.


Seeing on, on online videos online, yeah. But for them to have to be in a setting where they could actually experience that, that was remarkable, you know? And then having not just the participants but also the client, which was the problem, the sorry, the problem sponsor which is print plus to also experience in this journey, it was also a different set of exposure for them as well. So yeah.


Yeah, so participants learn to work with users, and users see the problem solved according to their ideas. So, it lets us see what our business sponsor had to say at the end of program.


yeah, so my name is Norkartijah Hj Abu Bakar. I am production and political control in the Print Plus and The Woman. Our production data is written by hand and entered manually into the Excel.


Where human error may occur and can cause our data to be incorrect. So, we were looking for a simple solution for operation and that will allow the operator to simply press the button and to generate the data automatically when the operator start the job and stop when it done. The thing come up is simple foundation and believe i
t could solve our problems. The result I would like to see from this is able to produce clean data for analysis from the machine and user friendly for operator to use it. I enjoy working with the teams even though it takes time for them to understand our process and problem. In the past five weeks I can see the hard working and potential. So, and I'm looking forward working with the teams okay.


My name is Muhammad Reeda Malik. I am the General Manager at Print Center in Barhan, a commercial printer located in Brunei Darusalam Okay the problem statement. Our primary challenge at print actually is obtaining production data that is accurate.


And with high integrity, so clean data at the right time which is which has not been tampered with. So currently the data is handwritten or input manually into Excel spreadsheets, so you know prone to human error and all that. So, in essence what we were looking, what we are looking for is the hardware and software solution which allows the operator to simply press play to start the production process, pause when there's a downtime.


And stop when they are done. This automation I feel will provide the basis for much better analytics and even some automation in when we do the estimating for jobs for the customers so quotations can be generated faster. The solution that was presented by the team was the problem solved and what kind of business outcomes am I seeing as a result of the solution.


So, the team came up with the foundations of what essentially is a manufacturing execution system and MES that could potentially track and monitor production processes in real time. Did it solve the problem? Well, it was. I think it's a prototype. So, they came up with a prototype of a larger solution which potentially could solve our problem.


In terms of the business outcomes, again, since this is just a prototype, we are yet to see the business outcome. But potentially this MES system can be integrated with our existing ERP, which we are running called print logic. And they be once integrated, and you'll be able to track the performance of equipment and operators and monitor our production yields and collect data on quality control measures. Yeah, and to add to that, I think.


MES systems in general can help automate the process of estimating the time required for each process, each of the processes within the printing production process within the production flow. Therefore, when we are able to get all the historical data, then we will be able to do analytics and be able to better predict the time taken or time required for each of these processes, and it obviously will help to.


Optimize our production schedules and improve overall efficiency. How did I feel working with Caravel Labs and do I see Caravel Labs as a trusted partner? Well, I was quite happy working with Caravel Labs, the team. The good thing about it was the team took the time to understand the problem statement and the bigger picture essentially.


And then you know it was a five-week, five-week program. So, within the five sprints, the fact that the participants were able to come up with such a viable prototype, I think it's testament to the team at Caravel's expertise and their guidance. So again, very happy with how it turned out and looking forward to working with Caravel again, Caravel and AITI of course again.


Thank you. Awesome. So, they're, they're, they're very happy. They're very satisfied with that. And yeah, so yeah and I'm glad, I'm glad we can bring this to our customers in Brunei as well as Indonesia and Malaysia to our partnership with Caravel Labs, probably. Let me ask you this though, how did you come up with the idea of this format?


Great question. So actually, you know we discovered I think through our own experience. So, you know it's more than three decades now, but when I first graduated from college, you know, bright eyed booty tailed computer science graduate out there to change the world through coding, I was thrown into an into a steam plant with another developer also with 0 experience.


The two of us, and we ended up actually solving A metallurgical problem using code. And I think that experience, you know, instilled in me the idea that when people you know there's two ways of approaching software engineering. One is you are given a solution to implement, and you do that to make money. The other is you're given a problem to solve, and you solve the problem.


What we have found is that the second one of course we know is the one that one must pursue. That is the kind of the, the high value work in the software engineering industry and that best happens when somebody is actually exposed to that kind of an environment. You know, there's nobody to actually hand hold them and show them out. Well, showing them, yes, but not necessarily doing it for them like you know that is where the learning is most effective.


The trick of course is how do you do that in a safe environment? I mean in the steel plant that we were like, you know, if I had quoted a bug, it would have caused an explosion. So that would have, you know, physical safety issues, right? So. So how do you do it safely? That has always been a challenge.


And this is something that we, you know, we tried to very early on, even before Caravel Labs, when I was still at Microsoft. You know, we had started doing these project simulations with fresh college graduates' kind of trying to simulate that environment that I had experienced back in 92. Yeah. And it, it worked very well. You know, within Microsoft it worked very well. And then when we started Caravel Labs, we realized that, you know, that is a practice we could.


Do more methodically here. So, we started doing it in Caravel Labs and it worked just as well. You know some of our, you know, brightest engineers surprise our clients every day with when they hear that, oh, these people only have one year or less than two years of experience. You know, you met one of them, Shubham, you know he was he was a coach is amazing.


Is amazing here. Yeah. So, the speed with which you know they grow and actually I think some of your developers who went through the program, I hear the same things. I haven't had a chance to work with them directly, but I hear similar things about them from our team members, right. The growth is amazing. So that was kind of the impetus and then we realized that you know, as clients are.


You know, as clients who are trying to improve their software delivery capabilities, at the end of the day it is about transforming their developers from being coders, being implementers of other people's solutions to being able to solve their own problems. So, so coming up with this kind of a holistic boot camp, if you will, was what we, you know.


Was the main impetus behind this and because it's, you know, again our goal is to get the rest of the world to, you know embrace these skills and have better results out of this, right? I mean we have we are under no illusion that our dream of solving the climate crisis for example, or other sustainability problems will be done by Caravel Labs by itself or by Caravel Labs in Romanda, right. We lead millions of people around the world to adopt this.


So that is where we thought that we should make this available commercially as well. And actually, you folks were the first to approach us and say like you know you know the Brunei government is interested in something like this. So, it that's why it is available commercially. And what we do with the boot camp as you well know is one week of training where there is still you know sort of paper-based simulation of a project followed by a four-week project execution where the team builds the end-to-end happy paths implementation of the software solution.


That's what we call it out of the possible by the way and that's something that you know we do for our other customers as well. It's a huge risk mitigation technique which I wish was adopted more universally. Now it may sound very trivial that oh you know you're just doing you're building software for four weeks but building an end-to-end solution in four weeks is quite tough. It is it requires significant amount it's yeah; I'm not saying it's impossible by any means Obviously we do it very regularly.


But it requires all the discipline and then some more to get working software done in four weeks. So, it is a very good way. It's a tough product management exercise and it's a very good way to you know exercise all the appropriate software engineering muscles if you will right that are needed in longer term efforts. So, the boot camp or the AOP itself actually sets up any team that picks this up for long term success and.


You know, one of the things that I'm so happy about is that both the Art of the possible and the software delivery boot camp are available to Brunei. You know what I like to call the digital technology community through, you know, our partnership between Caravel Labs and Gruminda. And so, I mean, yes, I have my own viewpoints about its applicability of course, but I wanted to our audience to hear about what kind of entities you think.


You know in in Brunei and in the rest of the ASEAN countries, in your opinion, what are some of the organizations that might benefit from these? Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. Thanks, Ashu. Yeah, I think I think it's as what we have been discussing earlier on. Yeah. I think building an A challenging software or complex software if you will.


Is something that we lack guidance, right. And you know having out of the possible and also software delivery boot camp is you know it could benefit a lot more than just individuals but also an organization themselves. So, you know we've got we have a lot of opportunities or even areas of improvement especially in the digital adoption.


You know, especially in identifying what users actually want, because at the end of the day it's working with people, right? So, any organizations or any corporates or even community who would wish to develop something that is, you know, that is reliable.


That could be a reliable source for the users you know definitely should go for either out of the possible or even participate in the software delivery boot count you know so it is you know we we're opening it up now for anyone who wish to find out a bit more on how the processes and how you know how the framework or how it works. The sort of principles the sort of mindsets that it is also attached.


You know, so we're opening up to both private and public sectors as well as, you know as we've as also startups. Yeah, and yeah and I think I think we have also existed what's it called foundation here.


That already sparked some interest for the software developers in here locally in Brunei, such as coding dot bn, also one of the programs. It's a six-month program on the IATI, so this is to teach developers on specific programming languages, right, Training programming languages and also there are local hackathons right there.


That promotes digital innovation, that promotes technopreneur ship if you will. So, and this also opens up to graduates, but what's next, right. So, the question for us is always about what's next, where do they go at it. So yeah, so, so learning how to deliver definitely software reboot camp this year, so and I think you know from the video that we just shared.

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