In conversation with Postman: How Urban Company leveraged APIs and microservices to solve household problems

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In episode 12 of Breaking Changes—Postman's weekly talk show where Postman Chief Evangelist Kin Lane hosts stellar guests from all across the API universe to discuss, debate, and solve the latest topics around APIs and API-first—UrbanCompany’s Co-Founder Raghav Chandra shares his story and expertise.

As the go-to app for home and salon services, Urban Company—previously known as Urban Clap—offers services in cleaning, painting, spa and beauty, plumbing, carpentry, and more; this, in turn, generates employment for thousands of skilled workers in India. While innovation is at the heart of the idea, tech solutions like APIs and microservices have contributed greatly to making this idea a reality. In a candid conversation on Breaking Changes, Raghav Chandra talks with Postman’s Kin Lane about what inspired him to start Urban Company, his global vision, the role of APIs and microservices, and more.

You can watch episode 12 (and every other episode) of Breaking Changes on YouTube, and the show is also available as a podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Amazon music.

Problem-solving approach

While Raghav was working as a software engineer in the United States, what kept him motivated throughout this period was his problem-solving approach. “I wanted to solve some tough problems, the kind of problems that people would face on a daily basis. That is when I decided to come back to India and start something on similar lines. It just so happens that we are now working on solving one of the biggest problems of India: that is, unemployment,” he said.

The spirit of entrepreneurship is crucial, according to the co-founder. “It does not matter to me who is the boss. Regardless of whether you are the founder or working in a company, having the spirit of entrepreneurship is necessary—which is the spirit of identifying the problems and obsessing over solving them. That is what I enjoy most,” he shared.

Microservices and challenges

Microservice architecture is imperative for businesses like Urban Company to function. It is an approach to creating cloud applications. Each application has multiple sets of services, and each service has its process and communicates through APIs. Raghav believes that there is no single definition of microservices. “There are different layers/modules to it. Your code could be separated by certain boundaries. Moreover, there can be infrastructure separation as well. A certain module can have its own database. It can go as far as to employees as teams using these services. This is how I look at microservices operating at a company level,” adds Raghav.

Raghav tells Kin that they use an event-driven microservices approach at Urban Company. “Events become very important when you are doing a lot of real-time processing in your company. For example, based on certain behaviour, I want to quickly recommend something to the consumer. The only way to do that is, as consumers are doing actions, you use events to index, process, figure out if the event is useful, and push it back to the consumer. That is how we do a lot of processing based on events,” he said.

One of the common challenges that companies face with microservices is that of standardisation, because there are so many different ways of approaching microservices. Raghav tells Kin that Urban Company has found a way to develop a sophisticated tracking system that leads to standardisation. “We have a live dashboard which displays all the microservices and databases that are running and how each service calls the other service. So we have the whole dependency graph mapped out. We have made tracking easy for us,” he explains.

The driving force

Raghav admits that he spends most of his time with engineering, product, design, and data teams, and is obsessed with getting things done. “The satisfaction of solving the problems is what keeps me going. Also, it is not just about solving difficulties but solving them really well and outdoing myself in terms of expectations,” he adds.

How has Urban Company shaped Raghav as a person? In his interaction with Kin, he shares, “It was hardly two years after college that we started Urban Company, so I have spent most of my adult life here. My obsession with problem-solving is not just limited to my professional life but this is how I now operate at a personal level. Funnily, I end up using technical jargon at family meets. So, you can guess how this has shaped up my life.”

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