An insight into life in India with Consegna’s Nitin Y as told by Justin Brown
I last visited India in 2007 to write a book about playing cricket. Bowling Through India told the story of five Kiwi blokes who piled into a van in Kolkata and took to the streets to face off against kids who batted and bowled like demons. Thankfully, given our sporting ability, our trip was never about winning. Over the next month, we learned about life, love, death, compassion, and the fascination of India. We didn’t know how lucky we were to travel so freely and without worry.
Things are very different in India today. The curse of COVID brought the nation to its knees, with 11.1 million cases and 157,000 deaths as of March 2021.
Nitin Y, a Consulting and Architecture Team Lead at Consegna in Auckland, grew up in New Delhi. It’s here that he returned to in the middle of a worldwide pandemic to sell the family home after the death of both of his parents. Nitin and his two sisters inherited their parents’ house and decided to sell in February 2020. They had a buyer in March, then Corona happened. New Zealand plunged into lockdown. He was supposed to fly to India in June to finalize the deal, but 2020 was proving to be a year like no other.
Nitin: ‘International borders were closed and it was getting to the point where my sisters and I cancelled the deal. The market was dropping. It looked like we were going to be stuck with the house for god knows how many years.’
Nitin left Delhi before moving to a university in Noida, a neighbouring state in what is dubbed by locals as a satellite city of New Delhi. A year later he moved to Michigan, and onto New Zealand where he and his wife have lived since 2010. But with one sister in Delhi and the other in Melbourne, the sale of a house during COVID 19 soon became one huge headache.
‘Man, it was strange getting on a plane when I finally got the green light to travel. Auckland Airport was completely deserted. The duty-free shops, restaurants and bars were all shut and temporary plastic fences were everywhere. We were sent straight to the gate where we put on masks and hand sanitizer. When we finally boarded, the airline crew wore full PPE as if they were going into surgery. The flight was 70% full. It felt like we were in a giant flying hospital.’
Anyone who flew long-haul flying during this time knows how uncomfortable masks became. Nitin kept his on for 18 hours to Dubai, taking it off only when he ate. A 23-and-a-half-hour layover at Dubai airport followed.
‘When I arrived in Delhi, it was hard to spot a single person without a mask,’ says Nitin. ‘Just like in New Zealand, there is a tracing app, which uses Bluetooth and GPS to alert you if you come in close contact with someone who has tested positive, but there is no signing into shops. It’s very unorganized, which is understandable. How do you control the hygiene habits of over a billion people?’
Nitin tells me that Delhi locals were understandably desperate to continue to do business and to feed their families. Those in the hospitality and travel industries were hit hardest. And such is the state of India’s poor that millions of people can't afford to be in quarantine and isolation for too long. Billboards around Delhi are covered with COVID messaging and hand sanitizers flood receptions of apartment blocks and corporations. Radio stations repeatedly play safety announcements from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As for social distancing, these days instead of a friendly handshake, Indians just offer a hello.
Nitin: ‘I was slightly worried that I'd catch COVID. I tried to limit my exposure.’
In the meantime, Nitin had work to do, and it came as a pleasant surprise that working 12,000 km from home wasn’t such a big deal. As a consultant for Consegna, he could continue his role from anywhere that had an internet connection. While in isolation in Delhi, he worked as a cloud architect managing a project for a New Zealand regional government health organization. The job was to migrate their applications to the cloud.
Nitin: ‘The first thing we do in this situation is a discovery exercise with our customers, using sessions to gather as much information as possible. We form a virtual squad, consisting of a Project Manager, Architects, Technical Owners, Business Analyst, and DevOps engineers. The ‘scrum,’ as we call it, decides what we’re going to achieve based on the stories we create. The information is then broken down into tasks which creates a workload, and an application that helps figure out what we need to do next. We don’t have to know everything at this stage. As we’re all in a team, we reach out to one another whenever we want, via Slack, emails, or just by picking up the phone.’
Nitin’s team will work on the project well into next year, rebuilding what they can wherever possible, and figuring out how to best use cloud-native technology to make things cheaper and more efficient for the customer.
Nitin: ‘Many organizations struggle to implement this way of working. Often ‘old school’ staff fail to see the value in it, they’re just used to sitting in one team and being told what to do. If you try to do something in a new way, it's always hard. It can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, but if someone shows you step by step, it’s not nearly as daunting.’
Another project on Nitin’s agenda is working with a non-profit Fintech company that started out by offering lower KiwiSaver fees and has expanded into investment funds and home loans. AWS is enabling them to deliver all these products quickly and cost-effectively.
Nitin: ‘We're helping them with a pilot of New Relic, an SaaS software platform that monitors your cloud infrastructure and applications. One of the things they lack is visibility into how their website is performing for their customers. They want to know how long it takes a customer to log in, or how long it takes for a customer to load a particular dashboard, or to buy an investment? Integrating New Relic into their front-end application will enable them to get visibility into what's going on in their application from both the front and back end.’
If Nitin decided to stay in India, there would be no shortage of work. His home country has created an internet-savvy online world where you can order everything from medicine to an electrician via an app. Widely regarded as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India, Bangalore sits among the top 14 leading global advanced manufacturing and robotics ecosystems. And India’s charm with new tech has enabled blue-collar people to find a platform to get more customers. The flip side means leaving behind a huge segment of society who can't use the technology.
The fact that Nitin can continue to do his job during lockdown speaks volumes about how technology enables us. He admits if he didn’t have the right tech tools, there is no way he could have completed such projects. ‘Covid sure is crazy, but if you're an architect specialising in AWS no obstacle is too big to get over to get the work done. As long as you do your job, it doesn't matter where you are.’ This is in-line with Consegna's culture of enabling their staff to deliver value regardless of their location.
As for Nitin’s family home, it seems nothing is done in a hurry in India. Selling a property in Delhi is not as easy as visiting your solicitor; there are high taxes and constant negotiations with the government body. Thankfully, the sale is complete and Nitin is safely home in New Zealand.
‘I'm so glad to be home,’ he says. ‘The first thing I did when I got back was to hang out with my wife and dog. I can’t wait to hike and swim, and we’re going into summer, perfect timing. I’ve missed the fresh air.’