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The Outsource VS In-house debate – The Blueberry Trails at TRH Open House

TheRodinhoods Open House hosted at the BSE was epic! Walking through the iconic hallways of the Stock Exchange, it gives any business owner goosebumps, to be amidst so much history (and economics) at once. 

I’m @sudeeptasanyal Co Founder and COO at The Blueberry Trails | @BlueberryTrails

The agenda boasted of some great speakers, a varied line up, some very inspirational stories from the roots, some great ideas being shaped, all in all plenty to learn, and at the end of the day there were cupcakes too. What’s not to love?

Big thanks to Alok and Asha! For giving The Blueberry Trails a platform, to speak about our journey so far. Bootstrapped for 5 years, we have remained true to our Philosophy of Personalized Curated Travel and grown as an organisation while at it, and we are proud to b so. And all in all the day celebrated good businesses, funding or no funding. Its all about dhanda! And at the end its Dhanda that will set you free 🙂 (Pardon the cinematic references)

On that note, I would have a query to put forth at this forum. Let me know what you guys have to say about this!

As a Personalized Holiday Planner, we are building an Automated Trip Planner, with a Real Time Itinerary maker. We are in the process of getting Quotes from Agencies for the same. Do you suggest that this should be an In house process, or can this be outsourced to an agency? Which is a more Cost effective and beneficial in the Long Term option, keeping in mind the high attrition rates at Startups too ?

Will leave you with a few lessons on Bootstrapping from our end, from our experience. This was presented at the TRH OH in Mumbai Jan. 2016. 

 


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  1. :)))

    it’s imp to have some rockstar women entrepreneurs at every OH sudeepta – and everything just fell in place since you’ve been bootstrapped for the past few years! so thank YOU for being a part of the awesomeness!!

    to answer your question – personally, i would want to hire someone to do it in-house – personalised itineraries is something close to my heart – my husband created a passion venture called indiadecoded for me, which i parked aside to get into trh full time 🙂 it was all about creating customised and very personalised itineraries. in startups, only if someone shares your passion of ensuring the customer has the most wow trip, then only will that person go the extra mile and go into minute details. 

    so my vote goes with in-house. (your reputation is at stake with an outside agency.) 

    i also think, for the long term, if you’ve invested in someone who loves doing this – it will work out for all three of you (third being the customer :))

    GOOD LUCK!!

  2. Thanks Asha! Thats helpful. However, considering the attrition rates at Startups being so high, Its a painpoint that we all have to suffer. So am always apprehensive of someone leaving the project midway . 

  3. It will likely be faster to find a partner than to hire a team that can do the app, backend, hosting.

    Outsource, provided you can :

    1) Spec the product down to each and every page, AND the flows from / to

    2) Can validate the vendor’s ability to host and monitor the application

    3) Know exactly how you are going to test the application in advance

    4) If there are 3rd party APIs you will ‘talk’ (e.g. for getting trip details / costs / availability), part of your specs will include defining what these feeds are, what they are used for, and architecting something that is extensible for future feeds.

    5) Have an agreement that has clear milestones – payments, sign-offs, terms.  

    6) Get access to the source code on some repository, and the project plan must include periodic reviews.

    7) Always, always keep an eye on the project.  A big mistake is to forget about the project once it’s signed.  Your specs will change, the vendor’s disk drive will fail, the lead programmer of the vendor will ‘churn’.

    8) Get a reference for the partner.

    All easier said than done 🙂  [I’m guilty of neglecting some of my own points, hence this list ]

  4. Hi Sudeepta: Congrats on completing 5 years and building a real business!

    Here’s my take based on my experience. Ideally, you need your technology team in-house. However, I feel it’s ok to do whatever makes sense in one’s case in the beginning. There are too many unnecessary rules in startup world trying to force people to do things in a certain way. Even if you hire great engineers, you will most likely end up outsourcing design/UI stuff until you find someone to do both in-house. I know for a fact, most venture funded products (some of them which are B $$ businesses today) used external help at some point.

    Was trying to access your website to get a better idea of the product/service, but it’s currently down. I guess it has elements of a trip planner/aggregator/marketplace/concierge. With this assumption, I feel it’s okay to outsource the development process in the beginning for ~3 months, or till you get to your beta version. However, I’d be careful about who you decide to work with. Don’t pick a vendor solely based on price, and avoid $ per/hour arrangements. Don’t restrict your search to India (India has gotten expensive), there are some real kickass engineers/designers in Russia, Europe, and Bangladesh.

    + Agree with everything Mahesh said below.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t budget/spend a ton on building the first version of the outsourced (if you go that route) product. You will most likely spend 2x time and money than what you plan for; find ways to avoid that outcome. Question every choice/recommendation that outsourced firm/engineers tell(s) you. If you’re not a techie., recommend getting an advisor/buddy who can help you with the vetting process.

    Even otherwise, here’s a simple trick called “vs

    Example: The engineer recommends development in, say, Ruby. Google “Ruby vs …” and you’ll see alternatives – go back and get into details behind reasons for that choice. You’ll get a sense of whether that person is talking BS or talking sense. Works with everything both technical and non-technical.

    No matter how good the outsourced development firm/engineers are, once you hire someone in-house s/he would like to do things in a certain manner. So be prepared for that. 

    Meanwhile, I still suggest you actively work on building a core tech. team/getting a co-founder (whatever makes sense for you). It’s much easier attracting talent with a finished product. Long term – you NEED an in-house team. Any piece of software is never 100% done so having an in-house team goes a long way. Best wishes!

  5. Thanks a bunch for the suggestions Mahesh. Will follow some through. Also finding a CTO is a prolonged process, its only if the right person comes along. One cannot stall a project until then, thus this query to get me started.

    Really appreciate the inputs!

  6. Thanks Rishi. Love the Googling Ruby vs … idea. Will certainly do that for every tech related recco, and yes have managed to get a Buddy along for this too. My website is http://www.theblueberrytrails.com

  7. Q: As a Personalized Holiday Planner, we are building an Automated Trip Planner, with a Real Time Itinerary maker. We are in the process of getting Quotes from Agencies for the same. Do you suggest that this should be an In house process, or can this be outsourced to an agency? Which is a more Cost effective and beneficial in the Long Term option, keeping in mind the high attrition rates at Startups too ?

    My Answer:

    Get it done outside. For three reasons:

    1. Agencies always quote costs + margins. Use their quote to evaluate how and when will you be able to recover that cost. Doing it ‘in-house’ usually camouflages costs and returns.
    2. Do what you know best. I assume planning trips and trails. Don’t get into the business of others (tech)
    3. Doing anything yourself is time consuming. Even if you have the best techie in house, he/she will take 1-2-3 hours of yours for supervision. CEO time is best spent on core business and core business alone.

     

  8. Golden words Alok. Thank you 

    Will do what I do best 🙂 

    The hunt for looking for a good team (albeit outsourced) is on, and will start with this. Going forward may look at getting a team in-house, but for now this is good. All that matters is that I start, and there is no better time than now!

  9. Get a good tech guy internally (usually in the package of 10-12L), the one who can own the architecture of the application. If budget is a problem look for people who are doing such gigs in part-time capacity. However, usually a full-time guy is a best bet.

    This guy can then work with the agency who is developing the application and get you a well built product. Get a guy who can get involved hands-on with the code, this way he can maintain and support the application later on when you’re launched and in the market.

    Hope this helps.

  10. Hi,

    Irrespective of whether you outsource it or do it in-house, start by making a wire-frame to understand exactly what and how you want your automated trip planner to work – use a tool like Balsamiq – it will help you immensely when it comes to talking to developers! 

    Good luck

    Cheers

    Ravi

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