Handheld Solutions and Research Labs
Raghu Mittal is a member of:
The mobile space is definitely very exciting and there is a lot of competition as well. I would urge new-comers to take time in building a strong foundation and become experts in certain key technologies like Java, Android, J2ME and Java script. Once expertise is gained, working in this field gets easier and more rewarding.
Company and job profile
I am an IIT Delhi graduate in Electrical Engineering. I worked in the Electrical Engg field for 2 years, and then co-founded a start-up called Handheld Solutions and Research Labs (Handsrel). Our company provides mobile solutions, our major product being an end-to-end Mobile Data Collection platform. If somebody wants to collect data, instead of using pen and paper, they can use a simple Java phone or an android phone, take it to the field, collect data while they are offline, and upload data to the server whenever they have connectivity. So the data collection is fast and data can be analyzed in real-time. I am the technical lead of the company and my work involves designing our products and writing code. I am also 1 of the team of 4 people of an open source consortium called OpenXdata, who have direct committing rights. So I write bug fixes, new features and review other people's work; giving comments and testing patches before code gets committed to the OpenXdata repository.
Goals and Ambitions
I am definitely looking at making our company, Handsrel grow to a bigger size and become successful. That's my primary goal as of now. I would also like to continue work in the OpenXdata consortium and make our best work available to the public as open source.
My role model
There are many people who inspire me, but the foremost person that comes to my mind is Osho. I have read quite a few of his books and watched his videos on Youtube. I can really connect with his lectures and have learnt a lot from him. Osho talked about rebellion and thinking on one's own accord, rather than being controlled by the society. In terms of technology, his lessons mean that I be an independent thinker, take tough decisions and also take full responsibility for my actions. I definitely try to imbibe his teachings in my day-to-day work.
My strongest Skill
I am a good learner with an ability to learn things on my own accord. When I was 15 years old, I taught myself coding and built a full-fledged game of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). I was the whiz kid in school, always interested in computers. My love for everything computers and specifically, coding has resulted in my working in this field. Even today, I am excited as ever to design new stuff and write code. Also, I have interest in social entrepreneurship, and wish to contribute to society through my work.
I work in the Open source domain, hence part of my job involves writing code that gets released to the public. Our work is being used all throughout the world. In fact, I love the concept of Open source. It is very satisfying since I feel that my work has benefited and will benefit lots of people in the future. We also work in the field of public health, where our clients use our product to collect data which can help in, amongst other things, prevention of diseases. Also, we are constantly working on new and exciting things and doing cutting edge stuff at the company.
My important career decision
I was working in a big company and the work I was doing was of little importance and had little impact. So I decided to switch to another job. A friend of mine was in touch with Dr Shashank Garg, who was starting a new company and was looking for potential co-founders. I met him, and we together talked about the idea that he had in mind, which was more or less a kind of social entrepreneurship, working in the field of Open source and public health. I loved the idea, and decided to join. This alone, has been the most important career decision for me.
Mobile phones are now everywhere, and it is hard to ignore the power they have. We can safely assume that mobile phones are going to be the most important communication, entertainment, educational devices and there will be lot of energy that is going to be spent on creating products and services on the mobile phone. Hence we are working in a field that has lot of potential.
When I was working on a project during my graduation days at IIT Delhi, I was able to get a research paper published in IEEE. That definitely was one of my high points, specifically because of the high recognition value that IEEE provides. More recently, we were stumped with the problem that our data collection client could not run in offline mode on different devices. So I wrote a library called gwt-localstorage-db. It was a beautiful innovation, which allowed our app to store data and run on any device, be it a netbook, laptop, android phone or a tablet. We also released the library to the Open source under the Apache-license, so that anybody could benefit from my work. Later, our Android client was used for data collection by one of our customers and they collected about 1.1 million records in a span of just 2 months. Quite incredible!
I also finished work on an Android app called 'Leave Calendar' recently and published it on Google play.
Challenges faced in job
Working in a small company has lots of challenges. Sometimes, we have a famine like situation where we are trying to figure out where our salaries going to come from. Other times, we are discussing how to make our products better and meet our customer's needs. As a technical lead, I have to give guidance to my juniors. Also, since I am senior most technical person in my company, it boils down to the fact that the success or failure of our product primarily lies on me. I always have discussions with my senior, Dr Shashank Garg, who is the CEO of Handsrel, but technically speaking, I have to get down to the nuts and bolts and make things work.
Views about 'Tech product Introduction is weak among Indians'
India has traditionally been a follower to the United States in the field of Information Technology. US outsourced their low-end jobs to developing countries because of cost reasons and hence Indian companies started getting business. Services was easy, you listen to your customer and just do what he wants, at a cheaper cost. You don't have to create something new and take risks to survive in the market. Then the slow-down came, and the US now has stricter policies for out-sourcing. Suddenly, the services sector is not getting a lot of business and the picture is no longer very rosy. So, Indians will have to innovate and come up with new products to survive. Necessity is the mother of invention. I am sure we will hear about more products coming from India, not just from Indians who are working in the US. I also partially blame our Indian education system because of its stress on rote learning and there being no encouragement for Indian kids to think and act on their own accord.
Managing professional as well as personal life
I keep my professional and personal life separate. Monday to Friday, I work hard in office and enjoy myself fully on the weekends. I never carry my work home. I love traveling, hiking in the Himalayas, going for long-distance bike rides, hanging out with friends.
There are so many technical books available in the field of Information Technology, it is hard to recommend anything specific. In fact, more than books, I have mostly learnt things from online tutorials and articles. There is no dearth of good information on the web, you just have to look for it. I specifically love the website called Stack Overflow, which is the most popular forum for developers to find help on problems that they are facing, and also get advice related to various technologies. I use it almost on a day-to-day basis for my work.
Making job easier
We have healthy discussions in our team about the projects that we are working on. Everything we do is based on team work. We have adopted Agile development techniques, which helps us to work better and faster.
I come from a simple middle class family. My father owns a small but high-tech unit that produces electrical wires and cables. My mother is a home-maker and my sister is a techie working in IBM.