Relatively Speaking – Jackfruit and Software Product Development

Sundeep Reddy Mallu

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) ,an extremely large, spiny behemoth of a fruit has much in common with software product development than that meets the eye. We explore those marked traits between the two in this blog post.

Trivia Question– Jackfruit is the National fruit of which Country?

The jackfruit tree on first pass is HUGE, thick leaves giving no view of what’s inside, no visible fruits to look at (unless the fruits are hanging out along the trunk). Jackfruit tree occupies more space than an equally aged mango tree or a chiccu tree.

Software Product Development has similar attributes – Large investments upfront, no tangible product to ship for sometime, tough for outsiders to understand what is being done and financially in the hock till product generates profits.

Four key behaviors that are common among Jackfruit and Software Product Development are discussed below

# 1 Trail of failures

A look at the base of the tree would show the scars / failed attempt at bearing fruit. Fruits of all sizes lay fallen/ dried up under the tree. This signifies the failed attempts at a jackfruit growing up.

This is similar to different ideas that are experimented during software product development. Not all great ideas become fruitful. Many good ideas/ intention die a slow death similar to the fruits in below picture. This doesn’t stop the jackfruit tree from attempting to grow the next fruit. Same should be the approach, in software product development, with adding new features or focussing on new ideas when they surface.

Gramener started off by building predictive forecasting models for Energy Management Company (EMS, DSM Et. al), these efforts were a failure. Our next goal was to build a Visual Analytics Platform. A string of failed attempts at strengthening the platform followed.  All the early failures are testament to the things we have tried that did NOT work. In our current state we are a Data Science company assisting multiple businesses, not just Energy Management companies, make sense of their data and assist them in their journey for productivity improvements.

# 2 Patience is key

Jackfruit takes approximately 8 to 10 weeks for a fruit to fully grow and become ready for consumption. During this period there is likelihood for the fruit to fall off due to weather or any external conditions.

Product development follows a lifecycle. A product’s journey from an idea to marketable/ usable state is long. There is potential for quick wins like a demonstrable prototype/features in the product. Companies have to stay vested at such milestone and not take leg off the pedal. A feature working in a product is NOT same as the entire product working. We should nurture product teams to completely build a Product.

Gramener’s persistence in build a Visual Analytics platform finally paid off. Gramex , a flagship IP based Visual Analytics platform is the outcome of years of labour and patience. The platform serves as an accelerator for Visual solutions development. We have client engagements as short as 2 weeks from ideation to production deployment. Work with government agencies took off after many years of persistence. Autolysis our Augmented Analysis product took 5 years of development before an end-user could use it.

# 3 Taking shape per opportunity

Most jackfruits have symmetric shapes, but a few of them have weird shapes. This is due to lack of space in growing in one way, the jackfruit adapts to the space around it but does NOT stop the growth.

Product development should be nimble enough to relook at what features should be added to product. Based on market needs/ feedback we should relook at what features should be added/ removed from the product backlog. If found prudent the product scope/ features/ goals must be modified.

Gramener’s offering started off as a Visual Analytics platform. Based on customer in-house capabilities and immediate need, we added Data Consulting, Design services and training services to offering. We tout our offering as a ServWare model. This engagement model has made us successful in gaining market share.

On the technology front, we are always on look out for the enhancing Gramex platform. We have incorporated – Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, NLG and NLP capabilities.

# 4 Fruits of labour

The outcome we toil towards, the milestone we long for.

When the jackfruit is ripe and ready to eat, a single jackfruit gives out 40 to 50 pieces that are good for consumption. The seed in each piece has potential to grow into a new tree or make a curry.

When a software product is finally shipped, the journey throws up many best practices, things not to do, newer ideas of tackling different problems.

Our journey in building Gramex platform helps us build more products on it. Clustering, Data Explorer are few examples. The confidence gained by working with 100+ customers in India shaped our global expansion strategy. Today we offer services in US, Europe, Singapore in addition to India.

Trivia Answer: The national fruit of Bangladesh is the Jackfruit. Jackfruit is the state fruit of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.


So, why should startups care about Culture?

By Ganes Kesari

From the Leaders’ Desks

Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner — Peter Drucker

An organization’s culture is that secret sauce that differentiates the best of companies from the rest. I have been intrigued by this concept and have been studying the influential role culture plays, in not just growth and scale, but also in deciding whether a company would stay afloat and see the light of the day.

From my experience of observing organizations small and large, I try and explain this with a simple parallel in this post, and trace the path to see how it forms at inception, what decides its evolution and when it could turn so dangerous that it warrants its destruction.

So, what is Organizational Culture? 

Is this what you put into your employee handbook or code-of-conduct? Is this influenced by what you carefully message in leadership emails and preach in your town hall meetings? Is this shaped by your marketing team’s top-dollar spends on branding and positioning?

No… all of the above may have short-term effects at best, but is unlikely to seep into the organizational culture, which is as deep as the human DNA. As a simple parallel, think of culture as equivalent to an individual’s character.

Character dictates how a person behaves, when no one is watching. It is something that comes naturally to a person, without any effort. It is a bundle of traits (say honesty, chivalry, self-respect..) that a person has formed over years, possibly since early childhood.

In a similar vein, Culture dictates how anyone in an organization behaves, when there is no oversight or managerial review. It is the natural way of addressing business-as-usual in every function or team. It is the set of qualities (say innovation, customer focus, empathy to employees..) that a company has formed & emphasized since its founding years.

Having defined culture, let us now trace its path over time…

I. Forming a Culture

Just like kids who learn the most in the initial 5 years after birth, an organization’s culture has its conception early on, in the initial months, when the founders are grappling with dire circumstances, for mere survival.

Surprisingly, the decisions taken by the founding team on whether to beg, borrow or steal to make ends meet, have repercussions much later. The core intent, ethos and actions are encapsulated and passed down, from a 5-member organization to a 500-member one, many many years later.

Fred Wilson summed this well in his post on Cultural differences:

“…the decisions a founder or founding team makes in the first few months of a company’s life are among the biggest decisions. They are setting their destiny in place, often without even realizing it.”

II. Evolving a Culture

Having formed fully in the initial years, culture then incrementally builds up in later years based on the philosophy and actions of the leadership team. Not very different from an individual who builds upon the innate character through his/her life experiences, and by exposure to new situations.

Simple ongoing decisions on how much the leadership trusts and empowers employees, the pains they take to make clients happy, how much they tolerate failure in the path to innovation, the integrity they hold while responding to difficult market forces: all of these have a profound influence on the entire organization.

The leader’s actions are taken as the unsaid word and mimicked down the line, much like how kids emulate their parents or their role-models through life. A leader must realize that with every small action taken in the apparent confines of one’s cubicle, he/she is actually playing out in the theatre of the company stage, in full glare of the entire organization and the employees.

Given that this is how culture incrementally gets shaped throughout the company’s journey, there is no obvious effect of any lip-service emails, town-hall proclamations or project-review posturing, if leaders live and act to the contrary. Ben Thomson in his excellent post The Curse of Culture, sums it well:

“…it can be argued that the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture; that the unique talent of leaders is their ability to understand and work with culture.”

III. Destroying a Culture

Since culture forms much like the path cut on rock by water, by flowing consistently over the years, its a mammoth task to bring about any changes to it. After all, don’t we all struggle greatly when we attempt to change any of our deep ingrained habits? Similarly, there are way too many failures of org-wide change initiatives, of teams rejecting new leadership, or of organizations imploding when a massive change contravenous to its culture or DNA, is thrust upon it.

Just like individuals who must shed ill-formed habits before it grows monstrously to consume them, it is inevitable that organizations must reform in order to do a course-correction before its too late. And real change can happen only when its culture amends. Here again, it is the leadership’s prerogative to bring about this change, by destroying a part of the very culture that they were instrumental to create and shape.

There’s this excellent example of Steve Jobs’ first keynote as interim CEO in 1997 after he got back for his second stint, wherein he announced Apple’s shocking partnership with Microsoft. Years of Microsoft (and IBM) bashing by Jobs had seeped indelibly into Apple’s culture, and with Apple fighting for its survival and badly needing a lifeline, the same leader was now destroying this very trait.

That this was considered sacrilege by die-hard Apple supporters was amply demonstrated by the audience who booed so loudly that Jobs had to stop speaking. Looking back, this was such a marked departure from the fanboy response he received in his later keynotes.

But this was considered a brilliant leadership move by Jobs to slay the culture dragon that he had raised over the years, and which had then turned destructive to the extent of sinking the company. Ben Thomson continues in the same post:

“…it is an ultimate act of leadership to destroy culture when it is viewed as dysfunctional.. This ability to perceive limitations of one’s own culture and to evolve the culture adaptively is the essence & ultimate challenge of leadership.”

This is the most difficult task of all, since it requires slaying of the internal demons that have been lovingly nurtured as pets, over the years. This requires the leader to shed undesirable character traits, be vocal about it and repeatedly demonstrate through action that this is now out of bounds for every single person in the organization. This then the moves the needle for the organization to amend, albeit slowly.


In conclusion, culture is THE secret sauce of organizations, that is essential to not just make them successful and stand out in the market place, but is crucial for their very survival in the longer run.

And it is the primary responsibility of leadership to nurture the right traits, to lead by example, and resist the urge to live-by-the-quarter or just existentially focus on the next deal around the corner. They have a bigger duty to read the subliminal messages, slay the rising demonic traits early and shape the culture.

Much like an individual with an impeccable character, an organization primed with the right culture can charge-up the rank and file, unleash an unstoppable internal force and become a rising tide that can go on to conquer the world.

Gramener recognized in Gartner report

“Gramener is named in Gartner report “Market Guide for Data Science and Machine Learning Service Providers” by Jorgen Heizenberg, Alexander Linden, Jim Hare, Nigel Shen, Ehtisham Zaidi published on 31st October 2017. Gramener has been recognized as one of Representative Vendors for DS&ML service providers that can help Data and Analytics leaders to fill their analytics deficit and augment their team.”

The report highlights a growing shortage of data science skills – a problem that Gramener tackles using a combination of standardized approach and toolset.

Gramener’s framework for exploratory data science allows anyone to repeatedly arrive at actionable insights using machine learning. The framework guides analysts on 

–   the choice of variables

–   the optimal variable transformations

–   a pre-selected list of algorithms applicable for the use case, and

–   guidance on interpreting the results for business users

Gramener’s accelerators automate this process for analysts. They analyze the metadata for patterns, and use these patterns to auto-determine the variables, transformations and model parameters.

The result is the that work of the analyst is focused on framing the questions, extracting data, and interpreting the results. The collective expertise of the organization is packaged into the framework and accelerators, allowing anyone to be a good data scientist.

Disclaimer: Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.