Artoo turn 6! – Looking forward

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Birthdays are a time for reflection. It’s a time to celebrate the creation of an entity and nurture its existence. Artoo birthdays are always special. It’s an Artoo tradition to celebrate birthdays differently each year. Last year, it was a picnic on the rainiest day of the decade in Bengaluru, with football and barbecue in tow. True to our innovative self, this year we decided to have a video competition about Artoo’s sixth birthday. The idea was to capture our wishes and hopes for Artoo as well as showcase why team Artoo is diverse and quirky. Although we had multiple projects going on in this month, we did find time to celebrate our birthday amidst all the serious work. Our families have been our support system since Day 1. It was wonderful to have them together again for a potluck evening with all of our friends. We were very pleased that our families and friends, could come to encourage us yet again, that too with all our favourite snacks.

The evening began with an introduction to Artoo by Sameer and Kavita – the work we do and the plans for the future. We became nostalgic of the year that had passed by when our milestone slideshow played. Each one of us came up to speak about one or more memory – fund raising, scaling to 400 branches and 4000 users, field visits, conferences, our rapidly growing team, and much more. We couldn’t have felt prouder reminiscing all that such a small team was able to achieve in the last year. We ended the evening with a  video collage of – investors, advisors, people of Artoo and friends of Artoo – wishing and sharing some wonderful moments and beautiful messages. Chetana and Anubhav were crowned the winners for their impeccable parody of team Artoo. It was funny, emotional, and a proud ride for us all at the same time us.

While we deck up the treehouse with love and fervour, we look back at all that we have done in the last 6 years. The one thing that has never changed at Artoo in these six long years is doing our best to make a difference for the better. We are driven by empathy and understanding that will translate into our products and services. But what matters most now is what we do next. The future belongs to those who create it, and we are committed to building a better future and be the voice of our users. We plan to disburse Rs. 3000 crore this year. With the simple principles in doing our business which we usually call them as “North Stars and guiding lights”, we are built to last and are working on dramatically changing the business model to make field agents and borrowers happy and guide them to improve their quality of life. We long to see the day when our users are not just field agents but the borrowers themselves. In the early days of microfinance, we were entrepreneurs finding a new business model to serve our clients. Today, we feel the urge to rekindle our entrepreneurial spirit where we wish to partner with allies and build solutions for the future.

Cheers to many milestones in the making!

 

“Fandry” Movie Night at the Treehouse

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“Jabya hurls a stone at one of the high-caste boys, who were teasing him and his family by calling them “Fandry” (literally meaning pig). The stone is seen fasting approaching towards the audience and the film ends.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Fandry” is an Indian award-winning Marathi film that I recently watched at the Artoo Treehouse. It is one-of-a-kind experience for me since I am originally from Vietnam, where my culture is quite different from that of my Indian colleagues. The film was specially screened to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti, an annual festival to commemorate the birthday of B. R. Ambedkar, an Indian jurist, economist, politician, and social reformer who campaigned against social, caste-based discrimination and advocated women and labour rights.

The movie night was pretty unique. Watching the movie in an office setting awesomely reflected Artoo’s culture, where you feel the office is not like a workplace but a comfortable home where you can chill out, eat a sandwich, and watch a movie together after work. Somehow it also reminded me of my first joyful moment of experiencing a drive-in theater form.

Fandry is a powerful and poignant film that’s well worth watching. Based on a real-life story, the film is rooted in reality and can be easily relatable by most of us. “It is really my own story,” says Nagraj Manjule, the film director, and it truly shows on screen.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 10.33.10 AMThe film is the story of an adolescent, lower-caste boy named “Jabya” who hails from a small village in Maharashtra. The story focuses on the sentimental development of his love dreams toward an upper caste girl and the crushing reality in his village. Eventually, the pitiful boy reaches his tipping point and explodes in an intense backlash against the oppressors by hurling stones at them in the closing scene. However, the stones do not only stop there. They also deliberately hit us, the audience, who are ignoring or even accepting and carrying the exploitative caste-based social system. Sadly, this horrible caste power does exist, discrimination persists among the lower class in India’s villages and cripples human moral while people worldwide are trying to protect human rights and close this inequality gap.

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After finishing the movie, we stayed back a while and had a meaningful discussion, where we reflected our thoughts and feelings about the movie. Indus shared the bright side of the movie where there was a silver hope for Jabya’s love. Akanksha shared her past experience of visiting a caste-ridden village in India. Mradula posed a question on what we should do to break the conventional wisdom on the caste system and human inequality. To me, I believe in the law of causality in which Jabya suffers from our human beings’ impassible view and inexorable reaction to this social problem.

CASHPOR-field-officer-enters-center-payments-by-mobile-–-IndiaSameer spoke of how our field agents and borrowers face similar discrimination in various forms on a daily basis. Although the field agents are the forerunners of social reform by helping people out of their poverty, they’re often unappreciated or ridiculed for their work. Hence, even when they are doing good work to ease people out of their troubles, their self-esteem is low because of society’s thinking that they are working in slums, it’s not a desk job, and so on. It’s a parallel to the movie’s story and to India’s story.

Diversity is one of the many shades of Artoo. The team mates come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, which has added to the rich culture and speaks of inclusivity. Working with a diverse team makes one conscious of those around us and creates empathy and understanding that translates into our products and services. This diversity has helped Artoo form a multilingual team for user support & trainings and easily understand changing aspirations. The products and services reflect dignity, empathy, self-expression, aspiration, and ambition, something our users identify themselves with.

“Fandry” movie night was one of the good times at Artoo when we set aside working and spent time to get closer personally, grow emotionally, and exchange opinions enthusiastically for a better society that we aim to build. I long to see the next film screening with Artoo team soon.

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About the author

Thuy Pham | Villgro’s Fellow

Thuy is an explorer and a business consultant dedicated to helping organizations, companies and enterprises in emerging and frontier markets to achieve social and economical values through strategic management tools and human centric solutions. She works with Villgro Incubatee Artoo as a Business Development Manager.

 

Earth Day at Artoo

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Whenever I’ve had some identity crisis or thought of how miniscule we are when compared to the enormity of things, life, nature, the planet, the solar system, and galaxies far and near, I’ve always concluded that the point of everything is just Nothing. The powerful brain that we have been bestowed with, has been working incessantly for thousands of years to make life easier for us as a human race. How brilliantly we have evolved from walking on our feet to doing space travel as a recreational sport. In the process, we have created and labelled so many elements: society, culture, languages, science, technology, philosophy, and a thousand other things that were beyond the understanding of our ancestors or any other living being.

Are we proud of it? Oh! Definitely, we are.

Aren’t we proud of how medicine can save unnecessary deaths and diseases, how science and technology can aid us to build the simplest of solutions for countless, enormous problems and how languages and communication have made the world a smaller place. Life has become easy now because we don’t have to live in caves, light fires, and hunt for every meal! But isn’t our chest swollen a little too much with pride? Isn’t it that somewhere we take all of this for granted? Isn’t this knowledge that we claim to be ours, built on the efforts of every single person that lived before us? Isn’t this ease coming at a cost? A cost to the planet?

Maybe, we humans were meant to exist like other life forms: struggle for limited resources, evolve, adapt, live every moment, and coexist peacefully. Or may be not — we were meant to have brains and use them. In any case, we have somewhere forgotten that things that we take away from the planet were not solely to be used by humans. The trees, forests, water in lakes, seas, and oceans is not just ours — everything needs to be shared, and every living being has a right to live. I think all of us know this. We just need a little bit of push to awaken ourselves about it, and our historians have been kind enough and made it easy for us, as always.

Thus, in 1970,  a group of people started a campaign called the Earth Day to give that little extra push to others. Their mission is to broaden, diversify, and mobilize people towards environmental issues. As a result, 22nd April of every year is celebrated as Earth day. Today, 200 million people across 141 countries participate in some way or the other and pledge to be conscious of how their actions are affecting the planet.

At Artoo, we’ve also joined the big campaign in a small way. Everyday we read and hear about so many things that affect the planet, and the dos and don’ts. So, we thought why not just take a step back and think about what kind of people we are and how do we see ourselves doing things that matter to us. Earth day, of course, was a great day to kick start the thinking!

We started off with simple exercises to loosen ourselves and imagined ourselves as the favourite living or non-living thing that we felt associated with. Some of us were a bull, stone, rain, star, dog and all sorts of things which we wanted to be. We walked, ran, laughed, and screamed while personifying the the living or non-living thing. It was fun to see everyone interact with each other in their element.

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Later, we enacted stories and instances, which were etched in some of our childhood memories. The twist was to re-enact the story for the narrator and help him relive his moment, which was followed by songs and dance to celebrate the joyous moments that come by.

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In addition, we lit candles to acknowledge not only what the planet has given us but also how brilliantly we have evolved and shaped things to call this place our home.

All in all, it was an evening about fun, frolic, singing, dancing, opening up, letting loose, understanding, acknowledging, and most importantly taking a stand about nurturing and caring for mother nature.

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About the author:

Akanksha Srivastava | Firefighter

Women’s Day at Artoo

German socialist and theorist Clara Zetkin, along with 100 delegates from 17 countries, was the pioneer of the Annual International Women’s Day in March 1911. That day more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, held several demonstrations across the Austro-Hungarian Empire. (Source: Staufenberg, J. (2016, March 08). International Women’s Day 2016: What is it? Why was it set up? Is it still needed? Read more here.)

IMG_20160308_173924In the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is the prime focus. The UN seeks to protect and promote women’s rights. In simple terms, the plan is to provide equal access to education, employment, and economic and social freedom to men and women alike. The world is warming and gearing up to create a society of equals. The good times are here to stay.

At Artoo, we’re gradually bridging the gender gap among other things. More than a third of our staff are now women, and the numbers are sure to increase in the days to come.

On Tuesday, 8th of March, Shubham walked in and said, “I have an announcement to make, please gather in the main office”. The rest of us followed suit. We were greeted by a chocolate cake around the table. Turns out, the guys had planned something special for the women on International Women’s Day. The celebrations did not end there. Flowers and chocolates were specially presented to each one of us! Of course, some mad photo moments happened later.

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A Tuesday afternoon couldn’t have been better. We are touched and happy to work with such a supportive team, who like celebrating every occasion and value every person regardless.

Thanks a lot, team! Good things are here to stay!

Emberinos At The Treehouse

At the Artoo treehouse, we regularly host the Bangalore Ember.js meetups. After a long gap, we were excited to be hosts yet again on Jan 30,  where we interacted with a cool bunch of regular Ember users.

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Dilip’s talk on building Ember add-ons. View more here.

Pallavi (from DRG – https://decisionresourcesgroup.com/) informed us that her company had roped in Chris Ball for Ember training at their firm. Chris expressed his interest in our meetup and in engaging with Bangalore-based Ember developers.

We were kicked about his proposition and agreed for another quick meetup on Feb 21. A second Ember meet already this year! Despite a Sunday, 26 Ember enthusiasts turned up at the meet.

Components are the way forward in Ember. Component all the things! was the mantra of the day. Chris focused on using Components as the major building blocks in our application. We discussed Routeable Components, Data Down/Actions Up (DDAA), how to handle parent/child components, yielding, closure actions, and helpers.

Furthermore, Chris shared some cool stickers from the Ember meetups all over the world. Thank you, Chris for the talk and goodies!

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Cool Ember stickers courtesy Chris.

An Ember hackathon or workshop is due in April. Stay tuned for more.


About Chris

Chris Ball (http://cball.me/about/) is the founder of echobind.com, a consultancy specializing in Ruby on Rails and Ember. When he’s not helping clients generate great products, Chris works on From Rails to Ember,  thus guiding developers through the transition from Rails to Ember as a front-end framework.

Unleashing Hopes and Dreams

2015 has been a roller coaster ride for Artoo. This was the year when our team size rapidly grew three times (of zealots who aim to conquer the Roman Empire). This was the year when we got our series A funding, when we onboarded a few new clients and completely revamped our product to a newer, better, faster, scalable v2.0, much like BB8 from The Force Awakens.

All of us at Artoo experienced this sinusoidal wave where troughs and crests of shaping the new product, discovering ourselves, our individual abilities and contributions, bogged us and simultaneously lifted us up to do better things. This was the year when we were gearing up, like the runner who got all his equipment right, got his mood set and now is standing on the starting line in his new Avataar, the new Artoo v2.0.

IMG-20160114-WA0064Being inclusive in every sense is one of the primary ethos of Artoo. Celebrating festivals is just an excuse for us to party, for the hungry hogs to satiate themselves with delicious food and for the intellectuals to throw some festive- gyaan here and there. In 2015, the last festival we celebrated was of course Christmas (we were all busy with our own private little New Year’s Party)  and it had been a long gap of 20 days since we let ourselves loose. The first thing coming up this new year’s was Makar Sankranti or Pongal or Uttaryan, the festival that marks the onset of spring and is celebrated across the country. The two essential things associated with Sankranti were, The Feast (this was obvious) and kite flying. It was easy to get good food, thanks to the countless options in the city, but buying kites was a pain. Shameer and Shubham (who happen to be not just Geeks but Chief Entertainment Officers at Artoo) went around the city to find kites and came back to office empty handed but with a surprise. They dragged us to an empty cricket ground on the pretext of some new gliding adventure (which some of us believed!). And then came the surprise, under the open sky, bright city lights surrounding us and with people we believed in. Sky Lanterns!

Lantern festivals are part of many cultural ceremonies throughout Asia. The dazzling tradition signifies happiness, peace, prosperity, prayers and get-togetherness. Some also write their wishes on the lanterns and believe that these fascinating floating lights will fulfill them. All of us too lit lanterns and let them fly, up up and high! We stood there mesmerized by the spectacular sight of colorful, illuminated lanterns go higher and further away into the starry sky. There was a wave of joy, laughter and competitiveness of whose lantern goes the farthest. As we let out a loud cheer to our flying buddies, there were numerous Bangaloreans watching them in wonderment with smiles on their faces. Isn’t this what life is? Be happy and spread happiness.

Yehuda Katz Visits Artoo

July was truly exciting for the Ember.js community in Bangalore. Yehuda Katz – one of the creators of Ember.js,  a member of the Rust Core Team, and a retired Ruby on Rails and jQuery Core Team member – was going to be at a JavaScript conference in Bangalore for two days. Known as wycats (@wycats) in the dev community, he helped creating tools and frameworks, which every web developer in the world uses. And we were able to host him at our office to spend some time with the Bangalore Ember.js community and our very own Geeks!

Sivakumar took the lead in inviting Yehuda (a BIG thank you, Siva) and Artoo couldn’t have been happier to host the meetup at our Treehouse. It was one of the biggest meetups we’ve hosted, with over 40 attendees. A few even made the trek all the way from Chennai just to see Yehuda. It was a lengthy and dynamic session, where Yehuda discussed the exciting future of Ember.js and the philosophy behind creating it.

There are numerous frameworks available for web development, but they are limited. Ember, on the other hand, provides an ecosystem of tools and libraries that can build massive enterprise applications. Developers tend to produce homogeneous code on this framework, which is phenomenal for boosting productivity, ensuring maintenance, and proving scalability. It is a strongly opinionated framework, emphasizing conventions over configuration…and we love it here at Artoo!

Yehuda also articulated the need for developers contributing back to open source, rather than just using it in their projects. This is something Artoo has notably done in the past. At the end of the evening, we were all truly inspired to contribute further — look out for more from Artoo on that end. Ember powers Artoo’s web platform and it was our pleasure to not only host Yehuda, but also learn from him in person!

A few of us couldn’t help asking for more, and we were able to grab a bite with Yehuda. Over dinner, we further tapped into Yehuda’s personality as we discussed startups, economies, dev culture, food…and of course, Ember! July 17th was truly a day well spent for Ember.js enthusiasts. Thank you, Yehuda!

Dilip is a Geek at Artoo, working as a Full Stack developer. Follow him at @kushdilip

Artoo turns 5!

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We passed an important milestone at Artoo — we celebrated our 5th birthday on May 16th! It was the rainiest day of the decade in namma Bengaluru. But that didn’t stop this resilient team — the Artoo family set out on a beautiful road trip to picnic in the city outskirts, amidst beautiful mango orchards.

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It was a well-deserved break, after spending countless hours working away at the Artoo Treehouse. Just as one would expect to see at a 5th birthday party, we played games, ate cake, explored the wilderness, and so much more!

At Artoo, we’ve firmly believed that it takes a family to raise a startup… so much so that we’ve dedicated a t-shirt to it!

But what was really heartening was the unflinching support and unconditional indulgence of all our plus ones, friends, and family. You might have heard it takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, here at Artoo we’ve very firmly believed that it takes a family to raise a startup!