DarwinBox Evolves HR SaaS Platform and Prepares for 10x Growth with MongoDB Atlas

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DarwinBox found a receptive market for its HR SaaS platform for medium to large businesses, but rapid success strained their infrastructure and challenged their resources. We talked to Chaitanya Peddi, Co-founder and Head of Product to find out how they addressed those challenges with MongoDB Atlas.

Evolution favors those that find ways to thrive in changing environments. DarwinBox has done just that, providing a full spectrum of HR services online and going from a standing start to a top-four sector brand in the Indian market in just two years. From 40 enterprise clients in its first year to more than 80 in its second, it now supports over 200,000 employees, and is hungrily eyeing expansion in new territories.

“We’re expecting 10x growth in the next two years,” says Peddi. “That means aggressive scaling for our platform and MongoDB Atlas will play a big role."

Starting from a blank sheet of paper

The company’s key business insight is that employees have grown accustomed to the user experience of online services they access in their personal lives. However, the same ease of use is simply not found at work, especially in HR solutions that address holiday booking, managing benefits, and appraisals. DarwinBox’s approach is to deliver a unified platform of user-friendly HR services to replace a jumble of disparate offerings, and to do so in a way that supports its own aggressive growth plans. The company aims to support nearly every employee interaction with corporate HR, such as recruitment, employee engagement, expense management, separation, and more.

“We started in 2015 from a blank sheet of paper,” Peddi says. “It became very clear very quickly that for most of our use cases, only a non-relational database would work. Not only did we want to provide an exceptionally broad set of integrated services, but we also had clients with a large number of customization requirements. This meant we needed a very flexible data model. We looked at a lot of options. We wanted an open source technology to avoid lock-in and our developers pushed for MongoDB, which fit all our requirements and was a pleasure to work with. Our databases are now 90 percent MongoDB. We expect that to be at 100 percent soon.”

Reducing costs and future-proofing database management

When DarwinBox launched, it ran its databases in-house, which wasn’t ideal. “We have a team of 40+ developers, QA and testers, and three running infrastructure, and suddenly we’re growing much faster than we expected. It’s a good problem to have, but we couldn’t afford to offer anything less than excellent service.” Peddi emphaszied that of all the things they wanted to do to succeed, becoming database management experts wasn’t high on the list.

This wasn’t the only reason that MongoDB Atlas looked like the next logical step for the company when it became available, says Peddi, “We were rapidly developing our services and our customer base, but our strategies for backing up the databases, for scaling, for high availability, and for monitoring performance weren’t keeping up. In the end, we decided that we’d migrate to Atlas for a few major reasons.”

The first reason was the most obvious. “The costs of managing the databases, infrastructure, and backups were increasing. In addition, it became increasingly difficult to self-manage everything as requirements became more sophisticated and change requests became more frequent. Scaling up and down to match demand and launching new clusters consumed precious man hours. Monitoring performance and issue resolution was taking up more time than we wanted. We had built custom scripts, but they weren’t really up to the task.”

With MongoDB Atlas on AWS, Peddi says, all these issues are greatly reduced. “We’re able to do everything we need with our fully managed database very quickly – scale according to business need at the press of a button, for example. There are other benefits. With MongoDB technical engineers a phone call away, we’re able to fix issues far quicker than we could in the past. MongoDB Compass, the GUI for the database, is proving helpful in letting our teams visually explore our data and tune things accordingly.”

Migrating to Atlas has also helped Darwinbox dramatically reduce costs.

We’ve optimized our database infrastructure and how we manage backups. Not only did we bring down costs by 40%, but by leveraging the queryable snapshot feature, we’re able to restore the data we actually need 80% faster.

Chaitanya Peddi, Co-founder and Head of Product, DarwinBox

The increased availability and data resilience from the switch to MongoDB Atlas on AWS eases the responsibility in managing the details of 200,000 employees’ working lives. “Data is the most sensitive part of our business, the number one thing that we care about,” says Peddi, “We can’t lose even 0.00001 percent of our data. We used to take snapshots of the database, but that was costly and difficult to manage. Now, it’s more a live copy process. We can guarantee data retention for over a year, and it only takes a few moments to find what you need with MongoDB Atlas.”

For DarwinBox to achieve its target of 10x growth in two years, it has to – and plans to – go international.

“We had that in mind from the outset. We’ve designed our architecture to cope with a much larger scale, both in total employee numbers and client numbers, and to handle different regulatory regimes.” According to Peddi, that means moving to microservices, developing data analytics, maybe even looking at other cloud providers to host the DarwinBox HR Platform. He added: “If we were to do this on AWS and self-manage the database with our current resources, we would have to invest a significant amount of effort into orchestrating and maintaining a globally distributed database. MongoDB Atlas with its cross-region capabilities makes this all much easier.”

Darwinbox is confident that MongoDB Atlas will help the organization achieve its product plans.

“MongoDB Atlas will be able to support the business needs that we've planned out for the next two years.” says Peddi, “We’re happy to see how rapidly the Atlas product roadmap is evolving.”

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