Nandan Nilekani was at HackerEarth… and it was awesome.


It was a Monday morning and at 11 am sharp, a billionaire walked into the HackerEarth office. This man has helped build a billion dollar company that employs close to 200,000 people. He is also the patron and leader of the world’s biggest biometric identification project – AADHAAR; it has over 900 million unique IDs issued.

In the lead up to IndiaHacks, HackerEarth is bringing an expert for each of the track in IndiaHacks, to speak about that particular domain.  Last week, go got Vikalp Sahni, CTO of GoIbibo. This week, it was Nandan Nilekani.

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The Bots of Wall Street

There are about 20 major stock exchanges around the world, with each country having many more regulated stock exchanges. A large stock exchange like NASDAQ, does about 10 million trades, with over 1-2 billion shares traded every day.

Movies like the Wolf of Wall Street have popularised the image of a stockbroker and their glamorous high flying life. And if your image of what a stock trading unit looks like, is something like the image below, then we don’t blame you -


This image is very disconnected from reality. Almost 90% of all short term trade, and about 50-70% of all trade, is done by stock trading algorithms. These are machine learning algorithms that buy and sell in the stock market, at a phenomenally fast pace.

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Important life lessons to learn from Gene Amdahl

amdahl-bio-core-1-4-1What does it take for huge organizations to process large chunks of data or to perform critical tasks? Apart from extra amazing programmers they need superfast machines with massive computing capabilities. Thanks to Gene Amdahl, the world got introduced to such effective systems called the mainframe computers that take care of every critical task for large organisations. Mainframe computers first came into existence in the late 1950s when they were replacing vacuum tubes. That was the time when mainframes were the only computers and could be afforded only by very big firms but now they have become the backbone of every business unit, no matter big or small.

Mainframe computers have a wide range of applications now from ecommerce to health care to military applications. As Gene breathed his last on November 10th, 2015, the world lost a great brain but even after his death he continues to inspire us in numerous ways. Here are some important life lessons that we can learn from Gene Amdahl.

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[Podcast] How to build the next GoIbibo or RedBus, with Vikalp Sahni



GoIbibo and RedBus are one of the biggest success stories in the Indian travel tech landscape. In many ways, they paved the way for future generations of travel tech companies that emerged between 2012 to 2015. However, one of the many consequences about Moore’s Law is the rapid development in technology. Hardware is only getting more powerful and what you can do with software is also increasing exponentially. So, if you were to build the next GoIbibo or Redbus today, how would it be different?

To answer just that, we did a podcast with Vikalp Sahni, the CTO and co-founder of GoIbibo. GoIbibo is a travel company, which is a market leader in the space of Online travel bookings and accommodation bookings. It was founded in 2009 and is currently working on some very interesting things. All this and more, in the excerpts from our podcast –

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Tips to perform well at a hackathon

Tips to perform well at hackathons

Hackathons have long been much talked about events, they have been established as superior tests of wit. With over 100s of participants, amazing prizes up for grabs and soaring competition, the hackathon is a great ground for ideas and innovation. Hackathons are usually accompanied with lots of excitement and stress levels are high too, owing to strict timeframes, lots of competition and performance pressure.

As developers, we all think that we have all the skills required for being great developers and we have portrayed them at several occasions but why is it not us on the winners list of the hackathon.

Here are some ways that can assure good performance at your next hackathon.

  1. Avoid unrealistic goals: A hackathon is time bound, expecting to build a functional product with too many features will be too much and excessive stress will hinder performance. A minimum viable product that works well without glitches may work well to secure a winning position at the hackathon.
  2. Select your team Intelligently: Even a great idea cannot be executed well in a limited timeframe if teamwork is not in place. The selection of a team should be based on some basic criteria that aid the success of a team:
    1. Teammates must be equally passionate about coding and the prospect of victory in the hackathon.
    2. The selection must encompass expertise in different areas. Try to get people with different skills, both tech and non-tech.
    3. All members must be tolerant towards pressure. Morale loss under strict deadlines is a deterrent to performance.
    4. The vision of each member of the team towards the result must be congruent.
  3. Take inspiration from other in the community: A thorough insight into the tactics that other hackers employed at previous hackathons can be advantageous. Their experiences, successes and failures will help in coming up with a good plan of action.
  4. Use Source Control tool: Just imagine, you are into a long process of building your product, hours later you spot a malfunction and you don’t know where you made a mistake. There definitely isn’t enough time to go through piles of code to spot the error. Hence, it’s wise to use a source control system like git that can help in keeping track of each change and identify the change that caused the error.
  5. Use existing libraries and frameworks: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t spend too much time in writing code for functionalities that can be implemented using open source libraries and frameworks. Just focus on implementing the core idea you are working on.
  6. Use quick deployment solutions: The core idea of a hackathon is to build a working prototype of your idea. Don’t spend too much time in hosting the app. Figure out how you can quickly deploy applications on cloud hosting solutions like AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud. You can also use PaaS solutions like Heroku, Openshift or IBM Bluemix can be used for deployment and hosting: We are not doubting your skills at being a superior sysadmin but in the given time limit, using an easy deployment solution will help the team to concentrate on coding, building, deployment and testing.
  7. Presentation is crucial: It is wise to spare some time to prepare for the presentation because everything that you have done in the hackathon depends on how correctly you can demonstrate your hack. Make sure that you cover all aspects of the hack including important points like – problem being solved by the hack, scope that the current hack covers, why it is different from existing solutions and work that can be done in future.
  8. App should be interactive: During the presentation, an interactive app is more likely to catch the attention of judges and create an impression than a rather dull app. It should hence be kept in mind that there should be  a scope for user interaction.
  9. Socialize and network: Hackathons are not just about competition but also about networking, meeting interesting people and making some friends. Make sure competition does not come in the way of having fun. Winning is not the only thing that you can take away at a hackathon, you might even find your love.

You are sure to rock your next hackathon if you follow these steps. There is no rocket science in a hackathon, after all we demonstrate our coding skills each day, it is all about planning and executing effectively.


Top skills a full stack developer should have

Full stack

Image source –


Here’s an interesting fact. We all know Leonardo Da Vinci as one of the most celebrated painters of our times. However, not many are aware that he was also a scientist, mathematician, cartographer, geologist, astronomer, historian, musician and sculptor. Yes, all in the same lifetime! It is popularly believed that this diverse experience fed into his creative genius, making him one of the best painters the world has seen. If Leonardo was a programmer today, he would be what we call a ‘full stack’ developer.

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Tips for a Great Hackathon


Hackathons were first introduced in 1999 by OpenBSD. A few months later, Sun microsystems conducted another hackathon and took the concept forward. 16 years and several thousands of  hackathons later, the history of hackathons takes pride in giving some great products to the world.

GroupMe, Docracy, Zaarly are some of the great products built at hackathons. GroupMe was built under 24 hours and sold to Skype. Zaarly another product built at a hackathon, that provides discovery of products and services from local people, is now funded with over $15 million. Docracy is a repository of legal documents.

Hackathons surely have given way to innovation and facilitated creation of some interesting concepts. However, if we consider the ratio of the number of succes stories to the number of hackathons since 1999, we do not get a very sumptuous figure.

Despite of several success stories, there are some highly talented hackers who refrain from attending hackathons. While some may be too occupied or uninterested, there are many who have not been satisfied with their experience with previous hackathons.

Where do these hackathons fail? What makes a great hackathon?

Hackathons are super successful and productive if done in the right way and can be complete failure or a wastage of time and resources, if not conducted correctly. Some things that you should keep in mind to conduct a great hackathon:

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Who’s the best coder of them all


Whether fresh out of the college or a few years into the tech world, we have all had a sleepless night or two, thinking of that perfect ‘dream job’. Some developers aspire to work in the plush offices of a technology behemoth, complete with annual incentives and personal sleep pods. They yearn to wear its legacy on their sleeves and be part of a sprawling network that brings the next big technology to life. And then there’s the other kind. Those that belong to the league of programmers who go into a tizzy at the prospect of breathing the energy-infused air of a startup and working alongside a close-knit and agile team. Long work days and late nights, sweat and tears (did we hear ‘countless slices of pizza and beer’?) are small matters to them in comparison to the rich experiences that they will gain. After all, not many get the opportunity to disrupt the old and directly shape new technology  that transforms the way we live.

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An opportunity to develop games for Horlicks, a brand we all grew up with


For the longest time, game developers have been part of a closed community, mostly working for select organizations, specific target audience and on set technologies. Recent years have seen the community grow. The industry witnessed a sea of change with the smartphone revolution. Current scenario? The possibilities are endless.

With games like Farmville, Angry Birds, Temple Run and Candy Crush, games have become an integral part of our life. The audience is bigger now, with experiences going beyond the game itself. Earning a name, fame and even money isn’t rocket science anymore. If you have the right skillset and talent, the industry is more than willing to reward you for it.

Get ready for the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Introducing IndiaHacks


“Engineers build the world”

This doesn’t mean that everyone who’s qualified to be an engineer does so. Engineering is a mindset. A mindset that solves problems. A mindset that innovates. A mindset that has fun while doing so. All this makes a great engineer.

This is what the Hacker means – a fantastic engineer. And here at HackerEarth, this is whom we stand for. HackerEarth has a vision of building an engaged community of Hackers, and every year, we celebrate them at one big event – IndiaHacks. Read More