How to Build a No-Code/Low-Code platform that delivers business value

About 5 years ago, we embarked on a journey that would ultimately culminate in the creation of Vahana – a no-code/low-code Rapid Application Development Platform that would form the heart of all the enterprise solutions that we develop and deliver to our customers. With speed being of essence and the world undergoing a massive digital transformation due to the pandemic, the developer community worldwide is also seeing a massive shift towards no-code/low-code frameworks. But what does it mean for enterprises and ultimately, businesses at large? What advantages does the no-code/low-code framework provide over the existing legacy development models? And is this trend sustainable? In today’s article, we explore all these questions even as we look back at our journey in developing the Vahana cloud platform.

Humble Beginnings

As we trace back the origins of the Vahana platform, one thing is clear – we didn’t start with a big bang agenda to create a full-stack RAD platform. We started with small steps – creating business object-based database structures that could be reused and retooled across product lines, create base mobile application templates for B2B solutions as we realized that base functionalities and feature sets that enterprises are looking for to address their business problems do not deviate significantly across channels and functions.

As we started developing solutions to address more complicated problems and scenarios, we realized the complexity of the toolkit to develop the solutions also had to change. Data management was becoming increasingly complicated and maintenance of masters was critical. This led us to develop a Master Data Management platform that could make the maintenance lifecycle and operations simpler and easier for end-users.

One of the unique problems we face in India is that of low-network operations, essentially running a data-intensive operation in areas where internet connectivity and network strength isn’t up to par for data to be synced in real-time. This led to the creation of a sync engine that enables online and offline operations – in essence storing a local copy of the data on device in an encrypted format while the sync engine manages the server interaction to check due network strength and allowing data to be uploaded to the central server only when the network is appropriate. The creation of the sync engine allowed the operations on the mobility platform to continue unimpeded resulting in increased efficiency and ROI of the user’s time.

Building a Platform

Sometime in 2017, we decided to take a long, hard look at what we had built so far and how to leverage that to build a truly world-class platform. We spent months studying and researching leading RAD platforms in the market to understand what was on offer and what were the gaps that weren’t getting addressed through the existing offerings. Here were our 3 key takeaways from our research –

  • Platforms were focused individually on either front-end development or service layer integration with small overlap in functionalities but there was no single platform that comprehensively merged both areas into a single service offering
  • APIs were the future of communication and interaction. The platform of the future would have to be API-first, also allowing provisions for legacy systems to be upgraded and expose services as necessary.
  • There was no BFSI-focused or industry-specific platform offering in the market. Most RAD platforms are industry-agnostic and generic in functionality by their very nature, but given the level of agility and speed of services required in the financial services space, there needed to be focused offering that addressed the unique needs of this industry.

Understanding the above helped shape our strategy for Vahana. With Vahana, we set out to solve the problems mentioned above –

  1. We created a platform that takes care of front-end application development along with integrated middleware layer that takes care of service interaction.
  2. Build a simple, GUI-enabled API management module called vConnect that helped address the API creation, integration and operations problem. Service layer functionalities such as data encryption, data security, orchestration of services such as serial and parallel processing all are enabled using vConnect.
  3. Lastly, we invested heavily in ensuring Vahana addresses the needs of the BFSI segment. This is built into the DNA of the platform. From front-end components such as PAN, Aadhaar-based biometric authentication modules that can be enabled on the application front-end using a drag-and-drop modeler, to the creation of a BFSI-focused API marketplace called VahanaHub with over 200+ pre-integrated API services such as GST, financial statement analyser, VideoKYC, bureau etc. Vahana is BFSI-ready from the get go.

While the above broadly covers the major strategic areas that we address through the Vahana platform, it doesn’t even begin to cover the gamut of services and functions that are available on the platform. What it does is provide a general sense of scope & direction of the platform and as we continue to evolve and build more, the platform will only get better and better.

What does the future hold?

Vahana was built to be future-ready. Our platform is ever evolving, and we do not commit ourselves to a single technology stack to take care of all our technical needs. This includes moving from an Angular-based framework to experimenting with React Native, Flutter and Kotlin – eventually rolling out our latest product builds on Flutter. In order to be future ready, we made an early decision to enable Vahana to be a cloud-first solution, yet the platform has the flexibility to be deployed on-prem for enterprise-specific requirement. The platform is ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified, hence it adheres to the highest levels of industry standards for information security which is critical for banking and financial services.

For enterprises, a no code/low-code platform provides the flexibility to exercise control over the entire lifecycle of application development and management and not necessarily be bound by technological or service limitations. The development effort is reduced significantly & reusability of enterprise-specific modules and components becomes extremely easy thus increasing ROI.

As we continue to grow and evolve, our resolve to address business problems grows stronger. At the end of the day, technology is but a means to solve the problem and not the solution in itself. With Vahana, we hope to make it easier for developers and enterprises alike to be part of the next stage of digital and technology innovation.

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