Some edited excerpts:
What was the origin of the idea behind creating Bagisto? What was the motivation?
For the past 10 years, our parent company, Webkul has been working in an e-commerce sector. It is one of the biggest e-commerce extension providers in the world providing plugins across 22 platforms, 90% of which is open source. In all those years, we have come across a lot, the feedback of the community using the current e-commerce platforms and drafting down their pros and cons. Bagisto is the crunch of all those 10 years of experience of Webkul in the e-commerce industry. The very idea that anyone can build an e-commerce platform on any MVC architecture model like Laravel and provide merchants with ease to create their online shop led to the birth of Bagisto.
Having the support of the parent company, knowledge of e-commerce ecosystem, the experience of working on open source projects and a zeal to get a popular open source project out from India is something one of the biggest motivation and which also continues to drive us till today as well.
Did you see an unfulfilled gap in the marketplace? How has this solution addressed that?
Laravel is one of the most popular and widely used PHP platforms across the globe after Symfony. It has got a very big community and most of the PHP developers who are working in any organization, the majority of them are working on Laravel due to ti its simplicity and performance. Just like you have other popular e-commerce in Symfony like Sylius, for a long time there has been a huge gap between Laravel developers and e-commerce due to absence of proper Laravel based e-commerce platform looking at the large community that Laravel possess.
Bagisto is an initiative to bridge the gap between them. It’s one of the most popular opensource e-commerce platform built on Laravel. Because of the inheritance of Laravel platform, developers find it easy to use and customize as per their needs. By offering a Laravel based e-commerce solution, Bagisto has not only provided the Laravel ecosystem with a go-to e-commerce solution to be made use of but also attracted developers from other PHP community as well to port their system on Laravel.
Market positioning of Bagisto?
It has been two years only but Bagisto as of now is one of the fastest-growing open source e-commerce solutions of today and has established itself as India’s first open source success story in the e-commerce space.
Facts do speak for itself. On October 31st, 2018, Bagisto’s first release came in the market. Two years from then, Bagisto has accumulated 3000+ Github Stars, 30,000+ downloads, 80+ contributors, a 200k+ user base, 2 active communities running in Brazil & Belgium and 1500+ members have joined the open source revolution.
For the market, well dominated by Laravel developers, Bagisto has become the preferred choice for both developers and merchants looking to develop their own e-commerce website. In this Covid era prevailing from the last 7 months, merchants have realized the need for digitalisation. Bagisto as its very attribute of being open source and free has pushed the narrative that anyone, either small and big can use Bagisto to build and scale their online business.
SaaS is one area which is profitable in long run but this sector does not have many choices. Now, with our detailed research in this area over the past two years, we released the very first multi-tenant SaaS system using which anyone can build their own SaaS-based e-commerce system and till now Bagisto is the only platform to offer such a solution. In the next few years, there would be so many SaaS e-commerce solution coming up in different continents, the majority of them would be built on Bagisto.
What do you think are some of the key reasons why Bagisto is so popular? What are some of the projects/products/platforms that have been built using Bagisto?
Over a period of time, we kept experimenting with things. In some we fail, in some, we succeed. But still the process continues and there’s not one thing that we are using till now. At first, it was very important for us to build solid core tech. Until and unless the core platform is strong, nobody is going to try out. We also knew support was going to be very crucial so we kept all doors open so anyone can reach us easily. From live chat to Skype, to forums, to Facebook Community and email, we adopted all sorts of communication methods so the community feels ease to connect with us for any of their queries.
Over a period of time, we published many video tutorials, precise documentation and wrote articles so people can easily find solutions for the most common problem in Bagisto. This helps us a lot in building a community on Facebook and Forums. We partnered with many of our core contributors by promoting them on social channels and their contribution done in our platforms.
We even kept our partnership very much at the ease of our vendors. By offering free promotion to third party extensions, commission-free sale and even assisting in further selling their extension helps us gain more partners building their own extension for bagisto.
The parent company backing the open-source project is nothing short of the need of an hour that keeps as going and moving forward. The project as of today receives commits every hour a day that shows the continuous activity going on the application and entrusts belief in the mind of the end-user about the stability and reliability of the product.
There are many popular projects built on Bagisto like the popular marketplaces of Bangladesh viz PickRocks and B2B China Bangla, iPhone reseller brand Imagine Store, Canadian hyperlocal food delivery website Cleanmeals, popular computer accessories provider Lapcare and many more.
Your view on the importance or significance of open source to a country like India?
Open source is certainly a way for Aatmanirbhar Bharat. In the year 2018-19, the value of import of software services increased to ₹ 405 billion compared to ₹ 70 billion in the year 2009-10. Open source can play a crucial role in reducing these trade deficits. Open source software paves the way to the new-gen developers to try and modify the software and build their own domain-oriented applications like e-commerce, ERP, CRM solution etc. Subsequently, it reduces the cost of development and support needed to maintain these applications.
The contribution of the community to open source only makes the application better. When the ecosystem has an abundance of open source tools available, it will certainly create an environment of building things up rather than buying any alternative. And when the people start using software made in India, this will ultimately contribute to the GDP of India followed with reducing trade deficits.
What must be done at the policy level by the government, and what should be done by corporates to advocate the adoption and development of open-source software in India?
The government should try to make more use of open source technologies in building its e-governance applications. It can also offer to release a few of its internal software as open source so as the community can study and modify the software and allow royalty-free distribution of copies of either original or modified software. It can also include benefits to open source startups under Startup India program and promote the open source application made in India used to develop their own internal software. As part of Skill India, the Government can organize conferences to showcase the importance of open source and also train people to work on that as the code is freely available.
We have seen companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb, Tesla already releasing a lot of their internal projects to open source. This is probably a huge contribution from these giants where a junior developer can pick up these projects and start building something intuitive of his own. As corporates in India, we need to do a similar thing. Whatever open source technologies, corporates are using, we also need to make habit of continuously contributing to it. Corporates can give an hour of freedom to the developers on a weekly basis so they can contribute to any open source projects of their choice. It also must encourage other open source projects coming from India by either giving a star, doing a small contribution to the project or saying a note of thanks. These might now sound big but initiatives like these will play a big role in the motivation of team working on the open source projects.