From logistics to scaling products, every entrepreneur faces obstacles along the way. But for many first-time entrepreneurs in Indonesia, starting a business has its own unique challenges. With more than 17,000 islands, reaching customers across the country is often easier said than done—something e-commerce platform Tokopedia is working to change.
Originally a digital marketplace, Tokopedia has now become a technology company supporting e-commerce for the whole of Indonesia. Their platform is home to over 7.6 million merchants, 86.5 percent of whom are first-time entrepreneurs. And as small businesses on the platform grew, so did Tokopedia’s team, expanding to more than 4,900. Their development team alone quadrupled from 300 engineers to over 1,000 in multiple locations—which for Security Engineer Lead Purnaresa Yuliartanto also meant it was time to scale their software architecture to match.
“Tokopedia was growing so big that we needed to move from a monolith into a microservices model,” Yuliartanto explained. “With our previous vendor, our code was being managed on-premises in one place by one team, so everything had to go through them—including deployment.” This traditional way of building applications worked for just a few hundred developers, but growing to 1,000+ engineers made it impossible,” confirmed Rajesh Gopala Krishnan, AVP of Engineering Productivity. “The scaling wouldn’t have been possible.”
Instead, the team needed a way to deploy and release fast, without also having to maintain their server at the same time. Moving to a microservices model ensured individual engineers could speed up development by managing their own code and deploying as needed, but required a more flexible cloud platform than their current solution. “We were looking for a simpler way,” said Yuliartanto. “We wanted to focus on writing code and getting features out, not managing the server. GitHub is easy to maintain and access from anywhere, which is critical for microservices—and what convinced us to switch.”
“We wanted to focus on writing code and getting features out, not managing the server. GitHub is easy to maintain and access from anywhere, which is critical for microservices—and what convinced us to switch.”
The technology organization moved to GitHub Enterprise Cloud—followed by the move to microservices and more efficient workflows. Administrative overhead quickly dropped to an all-time low, with fewer administrators managing the GitHub platform for 1,000+ engineers than when a team of four managed the servers for only 300. Now everyone shares the platform, from DevOps teams and security engineering, all the way to Tokopedia leadership. And while each team is focused on building different feature sets or pushing out platform-level code—a potential disaster in their previous siloed development model—“now code is being merged and there are only minimal changes before it goes to production.” With tools like GitHub’s built-in code reviews, teams can easily work on code separately and together at the same time. “In one day, we make 200 to 300 pushes to production. All this is possible because of collaboration,” said Krishnan. “GitHub gives us stability and helps us have better velocity.”
It also gives developers room to experiment: even combining Jenkins, AWS, and Azure, teams can swap tools and use what’s best for their pipelines on top of shared, unified workflows. “When we moved from our previous vendor to GitHub, GitHub was simple to use and everyone got access to the system,” Krishnan said. “So we started creating automated workflow templates with GitHub Actions to help bring uniformity to our pipeline.” From there, Actions is used as an auto-recovery system, for unit testing, and more. “Today, we have 80 percent workflow automation with GitHub, versus only 20 percent with our previous solution.”
As they’ve begun exploring other GitHub features, like using GitHub Packages to standardize code reviews, developers have continued tweaking workflows as-needed for more complex tasks—with the confidence that all development happens in a shared place. “Shopping for different sets of tools and trying to integrate them is usually a nightmare,” explained Krishnan, “but having one integrated solution helps us to rely and focus on one thing, and most of our tools fall in place easily. “
And the same applies to open source integrations: Tokopedia’s dedicated security team takes the lead, but developers are still encouraged to integrate components from open source into the company’s ecosystem as long as they’re approved. The security team also does regular audits and penetration testing to check for access stability throughout the year and comply with government regulations. As a technology company with a leading marketplace platform in Indonesia, “we have a lot of policies and processes to follow,” Yuliartanto said, “and when we learn new regulations, we share the guidelines with our teams and help incorporate them. With GitHub, we’re able to do that easily.” Krishnan agreed: “Most of the insight we get is from GitHub security advisories, and from there we can tell if there’s a dependency in our system that’s not secure.”
Using open source may introduce potential vulnerable dependencies, but with Tokopedia’s security team and GitHub security advisories, Krishnan sees the potential innovation as well worth it. “Open source always helps shrink the time to market. With open source, I don’t need to start from scratch. I can access the basics and use them how I want to.” This access is critical—especially for the first-time entrepreneurs Tokopedia supports. “Our tagline is ‘democratize commerce through technology,’” said Krishnan. “By open sourcing some of our own research and innovation, we can ensure that the rest of these startups and upcoming entrepreneurs can use it effectively without having to buy expensive commercial tools. The public can start using it, and move towards a better software development process.”
Tokopedia’s open source projects don’t only make an impact in the startup community. New developers already familiar with GitHub recognize the company as cutting-edge for their open source policies—and want to be a part of it. “Coming out of college, developers see how active we are in open source,” Krishnan said, “and they think, ‘Okay, this is the kind of technology the company uses, which I already use. Let me be part of this organization.’” Yuliartanto has also noticed a difference in training, which he attributes to open source and GitHub’s popularity. “Everyone who joins us, whether junior or senior, is already familiar with GitHub. For onboarding engineers, GitHub makes things a lot faster and easier.”
Whether in onboarding or microservices workflows, both Krishnan and Yuliartanto agree that the company isn’t showing any sign of slowing down. “We don’t have to do deployment on a particular day or at a particular time,” Krishnan said. “Now we do it 24/7, all throughout the year.” Yuliartanto confirmed: “GitHub is providing the essential tools to help us be more productive and also more stable. This wouldn’t have been possible without it.”
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