Design Dialogue

A tete-a-tete with Rajaraman, co-founder, Chargebee

Rajaraman Santhanam (Raman) is the co-founder and COO of Chargebee. We caught up with him to talk design and why he always thought a design team would change the way people perceive Chargebee.

“Product and Design are treated as
one - like the Yin and Yang.”

When they started off in 2011 as a young startup, Chargebee didn’t have a design team so-to-say. Design decisions were overseen by Raman and wireframes were made by interface designers. Soon, however, he began to see the challenges of articulating thoughts into great design material. Much time had already been wasted. So he got hiring right away.

The Design Team at Chargebee started off as a single-member team and grew to what it is today - a full-fledged design team with Product and Communication Designers, Researchers, and Writers.

Raman shared his thoughts on design and why he thinks a design-infused environment is definitely the way forward.

What inspired you to think of a design team for Chargebee?

You always have must-haves and nice-to-haves in an experience. The biggest pet-peeve for a user is when the experience isn’t consistent or clear. I found it worrisome that engineers disregarded the end users while they focussed on delivering the products. It wasn’t affordable any more for us to completely focus on delivery alone, and not spend time thinking of who we were creating these designs for.

A design team puts things into perspective and tries to understand exactly what users expect from the product. We needed a design team to slowly translate the nice-to-haves to must-haves.

We needed a design team to slowly translate the nice-to-haves to must-haves.

When you started off, how did you go about the designs?

So there’s something we believed in right from beginning - wireframing.

Almost everything was first created as a wireframe because we wanted to create a lot of prototypes, a lot of variations. This was a direct validation of our thought process, the product of our discussions. These wireframes, once finalized, were developed.

It goes without saying, that design impacts business. Your thoughts…

“Design is non-negotiable.”

Today there are standards for almost everything. Consider popular apps like Swiggy and Uber Eats. They are taking the world by storm and are being used by people of all ages. It would be impossible for a Swiggy to survive unless it sets standards on par, or better than Uber Eats. These are

applications that have set benchmarks, so much so that customers won’t settle for anything less.

Design means table-stakes today.

How crucial is it to involve the design team on table of important stakeholders?

Let me give you an example. Take UX Writing. It goes without saying that the writer must be involved from the formative stages of a project, right from the genesis. Giving them a mere problem statement is simply not enough to create copy.

Product teams often have iterative discussions about the product scope, functionality, market fit... there is a lot of exchange of ideas. When these ideas have to be shared with folks outside of the product teams, there is a great risk of losing out on some critical pointers.

There is a definitive advantage in constantly collaborating with and involving all key stakeholders right from the start. And the design team, no doubt, is a key stakeholder. Collaborating with design teams often helps infuse design-thinking across the organization. And this is crucial. It enables different teams to think about users.

Collaborating with design teams helps infuse design-thinking across the organization.

The Chargebee design experience then, and the Chargebee design experience now - what have we lost and what have we gained?

What we lost is definitely a lot of time, building a razor-focussed team, and a lack of framework decision. This in turn resulted in the loss of many potential customers and of course, revenue.

On the brighter side, I think, what we have gained as a company is that we have all recognized the value of design. We find the need to involve the design team from the formative steps. I think that’s good change.

Lastly, do you recall applications or websites which have made you go “wow”?

I loved my Google Inbox. (Laughs) It’s creepy, but really amazing. Creepy because it knew what I’d be looking for. What was impressive though, was how it segregated my emails. Alas, we don't have the Inbox anymore!

Also applications like and Airbnb are worthy of a mention. I love how they already have the context I’m in. And when they use my name, it’s a wholly different experience. always understands where I’m coming from. I feel attended to. Now, that’s a wow experience.

Interviewed by
Shruthi S Sajid
UX writer, Chargebee
Eccentric 22-year-old who finds comfort in doggos, music, and words.
Rohit Nair
UX writer, Chargebee
A lover of animals and all things wonderfully well written.
Chargebee Design