Back in the year 2009, I was working as a Software Developer (PHP, Magento, MySQL, Joomla, OScommerce, X-cart, Prestashop, and a bit of Photoshop). Entrepreneurship, the bug, which is now a household name (thanks to the shows like Shark Tank and all the motivational videos created during all these years) was unknown then and I didn’t realize when I was stung by it.
I was reached out by a distant uncle of mine who wanted me to help him build a website for his MLM business. I took it as a freelance project as I wanted to explore this opportunity (and obviously make some extra money). I was in parallel preparing for Army as that was always my “Plan A” for life(that is a different story and never materialized). Software development was always “Plan B”. The project did help me understand the requirements of the client and expanded my mind in a completely new vertical.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
As told by Ralph Waldo Emerson, after this experience, I was no more thinking like a normal Software Developer. I started to be more empathetic both in terms of the business and the functional requirements of the customer. This helped me perform better both in-office and gave me more confidence to explore this freelance (startup) and take it to next level.
An idea came to me to create a reusable product that could easily be sold in a subscription model. I discussed it with a few of my friends to take their brains but I felt that everyone(mostly everyone) around me was okay with their job and didn’t feel the need to go beyond their comfort zone( as these initiatives took time away on weekends and evenings). I was in Nodia back in those days. My parents were in Chandigarh. The distance by bus was around 5-6 hours. I started traveling each week to Chandigarh to explore my idea.
I got a website made, named it “Propellent India” and got myself a few visiting cards. The idea was to take small businesses online on a marketplace model (please remember, I am talking about 2009-2010 when the internet was still a fancy word for small businesses in India). I used to take a bus every Friday night to Chandigarh from Nodia, reach home around 6 am, take some rest, pick up the bike and go to these small businesses (like Tent House, Marble Shops, Marriage palaces, Doctors, and others) with the idea to put them on a local listing website under their category (much like Just Dial or India Mart with Shopping option) with an option of eCommerce (no payment online, just accepting orders/bookings online). I created a Marketplace listing website (Joomla, Jomsocial, Virtuemart, and other Joomla-based plugins) and had prebuilt themes which helped me put the listings online within a week time. This was really exciting. It took me 3 weeks to create 80+ listings where the listing one-time cost was just INR 1000 and the monthly maintenance cost for a year was another INR 1200. I was getting a lot of referrals and competitive businesses wanted to be listed as well (as they were seeing the value, lead generation for their competitors and, especially the portrait photo of their competitor on the internet. Back in those days of Orkut, it was still a fancy thing).
I remember this was the time when the poison of this bug spread in my mind so bad that I couldn’t even take it out. Fast forward, I left my job in 2010(after 3-4 months of the event), Started an agency in 2010, grew the agency to 18 people team within a span of 14 months, we made the break-even(I didn’t know all these concepts back then) in just 3 months. I left that business for my partners and moved out to get back into the job (due to personal reasons in 2011).
But once you are bitten by this bug, you are a completely different individual. You cannot think like a normal Software developer (I usually called them a line following robots, no offense) rather you become a consultant who is constantly thinking about the customer’s business, their growth (both online and offline), their scale and you are always willing to walk an extra mile to make that happen for the customer. I again started a new eCommerce agency “Envision Ecommerce” in 2015 which got acquired in 2018.
I am happy to see how this bug is now stinging everyone from their college days. The days are different, the ecosystem is more helpful and you are no more considered crazy by your family, friends, and relatives when you say you want to start something of your own. India has moved a long way now.
Today, I believe, my professional growth and success have a lot to do with the extra mile I choose to walk out of my comfort zone back in the days when I was getting a good salary and could have chosen to be happy with my 10-7 job. It’s important to think as a customer, think and execute what is needed by them to make their business successful, ensure that they get the best out of all the deliverables that you are responsible to deliver at any stage of Software Development Life Cycle.
I hope you too are stung by this bug if not yet.
Are you bitten by the Bug?