Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Grassroots - Idea to Launch - Part 4 of 4

[Will be updated shortly]

Monday, December 5, 2016

Grassroots - Idea to Launch - Part 3 of 4

With the awesome team mentioned in the previous post, I planned to keep myself away from Coding. Being a passionate developer, it was a hard decision to keep my hands away from keyboard!

But rather I planned myself
  1. to focus on pulling in volunteers with Gowtham through College sessions, (this is totally new to us)
  2. get in touch with many NGOs to discuss the idea with and to evolve the idea,
  3. getting into tech works, only if the team faces any hardest challenges,
  4. do R&D and make requirement/specification documentations for further modules after Launch.

Company registration

Then I spoke with Antony from Arappor Iyakkam to an idea
  1. of registering this as a company.
  2. tax and legal procedures and more.
My initial idea was to do legal procedures/registration this after launch, as I have no idea about this. But Antony told it's all very simple procedure and he could help me in registering the company. Wow!
Then we initiated the company registration process. The company shall be named
Gethu Games Pvt Ltd

Games? Gethu? WTH! Yes. That was almost everyone's response, given I was speaking about using technology for Social change. Here is what I have in mind:

Social impacting Game ideas:

Being a game addict (in my college days) and a person with little social consciousness, I can imagine how Games could be really `Game changing` in making people act on social problems. Games are addictive medium which effectively communicate information deep into a person and possibly make them act than any other media be it newspaper, TV, films, etc., More than all, Games are very effective to educate children.

So that's my point. To create games, which provides entertainment, as well as impart deep knowledge on Social problems and possible solutions in kids and make them grow as socially concerned persons, through this addictive medium.

Bragging section:Btw, I already made such a simple game in 3rd year of my college and selected to Semi finals of Microsoft's International student level competition. More @ http://saiy2k.blogspot.in/2010/01/green-game.html

August 1 - Development starts

We started the development on August 1 with two major unexpected setbacks:
  1. Our technical lead, who is supposed to manage the whole technical works, couldn't join because of some personal issues.
  2. Sames goes with our NGO Panel developer.
I tried searching for another resources to replace these two. Finding resources at junior level is easy, but finding someone of Technical lead level at the bare minimum package I can offer is almost unimaginable.

So to get thinkgs rolling, I got no option than filling the shoes of technical lead, by myself. So I took it up! Except for the NGO Panel all other teams were working great and I kept looking for resources to develop NGO Panel.

From my initial plan for myself,

  1. College sessions - Explained Gowtham the situation, asking him to completely take care of colelge session, putting bulk weight over his head.
  2. Get in touch with many NGOs - skip
  3. R&D and documenting future plan - skip.

Mobile App Dev

With my awesome Interns Thina, Ritesh, Jegadesh and Rohan, we started Mobile dev and it was going good. I was into mobile dev and co-ordinating between every team, reviewing their works, and taking care of non tech works.
I was also doing my part time job that time, which I quit from the month of October.

QA - Haribabu

With Haribabu being the lead of QA, it was going excellent. He was churning out 50-100 test cases / week giving good coverage to all scenarios, along with interns in QA, Ujay and Gayathri.

Server - Arjun

The single man army, Arjun Prasath took complete responsibility of REST API, DB Design, Server management and all server side stuffs. From Day 1 to till today, he is taking complete care of server side, taking big weight from my head.

Arjun and Haribabu both rendered their professional expertise and their awesome skills to Grassroots, without me digging in and doing any sort of micro management. Happy and grateful to have such skillfull, independent resources in team.

We followed Scrum to manage the development process


Nature balances everything

Cause:

Despite the setbacks, I was overall positive, hopeful, excited, motivated, inspired, (put all remaining positive words here). They say Nature is all about balance. Then how can it let me to be all positive and continue like that. So to balance the equation, it stepped in and hit me, where it really hurts, shattering me into pieces. But it equally balanced in positive way, at a different place, where its due.

Of course, details can't be posted here!

Consequence:

My productivity dropped to 0. It took almost 2 weeks for me to start recovering. Even then, I couldn't give my 100% for long time. It impacted the project most.

But the situation made me realize, how gifted I am. It shown me I am surrounded by all gems and diamonds who care for me so much. They did their best to stitch all my wounds and get me back on track. Thanks you soooo much for all the special care and concern, because of which myself and Grassroots are standing where we are at the moment _/\_

Thanks _/\_

September Month

Arjun and Haribabu were on track, but mobile development took a big hit and NGO Panel was yet to start. But then we got a front end Developer for NGO Panel. Thanks to Arjun :-)

On Campaigning side, Gowtham was visiting many colleges, but struggle to get actual session. Though we had promises from dozen colleges to give us session, no one is giving concrete dates.

Sathish Kumar - Another Super hero entry

Sathish is a new volunteer in Chennai Social Service and he was super active during Vegam and was taking care of all Social media activities. So I appraoched him to get his support in managing Grassroots FB page and online activities. I explained him the concept of Grassroots and loved the concept and promised he will give maximum support and also help in taking Social awareness sessions in colleges along with Gowtham.

After our initial discussion, I told him I will send all details in mail, but missed sending it for a day. Then he sent me this in whatsapp.
September 19, 2016!
It was like hitting a hammer in my head. I realized how my emotional stupidity is affecting the product. I know how demotivating it will be for others in team, when 1 person dont follow up properly. But that day, I realized I was that person who is demotivating everyone in the team!

Decided to stay away from everything and give up on every person, that affects my productivity. It was not easy, but drastic situations call for drastic actions. Hope it will be understood!

More to be continued...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

100 kms Cyclers club!

First Team Cycling

I am pedalling for almost 5 years now and always wanted to form a Cycling gang :-)

In that direction, we initiated our first Night cycling more than a year back. Still have picture perfect memories of our first group ride with Gowtham, Jaffer, Dinesh.
  1. Meeting at Marina at 8PM.
  2. Lack of cycles.
  3. Arun tyre puncture. He deserves it for all atrocities he done that day.
  4. Late dinner after 11 PM near city center.
  5. Very late start.
  6. Full road block near Malar hospital, Adyar. Just escape from Police.
  7. Cycling to Besant Nagar beach.
  8. Creepy 2 kms walk to haunted Broken bridge.
  9. And finally sleep in the open Beach shore. Wow <3
Then we did couple more trips along OMR, ECR, to Marina with changing members. But I am concerned that everyone looks at it only as fun activity and not very serious about it, to take big leaps. Now my concern is broken for good :-)

Near Malar Hospital, Apr, 2015

Exhausted @ Besant Nagar, Apr, 2015

10 Cycle, 10 People on OMR

Last Saturday Nov 26, 2016, 10 of us started from Saidapet towards OMR. Actually 9 of them started and I joined them late at Akkarai beach by 12.30 AM. For the first time, Girls also joined the awesomeness. Charu, Surya Priyadharshini and our Kungfu Panda Deepika :-)

We reached Akkarai beach at 12.30 AM, spent an hour there, speaking with ghosts. Then the girls and Prem from NDRF (National Disaster Relief Force) returned completing their 40 - 50 kms journey.

I myself was tired as I didnt sleep properly for couple of nights. So I thought of returning, assuming everyone else would have been tired by this journey. But that's not the case. All remaining 5 were determined to do Mahabs completing their 100 kms, which motivated me too.

Towards the Glory

Around 2.00 AM, we started pedalling in one of the

  1. most unsafe road in the world (ECR)
  2. at the most unsafe time (Midnight)
  3. in the most unsafe manner (No helmet, No reflecting jackets)
  4. Glad we had our breaks :-P
PS: Guys next time, we should take the OMR Route. Just 5-6 kms extra but very safe for us!

No street light, very little moon light, high beam vehicles driving on opposite, glaring our eyes. We followed some simple rules to keep going, like sticking to white line.

Kovalam Stop

After an hour, we reached Kovalam and Surya dropped out because of his knee pain.
A closed shop with some tables outside to sleep. More than that, he had 2 phones, Jio sim with unlimited Internet, Whatsapp, Facebook. What else he wants!

Then without much break time, the legends started their pedals.
  1. Arun Prasad
  2. Gowtham Shana
  3. Lal Bahadur
  4. Sathish Kumar
  5. and of course, Myself :-)

Crossed half of the well :-)

By around 3.30 AM, we reached Mahabalipuram. HELL YEAH!!!! Around 55 kms!

There was a tea shop, just opened with around 20-30 biscuits. We had our refreshments and went to beach to take rest. But it was too cold and we all started shivering. Returned back in max half an hour. Had another round of Tea in the shop. Did some stretches to relief our body muscles.

Daunting return!

We started our return by 5.30 AM and then only people realized we still got 55 kms to pedal to reach home in one piece. But we are all very much determined to do this.

Since everyone had different works to do and the sun started shining slowly, we parted and everyone returned in their own pace. I started with my Grassroots support calls along the way. Myself and Sathish returned home by 10 AM and all others reached before us.

Able to track the return upto Perungudi till my battery dried up!



Welcome to the 100 kms Club

Here I take honor in welcoming the legends
  1. Arun Prasad
  2. Lal Bahadur
  3. Sathish Kumar
to the `100 Kms cyclers Club` :-) <3

Surya and Gowtham, Keep practising and you will definitely hit it next time.

Sathish, My Nimbus (cycle) and Me!

Appreciate Gowtham for co-ordinating this awesome cycling trip!

My first Mahabs cycling @ http://saiy2k.blogspot.in/2012/12/mahabalipuram-cycling-trip.html

More adventures... To be continued!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Grassroots - Idea to Launch - Part 2 of 4

Co-operative social Enterprise

It's May, 2016 end. Now the Blue print of the project is ready and also got a idea on economic model. Now I call myself an `emerging anti-capitalist` after getting a very slight understand of what capitalism is doing to people and environemnt with the `infinite growth policy in a limited planet`. So I definitely dont want to even try for Venture Capitalists or regular investment models.

I started exploring on democraic investment systems. Actually, I dont even know what i was looking for. Then I remembered `Loomio`, a tech startup in New Zealand, born out of `Occupy movement`. I started studying about them and was so excited. They define themselves as `Co-operative social enterprise`. Quoting from their site.
Loomio is a social enterprise collectively owned by the people building it. Unlike a traditional profit­ maximising company, revenue is not an end in itself, but a means towards achieving a core social purpose. A worker-owned cooperative structure is a powerful way to live our values of collaboration and collective ownership.
It was brilliant. Not money centered, but people centered. Wow! I started learning more and more about such business models. Being a simple minded technologist (not an economist), it was hard to understand the concepts.

Then I started worrying how much it is legally possible to implement such crazy ideas in India. Started exploring on such business models in India and couldn't get a single article :-( Hard way forward. Should I even do this?

I have this problem mostly:
My heart gets stuck with something and my mind knows it wont work out. But I can't resolve the conflict myself. So I let external factors manipulate my heart, which are my friends.

So consulted with 2 good friends (Paul and Saravanan). After nearly 4 hours conference call, they clarified me this:
  1. I am going to do business for first time in life. It's going to a big challenging, learning curve.
  2. I have no money in hand, have to fund raise all money.
  3. Challenging technical problem to solve.
  4. What I am doing is a completely new vertical inthe whole world. (Software for Non-profits in India)
  5. Challenge in sales (Billing NGOs, who already struggle to run because of lagging in donations)
  6. After the tech problem of making software is solved, getting it operation / active is a big question mark, which I dont even know how to plan. It's going to be trial and error.
With all above points, the probability of failing, is already to high than a regular IT startup.

Now I  dont even know Loomio kind of business model is possible in India. Any regular lawyers, auditors wont even understand what I am asking for.

Considering all this challenges, I decided not to explore anything on new anti-capilalist economic model at the moment. Thanks Paul and Saravanan for the continuous bashing, to take things into my heart!

SRM Connect

Now I need to form a technical team to execute this. I am sure, I wont have a luxury of hiring only senior developers to execute the project, because of money constraints.

Lucking I had full support of Thina and Think Digital (TD). A team of brilliant students from SRM, with whom I executed many social projects before. So I planned to train them on Ionic to take care of mobile development.



We had a meeting in SRM college with TD Team. Our genius programmer, Ritesh suggested that we do a pilot app, SRM Connect, which will be similar to Volunteer app feature wise. But used to connect people and events happening inside SRM. Once the app is done, we can then reuse the code base for Grassroots with much better Ionic experience.

It will be beneficial for me too, as I can show case a completed app to my potential investors, to gain their confidence. In 1 month time, with just the students coding on it, under my supervision, we completed the app and deployed in Play store @

Investors - A Wow story

I first spoke with some key tech people, whom will be developing on the project. One of them is a IIT graduate, a master mind, excellent programmer who was willing to lead the whole technical process.

I split the investment into 2 phases.

  1. Phase 1 will cover expenses upto Launch, with foundational modules.
  2. Phase 2 will cover expenses 5 months after Launch to develop further modules.

My target was getting a commitment/money for atleast Phase 1, before I could initate the development. For Phase 2, I planned to do a 2nd fund raiser after launch. After launch, with a working product, I thought I could get money a bit easier than having only documents now.

By June end, when SRM Connect is 80% done, I started approaching my friends for Investment. From the first person, Rajesh Kanna to all futher people, they totally loved the idea. Of course, how they can't be. Yes I am bit egoistic about this idea!

June 24. I met Rajesh Kanna in Neelangarai @ CTC's Garbage segregation event. Went half an hour early at 5.30 AM and took this awesome sunrise shot from Neelangarai beach. Best scene. Only like 20% of the actual experience is conveyed through the photo. It was maginificient there. I love beach!

I had 5 key advantages:

  1. A revolutionary Idea.
  2. A working prototype in hand, SRM Connect.
  3. Strong tech team - The IIT brain, Myself (yes, I call myself a good programmer) and TD Team and
  4. My own credibility because of years of Volunteering works.
  5. Further ideas. Revolutionizing game ideas, that will create strong social impact.

With the above 5 strong points, Everyone is willing to invest the maximum amount in their capacity. In just one week, after meeting some 10 people, I got full commitment for Phase 1. Holy cow! Wow.

For June last week and July I planned to do meet loads of people to get investment for Phase 1. But in just 1 week, I got commitment for complete Phase 1. So I continued further and raised funds for whole 10 months, by the end of July. How lucky, How gifted, I am!

Team Formation

Team formation was also happening parallely.
  1. My volunteering Colleague in Chennai Social Service, Haribabu is more than happy to take up QA Lead. He actually didn't want to get paid, as he loved the idea. But I forced a minimum number upon him.
  2. Arjun Prasath - My colleague in my previous company. Excellent server brainy. He assisted me a little in doing `Online RTI Generator` 2 years back. He joined taking complete responsibility of Server, DB, Backend REST service.
  3. Sakthi Vel - Another Chennai Social Service volunteering colleague. A super creative real world cartoon character.
  4. Think Digital team
    1. Thina - The hyperactive programmer.
    2. Ritesh and Rohan - The silent programmers.
    3. Ujay and Jegadesh - Programmers gifted with excellent design skills.
    4. Gayathri - The crypto girl
  5. Gowtham Shana - Another Chennai Social Service volunteering colleague. A personal with a long term, very big social vision. A extrovert. Amazing speaker. He already takes seminars on college on the topic `Needs of the society`. We planned to join hands to continue his sessions and also add a bit on the Volunteering app.
  6. Our brilliant IIT programmer, who will be leading the whole project.
  7. Other good friend, who is a working as Software Engg in US and committed to support on complete NGO Panel development.

Volunteer App to `Grassroots`

This is the period when the `Volunteer app` turned into `Grassroots` and the website was launched.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Grassroots - Idea to Launch - Part 1 of 4

8 months of Grassroots story...

April, 2016 - Tic Tac Toe Extended

Tic Tac Toe (TTT) game works are going on at full pace with Think Digital team. The games' intent is only to form a team of students, train them on game dev techs.

My idea was this:
  1. In 1 year, I should be running a company where we do Games that yield us economically and once the economy is stable, then we will start doing Social impacting projects.
  2. Once the games earn atleast Rs. 5000 / month, then I am to get loan to run family for 6 months, quit my part time job and put my full effort on further Games.
But I couldn't wait one year to start with Social impacting projects, especially with 3 awesome social impacting ideas in my mind. So I thought of crowd funding, get the cash before hand and working on any social impact project after TTT. Immediate 3 ideas were
  1. Online RTI Generator
  2. Traffic Violation Portal (TVP)
  3. Volunteer App
in that order. RTI Gen and TVP are close to my heart. But there will be a big friction for even NGO people to understand the problem it will be solving. Rather Volunteer app is something which will connect to NGOs/Volunteers easily, will be much appreciated and I can get quick support.

Executing the same with just volunteers is not at all an option, because of the experience with Indian National Developers. So it will be clearly with a freelancing team, who will be paid through Crowd funding.

Then decided on Volunteer app, started R&Ding, putting down the ideas which I had in mind for almost 2 years. By April end, it was something like this.

Crowdfunding to Business idea - Advice from Friends

We launched Tic Tac Toe game in Play store, Chrome Web Store by May after a delay of nearly 3 months. I kept improving the mocks and also estimated the time and cost of the project, along with Resource requirement.

Nakkeeran and Karthik Pandy
Then with these basic documents, I started speak to people to get their feedback. It was Nakkeeran and Karthik Pandy first @ T. Nagar Natesan park. Clearly remember that meet, including having Dosa in that crowded road side shop :-)

The outcome of the discussion is this: It's a fantastic idea and to evolve the product to great heights. Crowd funding wont be a sustainable option. But rather the money required to build the system, should be generated by the system itself, so the whole system will be sustainable.


Prithviraj and Satish Bonthu
Then met with Prithvi and Satish in their Organic Depot. Had quick dialogs on App idea and lengthy conversation on Sustainability model.

Here I concluded that I should be charging NGOs to use the system, as they are the beneficiaries of the project. Ha NGOs, who already stuggle to get donation to do their own activities, will be my customers. How challenging!

Bought some Organic groceries as well.

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

APJ: Its been a year: I guess I started dreaming Big :-)

It's been a year, since APJ left us on our own.

A year back, a triggering day for me. I decided not to mourn for him but rather understand his `India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium` and do something about it.


2 months forward

  1. Seed: Having read that book, R&D Business and Technology filled my mind. I started re-thinking on my own ways of Social Contribution.
  2. Strong Trunk: Then 2 other triggers: Elon Musk, who is addressing World's existential crisis, Climate Change, through Business that drives Social Change.
  3. Watering: And a full night Discussion @ CMBT bus stand with my dear friend, who broke my emotional bondages to my existing ideas and pushed me to next level of ideas, that I got from APJ and Elon. To my friend, Owe you a lot, For watering :-)

With above 3, I started shifting to a different direction.

Surprise - Sequel to India 2020

After completing 400 kms Cycling Traffic Awareness Drive of Thozhan, I got gifted with the book `A Manifesto for Change: A Sequel to India 2020` by APJ.

Wow. A Divine Intervention?! Lol. I am the kind of person, who don't believe in fate, destiny, miracle or anything. Though I believe in creating Miracles with our will.

But still, getting this book meant something!

APJ App, Tic Tac Toe Extended, Grassroots and Next

Screens from Kalam App
It started with
  1. Making a Mobile App for Kalam in Tamil/English,
  2. Then forming a Tech team with my most favourite person Thina and we did TTT Extended game
  3. and now the biggest project, I ever done, Grassroots.
In the `Dream Big` definition of Kalam, all these are just Baby steps, The `Big` is yet to come in coming decade. It's just that I need to prepare myself for it.

Conclusion

Kalam and his vision is so big and so awesome. My dear friends and readers of this blog, please dont contain Kalam in a single day remembrance ceremonies. But rather understand his Grand vision and do something about it.

Dream BIG!!!


Another Big Day

My home ground, Chennai Social Service, is stepping into 11th year. Oh yeah :-)