Once there were two young men - both fanatics, both crazy - brimming with ambition, who wanted to create something of value and who were insane enough to chase those challenging goals! They started a company with two people, in a small city somewhere in India and within few years had more than 50 employees with their presence in three continents!
It all began in the winter of 2006 when two people got stuck in some discussions. Things were actually fine, with enterprise code and a little time they could find for beer after offices. The only problem was that they were talking nonstop on advertising agencies and certain search algorithms. Their talks about these concepts were so passionate that, in order to see if their conclusions are right, they were left with an option to leave what they were doing and start working on the new discoveries.
To begin with, the most important thing for them was getting few clients onboard who may believe in their idea and take a risk of burning their hands, if they fail. The clients would treat them as remotely hired workers and they will be needed to work with their onsite workforce in Indian nights, while their fellow countrymen were already in deep sleep.
So, it started with virtually last month's salary in accounts and their individual homes, where they would put themselves behind closed doors. Things didn't work initially and therefore, they decided to work for cheap for anything that came their way and keep the tabs going on. It wasn’t too late before they got attention from some of the people they had been working for. After building faith, these very people decided to take a chance with them.
Ashwin and Rahul were finally making twice than the last drawn salary and only more work coming their way. Soon, both got swamped with so much work that they could either get someone to help them or face music from the clients. Thus, came the first employee of the company, a close friend of theirs. And with the first employee, the first salary check was cut. While looking at those checkbooks still personal, they thought that all payments should be done by checks which will help them track accounts, if they at all make it big.
While there were still enough projects in hand and more money, the work still lacked in something. Something that was supposed to be big and for which they didn't have any capital to invest. They were certainly happy with the way things were running but definitely not satisfied. At one point, they thought to stick with what was going on; keep earning monies more than any job could give and become hackers for life! After spending so many years under the open sky, it wasn’t a bad idea to stay in room, have wine at odd times and survive without sunlight. They were unaware of the fact that Vitamin D was important and wine did not contain any of it. By late summer that year, they started facing problems like carpel tunnel syndrome, red eyes and insomnia. Sleeping pills was a solution but it demanded a hiatus in work. After spending months in isolation, there was no option but to socialize again.
The First Office
On September 3rd, Ashwin and Rahul finally decided to open their first office, with whatever monies they were left with. That was exactly $1000, if that’s what you want to know. There were three more things though - a proven track record of strategies, solid knowledge about Joomla and a checkbook with enough blank leaves in it. The guys played smart with a real estate owner, who also happened to have three computers in property. They paid him 25% as a token and cut several postdated checks for rest of the payments, with a promise that they still keep to themselves. "Never let a single check get bounce for any reason."
On 15th September 2006, the company moved in their first office - in a carpet area of 175 sq ft, with two laptops, three computers and wearing clothes brought at Goodwill. Within three months, they were a 7 people company with 5 clients to serve and their flagship project for the largest opensocial template website. This was also the time when the company put their first table fish tank in place which later moved with them to every office the company acquired. Gradually, 7 employees became 9, 9 became 12, 12 went down to 8 and 8 again became 13. As a close family, we always had someone ready to join the smallest office in town and someone wishing to go in bigger offices. The company had no liabilities and revenue was only going upwards. Soon, there would be beer served every Friday and the duration of time spent by someone in offices came to be calculated by the empty cases of beer.
Though the company's unit to measure time was in beer cases, the economy had different ideas. Just a week before the company could complete its first year, the economy started wobbling. On September 15th 2007, when looking at the company’s first year performance graph, they realized that everything they had aimed for was achieved and that they should be pretty content with it. The only thing they weren’t having any answer for, was "What Next?" All of their clients stopped their projects soon and they were left with no option but to sit, wait, watch and hope.
While many big businesses were failing, it wasn’t that bad to close the shop and blame it on economy. But destiny had other plans. There were two specific clients who decided to stay in business and they asked the company to stay with them in those tough times. The company decided to backup for them during difficult situations and they promised the company to give enough, to keep it going, at least for a while.
Survival was the word that kept the company going and determined to stay afloat in those rough times. There were no profits, but it didn’t bother much since the company had been salvaged for another season. Soon, their stable clients had some more requirements and the company had no option but to grow by numbers and shift to a new office. It was a tough call but on March 2008 the company moved to a slightly bigger office, around 650 sq ft. with 14 computers. This was also the time when it was decided to setup an onsite kitchen and offer free food for every employee. People were questioning the company’s ability and boldness to invest more in the expansion as well as the next fish tank design, which by now had become their signature mark. The first question was sorted out by expanding the SEO services and second question with an intelligent design for the fish tank.
Meanwhile, the economy still showed no signs of improvement and as expected, the company didn't have much on their plate. It continued to work on whatever came in their way and do what they were good at - making best quality websites. Things changed its course in July 2008, when Ashwin decided to create four websites in automobiles and fashion niches, as internal products. It sounded ridiculous idea to pursue since theirs was a 100% outsource services company and didn't own any sites besides some educational blog and their own corporate websites.
The desire of making great websites inspired the employees create great looking websites, even when there was no client requirement. The hard work paid off when the company got their first advertiser onboard in second week of July. By the time the month ended, they had 8 websites and around 10 advertisers. Soon Ashwin disclosed the revenues made from advertising business and they discovered that the money earned in that month surpassed all the previous months. It was at this time the company decided to venture in creating its own products.
From August 2008, the company planned a neat strategy for creating websites, targeting various subjects from cooking to dressing and motherboard to surfing boards. The company wasn't short of ideas and the advertisers were all up for grabs, anything that the company came up with. There was one big problem though! All those sites needed contents - a huge amount of it - and they had no idea how to generate them. It sounded pretty queer when the company made their developers write contents, on subjects they never thought about. It continued for a while but the advertisers' demands were just too huge to fulfill. A question arose, can there be a position called content writers? Though the answer was yes, it wasn't easy to put it in words what exactly they will be doing and what exactly they will be trained for. So, they took four writers and went with their instincts while training them for contents. It was to be realized later that those writers were the best company ever had and their products generated revenues for many upcoming years.
By Christmas that year, they had around 60 sites in various niches, with 3 designers-cum-programmers, 4 writers, 7 SEO programmers and 2 sales persons. It was too difficult to tell if it was a software company, a content development or an SEO one.
When the company resumed back after vacation in early 2010, they were just having one target - making as many websites as they could; so, the hiring was always on. There was a continuous influx of people; for few, the company ran a detailed training course, others were just assigned diversified work and were corrected on the go. By May 2010, they were having around 200 sites, competing high for quality and working great for their advertisers. That was also the period when the company thought that it was big time they should expand.
The New Base
Expansion meant not only from the point of view of employees but also by space. The company realized that they needed a bigger and better infrastructure to setup a whole new base. The hunt for a new office proved quite cumbersome. Habituated to greenery in the old office, they wanted a similar kind of space where they would be surrounded by nature. But after much deliberations and discussions, they finally zeroed in on a "corporate" office.
On 9th July 2010, the company shifted its base to a new office, a huge state-of-art facility of 2400 sq ft. This office was tastefully decorated and designed according to their beliefs, i.e. open culture and hence, the office had no cabins and following the American culture they strongly believed in, the office also had a self-functioning kitchen accompanied by a coffee machine! Their love for America could also be seen by 'The Simpsons' (their favorite sitcom) paintings on the walls. Also, their signature belonging, the fish tank, got bigger and better. Measuring a whopping 3 by 8 feet, it was made into the office's center table and is touted as one of the largest fish tanks in the city.
The company also carried a few memorabilia from its old office (apart from their staff of course) - their old fish tank, 'The Office' clocks, quotes of several famous people and some furniture. Bean bags, basketball, football, volleyball, badminton, Rubik's cube, iPad can be seen dotted around the office. With time, the company would also create a recreational zone in its new office with a carom board, a drawing easel and a picnic table.
The Future Roadmap
The shift to new office propelled the company to start bigger hiring pursuits. July saw the recruitment of 11 new people - 7 writers, 3 developers and1 designer; come October and again 4 writers, 3 developers, 1 designer and 1 sales person were hired. With the hiring, number of products increased and so did the advertisers. The company's profit graph rose steadily.
At the workfront, in June 2010, the company ventured into a different product, e-commerce. The project turned out to be a huge success; with Google showing the same, when the site appeared on number one position and also from the revenues garnered by the client. Also, as the company believed in and used only open source technologies, they contributed to many open source websites by creating an array of themes for them. The company also developed many products like control panels and modules which could be used by the company, in the open source websites. In future, they would create applications for websites, mobiles and other 'smart' devices.
In 2011, the company continued its streak of developing high quality websites and getting more and more advertisers. An internship program, Open Interns was run in which freshly graduated students were hired and given on job training. To make a stronger foothold on its finance domains, company also ran a hiring program for MBA Finance students, which turned out to be success. With the number of employees crossing the 50 mark, they acquired an adjoining space of around 800 sq ft and transformed it into an exclusive office for the content department.
The year 2012 will start on a huge note with a hiring of almost 25 interns and some interesting new projects. The company's expertise in open source technologies, content writing, SEO, web designing, digital marketing and its enormous reserve of youthful enthusiasm and energy will continue to be the driving force for the company's future journey.