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My start-up story from a tier-2 town
I was born in a small village in Karauli District, Rajasthan. I was good at both studies and sports.
In 2013, I found my way to Kota, 5 hours by bus, from our place. I enrolled for IIT entrance coaching. This was my first exposure to high-speed internet, and I made a few Facebook pages in Hindi for friends. It was fun.
I scored my way to IIT Kanpur. It opened up a whole new world for me. Apart from studies, I also enjoyed athletics. I continued to make Facebook pages in Hindi around philanthropy and sports. Some pages did well. My viewers grew gradually to 5000.
In 2018, upon graduation, my heart was keen on doing something Hindi media related. But back in Karauli, if you are great at studies, they eventually expect you to make it to the IAS. So, with my parents' blessings, I also started preparing for my UPSC exam.
I was enjoying UPSC preparation but in between fell ill for 3 months. My Coaching stopped. Things were in turmoil.
On the other hand, my side project - now called, Hindi Panktiyan - blossomed. The followers grew to 3 Lakh and surpassed. They included Hindi readers, writers, literary figures and even publication houses. The timing was right and people wanted it. I continued to nurture it.
I came back to the campus in IIT to collect myself and start UPSC preparations afresh. In the time that remained, I did well enough in the prelims to convince myself to try UPSC next year as well.
Come 2020 - Corona came. UPSC exams got postponed. And within 15 months, my father and mother passed away. This was perhaps the lowest point of my life.
I figured, how much worse can things get from here? The age of 18 to 23 is when your responsibilities are zero. You can take the wildest of risk and still go back to a safety net if things don’t work out. With nothing to lose, I set out to pursue my Hindi media interests full time.
The Panktiyan community was growing, but handling them manually was very difficult. The way forward seemed to be an App that would run on all mobile phones.
I did not have many startup skills, but I had an audience and I had the intent. I wonder what is possible for others like me also, when skills are few but intent is shining. Today I can stand back and say for sure, ‘Trust your network and Be willing to learn from wherever and whatever - and the path forward will open up’.
I shared my intent with a Computer Science friend and he pitched in to help. He had a day job too. Soon, two more friends joined in. They all handled the technical bits.
I was the only one full-time on this App. My initial responsibilities were UX-UI design. I was making posters for my Panktiyan work, so I used Canva for the interface design. I learnt enough design basics on my own to get by.
One day, a friend pointed me to Figma and, to my delight, work became easier, as I adopted new tools and practices. Besides Design, I was also learning Product Management.
Today, I wonder if things would have gone easier if I had learnt these skills by first getting some work experience. But life had put me on the express path and challenges aside. It was all good fun.
Once the initial prototype was ready, someone needed to test it from all angles. I took it upon myself to learn testing. I enjoyed thinking up worst-case scenarios and putting the App to trials.
Our biggest challenge was to move our social media audience to adopt the App. So I started learning marketing as well. Again on my own.
When users tried the App and stayed on, I made it my business to learn what makes them stay. When they left. I strived to figure out what could be better in the next iteration. Trial and Error were my teacher.
I am probably only halfway there, but if I had to start all over again, my only regret would be, why didn’t I go all-in even earlier?
I hope I can shine the light for my friends from tier 2 towns and inland India on a new career possibility that is opening up for all of us. You too can be a startup success. Just remember -
Find your passion and pursue it. It is all I have done up to now.
Your network is your best bet. First, your network is your friends in real life.
Your network is also your reach out on the net. You can reach the best in your niche and connect.
Whatever you need to learn, seek it out on the net. It will be there :) in some form.
Dig deep and persist. Make a 2 year plan at minimum. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight.