There are many moments that have frozen in my mind.
The day we launched (March 13, 1995). I stayed up all night waiting for people to show up on the website!
The day, a few weeks later, when The Times of India carried a front-page article about Laxman’s cartoons being available in cyberspace. I had spent quite some time at the Times office in Mumbai discussing the Internet and what it would do and why it was so important.
The first big order that we got from Kotak Mahindra. It was for a website with a portfolio manager and the works. It came six months or so after we launched IndiaWorld. The day it came, I was in Nasik, doing a seminar on the Internet.
Doing the Headline News daily early morning and late night. We wanted to make sure we had the freshest news. There were times when I’d see a breaking story at night on TV and I’d rush across to the computer at home and update the site. On many occasions, IndiaWorld readers globally got news before people in India since at that time, we relied mostly on the morning newspapers! (When I would travel, my wife would do the news updates. Which meant that during the early years, we never could go on away together!)
Our first ad deal in March 1996 from Amul. I got a call from Anand in Gujarat Amul wanted a banner ad on the cricket site the next day for an important match. Overnight, we got the Amul website ready with their topical as the banner ad during the next day’s match. From that day, Amul’s topical was a constant fixture on the IndiaWorld home page for many years.
The regular writings I used to do then in Express Computers. The column was called Internauting. 1,500 words every two weeks. I guess that started off my tech writing.
Sitting up late and covering the elections and we plenty of them in India during that period! We’d watch TV, get the results, and then update it on the site. Every election saw us improving the software to provide a richer interface for people to explore the result details. We even had a game once the Indian Political Stock Exchange.
Presentations to VCs. I used to do plenty of those because I figured that even if I wouldn’t get money, I’d get some external inputs (and pointers to think, based on the questions they asked). Well, as it turned out, I never did get any money!
The low of October 1999 and the high of November 1999. October saw a term sheet we had from a VC expiring without a deal and investment. As I wondered what we would do next (since a lot of our competitors were raising capital), almost out of nowhere, two deal options materialised. And then came the Sify deal.
As I start thinking, there are many more moments that come alive in my mind. Words here do not do justice to the emotional ups and downs (and they are many more downs than ups) that an entrepreneur goes through. Those moments have to be lived through. That is what toughens the entrepreneur. That is when learning happens.
That was the dotcom era. Many entrepreneurs experienced the highs and lows (some, in the wrong order!) – and those are moments which will always stay on in memory. What the dotcom boom and bust did in India is create lots of dreamers people who would be willing to chuck away the job they were doing to try something different. Some had the passion, some were in it for the money, some for the thrill. Whatever be the reason, what the dotcom era did was compress many lives into one for those who got on the train.
That is why I wish it had lasted a little longer. We would have a lot more battle-hardened entrepreneurs willing to set failure aside, and ready to take on the world with big, bold ideas. Unfortunately, in India, it ended all too soon. Unlike China.
Tomorrow: India and China