Kaustubh Katdare, Creator and Administrator of CrazyEngineers® - an online community of engineers.
Though he does not hail from a family of businessmen, Kaustubh Katdare remembers that during his childhood, entrepreneurship was always one of the topics of conversation at the dinner table. His own early fascination for it came from watching the grocery shop owner who employed 8-10 people and earned more than everyone else in the colony. This interest bore fruit when, in November 2005, CrazyEngineers was born.
At the time, Kaustubh was working with a leading software company, and was quite active and popular on the company's internal newsgroup. He was also a big fan of two popular shows on Discovery Channel - Extreme Engineering and Mega Structures. He says that being an engineer: "I thought it would be wonderful to work on a mega project.
However, that was not possible. I thought I would at least get in touch with the engineers who work on such projects. I began my search on the Internet for a place where I could interact with engineers to know how it feels like to work on very large projects. To my surprise, I could not find any place where engineers interacted with each other. That was shocking. The people who define the world had no common place to interact!" And so was born the idea that became CrazyEngineers.
Kaustubh thought to start something where engineers could interact with each other, discuss technical topics, share knowledge and exchange innovative ideas. Searching for available domain names, he found that CrazyEngineers was available. "I asked my mother if the name sounded cool. She said 'yes' and CrazyEngineers was registered. It was November 24, 2005. I worked hard for next two days to set up an online forum system and launched CrazyEngineers on 26 November 2005, my birthday."
CrazyEngineers remained a hobby site for a long time (almost 2.5 years). Kaustubh says he never invested any money in advertising or promoting it. The site mostly grew through word of mouth and referrals from existing members. Though it was a hobby site, Kaustubh was always serious about it. He had no knowledge of how websites worked so he had to learn everything from domain registration to site configuration and security. It involved a lot of reading and hard work, but Kaustubh says "it was fun because I loved what I did. I still learn lot of new things almost every day and enjoy every bit of it."
One of the biggest challenges in the initial days was to make the site known to the engineers. Kaustubh asked most of his friends to join, but they preferred spending more time on social networking sites. Lots of people told him the site would never work because there are so many similar sites around, but he did not listen to any of them. Because there was so much to learn, Kaustubh had to stay awake late in the night, making it very difficult for him to balance his life between his job and this venture. Eventually, the site began demanding so much more time that it became almost impossible for him to continue to dedicate time at the office and to the site. So, he decided to quit his job. "Everyone in my family supported my decision. I quit my job and began working on CrazyEngineers full time."
At the moment, CrazyEngineers is an online media site that boasts of its unique audience consisting of engineers around the world. The site makes money by selling advertising space on the forums. Different teams handle various responsibilities on the site. "Our members are our differentiators. I am amazed by the ideas they contribute and sometimes even go out of the way to help other members." Kaustubh himself looks after administrative functions, the editorial team looks after the content, the moderator team keeps a watch on the forums and the newly formed CrazyEngineers- Ambassadors' team will make sure the interaction among the members is smooth and every query is answered.
There have been times when things did not go as per expectations for months. There were times when Kaustubh felt hopeless because nobody seemed to cooperate. But there have also been many turning points. One of the turning points was when Kaustubh's engineering batch mate Mayur Pathak joined CrazyEngineers as its Editor In Chief. Another was when the moderators, Ashraf from Malaysia and Varun Dhanwantri from UAE joined. Says Kaustubh: "They brought in fresh breeze to the site and we have been doing a good job since then." For Kaustubh personally, his parents and sister have always been his supporters and main motivators.
Over time, the site has been covered by newspapers and television. Discussions and opinions from them have been published in local editions of the Times of India. The site was chosen to be the partner for NVIDIA's NVISION 08 for distribution of passes for the event. Their plan to scale up is simple. They want to raise money through advertisements and/or sponsorships and invest it in spreading the word. That is something that the site has not tried before. CrazyEngineers aims to be the top resource for engineers around the world.
So, any tips for budding entrepreneurs? Kaustubh suggests that the right attitude will get you far. "You must love what you do. If you do not, quit. If you love what you do, never give up. Excuses are for the losers. These excuses include money, time, job, . Remember, being an entrepreneur is cool. It is your chance to change the world. So be an entrepreneur. Even if you fail, you will have something interesting to tell to your grand kids. "Further, reading about entrepreneurs helps, and one should remember that one does not need a really novel or innovative idea to start with: "Just look for improvements in everything around you" says Kaustubh. And of course, one should not waste time day dreaming, and money isn't everything!
Crazy Engineers is about uniting engineers around the world. "Every morning, I wake up with a new thoughts on what could a group of crazy engineers achieve," says Kaustubh. "Possibilities are limitless. I think these possibilities drive me. In past three years, we have created a platform for engineers to come together. We are now joining hands to collaborate offline/online to come up with new, innovative things. I will keep my mouth shut and let our actions speak."