YourStory recently spoke with Chetan Tripathy, a law student and an entrepreneur, his initiative Project Cloud aims to foster research and focuses on creating a supportive ecosystem for law students in India.
Tell me a little bit about ProjectCloud.
I started Project Cloud during late December, 2010. It is a free research utility for lawyers and law students. It is a community driven peer group. We provide information on research ideas, materials, journals to publish in and conferences where this research can be presented.
How did you come up with this idea? What is the problem that you are trying to solve? Why is this important to law students’ community?
I am currently in my final year of the five year B.A.,LL.B.(hons) course at National Law University, Jodhpur. Over the past five years, I have had the opportunity to intern with number of inspiring people and organizations, which ultimately allowed me to come up with the idea of Project Cloud.
For example, at the United Nations Center for Regional Development, Japan, I used to spend almost an hour every day collecting research material on the developments in environmental law. And this was being done at a global level everyday by actors in various institutions. If we had one portal where we could put together this research, it would make life so much easier for a law student who has to churn out 50 projects and numerous authored papers. I want law students to have access to such a portal that arms them with all the answers they need. The message we want to send across is that you don't have to be privileged to perform quality research.
Since how long have you been operational? What has been the response from the student community so far?
We're a baby in terms of internet life. The initiative started during late December, 2010. We are of course still in beta stage, which means there will be a lot more changes and improvements in the way we deliver content and engage with our readers.
Our readers are young and passionate. Receiving feedback from readers at 3 in the morning can be very encouraging for a start-up. All this makes the process of our evolution a lot more exciting.
Tell us about your background and your story before starting up.
My story begins in Ottawa, Canada. My father was a PhD student there and we had got our very first computer. This was 1993. It had about 8mb RAM and a 386 MHz processor. That was the beginning of my trouble generating relationship with the computer. I've spent half of childhood breaking and fixing computers. I enjoyed being on call for my neighbors and that always allowed me to learn a lot more.
Web-designing was an accident. I learnt basic html in my tenth grade because I had to qualify for a competition. One thing led to another and before I could stop myself, I left c++ and started experimenting with html and Dreamweaver.
When I came to law school, I started designing websites for my University, which is National Law University, Jodhpur. And I always kept pushing myself to innovate and be up to date with everything new.
And at law school, I have had the opportunity to intern at some great places like Acumen Fund, The World Bank, Amarchand and PRS Legislative Research.
What is the size of your team? What is the team’s expertise?
We don’t have any full time employees. We rely on our group of volunteers, students from law schools, who are putting in their time and energy to pitch for Project Cloud. One of our greatest strengths is the goodwill we are able to create. This has allowed tapping into a number of eminent people in the legal and business sector who are willing to advise us. I think when people see a good cause; they do their best to help.
What are your biggest challenges? How do you plan to overcome them? What kind of support are you looking for?
We have two major challenges:
- Increasing our presence in law schools across India.
- Collaborations with organizations/individuals who support our core values
We look forward to collaborations with organizations/individuals that are excited about education and feel that they can create a positive impact on the system. Only 8% of the Indian population goes to college, compared to a world average of 22%, so it’s very important that we promote innovation in these young people. The key to doing that is encouraging research. Research brings in specializing which will help us innovate in the coming years.
How do you plan to spread the word about Project Cloud to the larger community and law colleges across India?
We have a threefold plan:
- Spread the word through social media.
- Proactively collaborate with other organizations/individuals to bring attention to the cause at hand
- Leverage the relationship we have with our readers and contributors to spread the word in their colleges and Universities.
What do you think is the crux in making more law students connect and share resources with each other?
This goes to making people believe in our philosophy that only by creating an eco-system where everyone has access to information; we can live in a society where opportunity is guaranteed to all of us. The challenge here is to connect with our audience, to make them believe in our philosophy and values which will create a better if not perfect world.
How do you plan to monitor quality of the content that is being posted?
The success of Web 2.0 has made it clear that people should have and have the right to choose what they want to read. We need to respect that. This is why we are letting users choose what they want to read. Good content always receives more comments and shares on social media channels.
How do you think this portal can help laymen?
I think we are gradually watching an increasing interest in the law. The credit obviously goes to more general awareness. Project Cloud brings together so much of information at one-stop that a non-legal person will not be scattered all over the place to find it. So, he or she can concentrate on the information at hand and work on it instead of stressing too much on where to go for the content.
Are there any other similar portals in India exclusively for law students? What differentiates you from other players?
To my knowledge, there are no portals exclusively dedicated to helping law students and legal professionals to write and publish themselves. The blogging scene is quite alive; however, there are no other portals that engage in providing similar services.
How do you plan to scale?
Our growth depends on the number of people we can engage. Essentially, we need to make people feel proud and passionate about research. It is difficult because people see the web as a place where they can relax and do something apart from work. So, we have to create an environment where people are comfortable to share research and related resources.
Do you have a revenue model?
We do not have any immediate plans to generate revenue since our current focus solely is on reaching out to our target audience.
As a lawyer and an entrepreneur, what do you think is the scope for law startups in India?
As a law student and a web 2.0 enthusiast, I think the legal arena is under-developed in terms of online demand and supply. It is no longer enough that we only have lawyers and law schools. There is a lot of potential that hasn't been tapped, but, we're starting to see that change.
What advice would you give to people who want to start up?
One has to ask the question - Do people require my product or services? This is important because a start-up can succeed only when it offers what people want. This means we have to be constantly listening to the public, be humble and be ready to correct our mistakes.
We will keep you posted about all the latest updates from Project Cloud, meanwhile you check out http://projectcloud.info/ and give us your feedback. If you are a law student and found value in Project Cloud, do tell your friends and actively participate.