[Techie Tuesdays] Anshul Singhle - The Accidental Programmer
Anshul Singhle is the son of a retired army man, but following conventions is not his idea of a perfect life. As part of work, his father had to travel across the country, and this made sure that Anshul got ample exposure in every aspect of life. Anshul started programming in Visual Basic when he was in class six. Soon, he got the hang of it.
As a child, Anshul never enjoyed programming new things, instead he chose to download existing programs from the net and modify them according to his requirements. He used to believe: "Why should I do something when people have already done it?" Once, while sitting in computer class, he downloaded a Cipher from the net and changed its User Interface to make it look different from the original. Most people were surprised to see it. "When people asked me how did you do it, I gave them some funda, and they accepted it too," recalls Anshul.
Soon he was in high school and time came for him to join the Rat Race. Anshul stopped everything else, and began preparing for IITJEE. He cleared it with AIR 760, and got into the computer science branch at IIT Kharagpur. Anshul says that it was a miracle because the cut off for Computer Science used to be around AIR 500. It was only after getting into engineering that he started programming seriously.
Anshul started experimenting with Linux. He started reading more on the Internet about it. In the first year, he began programming in Perl and Php, but later realized that they were gone. He also interned with an NGO in Pune where he developed the bare bones of a social network in Drupal. It was during this time that he learned the ropes in Drupal, and used to spend all his time on their IRC channel. He became quite popular on the Channel.
When he came back from the internship, he was inducted into the tech team of Kshitij- the annual technical festival of IIT Kharagpur. Anshul's responsibility was to take care of and maintain the codechecker engine that was used for coding challenges. To maintain it was a big task and taught him a lot of things. They even crashed it once during a practice session. It required a lot of hot-fixes, and to patch the bugs Anshul had to learn python, and thus his new love affair with the language began.
When Anshul was nominated for GSoC in 2011, he once again had to work on the Drupal repository to make it compatible with Git. Anshul credits most of his learning to the projects he did as part of different competitions. He talks about OpenSoft - an Interhostel competition where they had to work on real world problems. Anshul participated in it for all the five years he was at IIT, at times building Bluetooth-based chat application or a file versioning system. He also built a browser to search for research papers on Google Scholar, and a voice-based file browser (similar to siri).
In his final year, Anshul worked on a reassembler, which could reconstruct shredded documents. Anshul says his real education happened while managing his team of 15 people, working with them on these projects. In his 3rd year, when Anshul came to Bangalore to intern with Siemens Technologies, he met some of his seniors who were working with Android apps. While talking to them, Anshul found that one of their pain points was to get multiple devices to test their apps. Anshul volunteered to have it done for them, and thus the foundation was laid for his startup - "CrowdBeans".
At CrowdBeans they would get the apps tested on multiple devices by a crowd, which would then send the logs to the developer reporting how the application performed on the cellphone. Last year they applied to MIT AITI accelerator, and found out that there is a requirement for a tool like this,though the crowdfunding model will not be scalable. After MIT AITI, Anshul got accepted to T-Labs, they advised him to drop out. He had made up his mind to drop out, but his family didn't agree with his plans.
Thus, the hard work began: college-startup-placements grind. Anshul feels it was the toughest phase of his life. He had his T-Labs demo day on 27th November and placements starting on 1st December, and he managed to attend both, getting placed in Opera solutions, which made his family happy. Now that Anshul has graduated from college, his co-founder is still pursuing his degree, as he dropped out in between. Looking at the future Anshul says he wants to remain a programmer all his life. Who could be a better candidate for Techie Tuesdays than him!