[Techie Tuesdays] How the employee no. 1 of Flat.to almost built a Saavn competitor
Hemesh Singh is not your run of the mill coder. He first got exposed to the world of coding in his school days only where the computer lab used to be his second home. For most part during his early days Hemesh typed programs from his textbook into the school computer and relished when the output matched the book. At present Hemesh is leading the development of iOS version of Flatchat, the signature app of Flat.to.
Hemesh was born and brought up in Agra (UP) and both of his parents are PhD holders. Teachers by profession, both the parents have believed strongly in education and its importance in one's life. By the time, Hemesh reached college, he was well acquainted to most programming languages and hence started working on web technologies. Since he didn't have a laptop of his own in the beginning of his college days, he worked on his friends' laptops to learn web development. Soon he came to know about the existence of the Web Development Society which was the student community handling all the technology related stuff in college. This is where his real education took place.
Being part of the tech team Web Development Society members had access to most of the student data in the college. They built portals for result entry, wrote scripts for processing the data of over 5000 students and made the system to enable semester wise registration of the students. Hemesh also helped in building the system for counseling of M.Tech students based on their GATE scores which would automatically allot seats for them.
The Web Development Society team automated many processes in college. By the end of first year, Hemesh's branch was changed from IT to EC. It came as a huge shock for him. Unlike most colleges, professors in Hemesh's college were supportive of students' extra-currilcular activities and also helped them out. Their Dean too was helping them with their projects.
You can test only so much
Hemesh recalled an incident which made them realize the limits of testing,
"The system for M.Tech. registrations which we had designed was flawed and unfortunately we noticed that only after the applicants started calling. We forgot to include the physically handicapped criteria(category). However the mistake was resolved after some time." He added profoundly, "You can only test your code so much, but when you run it on the real data, it's very difficult to find if anything is wrong."
While in College, Hemesh grew fond of Grooveshark, he was not really satisfied with the way content was managed on the site and the very fact that it didn't have popular Hindi songs. This triggered him to build a music streaming portal, MetalGrunge. He says, "Though there was Saavn.com and Gaana.com that time, Gaana had an ugly flash interface and it didn't stream properly." It was only when he came to know about Indiatimes backing Gaana, he decided not to pursue that idea any further.
SquiferDuring his vacation, Hemesh saw his friends in other colleges running around and exchanging notes. He decided to help them by building a platform where people could upload their notes as pdf and their friends would download them.
Hemesh Says, " Our vision was to build something like soundcloud but for documents, to provide widgets and all for the distribution. After building it, we realized that a lot of big players are already there in the market, and document cloud is not something people need badly. I couldn't see a direct revenue model for the site and since I was unable to partner with any big brands, the paid subscription type model was also out of question. Hence, there wasn't a lot of point in pushing it further, and I scraped it too."
When one of his friends who was a competitive coder got placed in Facebook US. His mind was diverted to competitive programming. Hemesh teamed up with his friends and got started with practicing SPOJ, TopCoder and CodeChef. This led to fruitful results and they stood second from India in IIT-K ICPC, 7th in ACM-ICPC-SAARC.
After his college Hemesh got in touch with Gaurav Munjal, founder of Flat.to through a mutual friend and started working on Flat.to. He was building the initial version of the platform and was the first employee of the company. Talking about the future Hemesh says he is looking forward to work on his own startup sometime.