[Techie Tuesdays] Akshay Katyal - The 22-year-old who is building Rapportive for your mobile phone


Computer Science was a second choice for Akshay Katyal. Born and brought up in Delhi, Akshay loved physics more than anything else and wanted to be a mechanical engineer. But destiny had other plans for him and he ended up taking Computer Science engineering in Indraprasth University. Today, Akshay is the CTO of AboutNumber - a startup which brings rapportive to your mobile phone.

Akshay had his first brush with programming when he was in high school. As computers became a part of the curriculum, he immersed himself into programming to learn more than what books can offer. He started playing with graphics and writing basic games and animation scripts in C++.

Akshay Katyal (right)

In college, Akshay was invited to attend a tech meetup by his friend. Akshay recalls,

I was not interested at all, but then he took me there forcibly and made me sit through the complete talk. That talk was mesmerizing. Although, the speaker was not very good, but that talk woke up the 'school guy who used to code'. Then there was nothing stopping me.

After this, Akshay got into web development and started building a lot of things. He tried out different technologies and once again moved to game programming. He built several games and asked his friends to try them out by distributing the APKs as he did not have an account in play store.

Getting introduced to Open Source

In the process of building these games, Akshay understood the importance of UI and UX. After coding a good number of games Akshay realized that he was getting bored of games and needed a change. He was getting inclined towards developing for open source. When Akshay was in his third year, one of his seniors introduced him to the Delhi Mozilla Community. Mozilla Community was abuzz with the talks of the Firefox OS (it was known as Boot2Gecko - codename for Firefox OS).

Akshay started his contribution to the project by fixing bugs but they were getting rejected initially. He continued to fix them and they started getting accepted. Akshay says, "I just used to browse github everyday and look for projects I could contribute to."

Building Contacts Sync for Firefox OS

Akshay proposed an idea for contacts sync service in Firefox OS for his Google Summer of Code(GSoC) and it got accepted. During his GSoC, Akshay implemented the Contact Sync service in Firefox OS. In parallel, he was working on other ideas for his startup too. He had built a platform to search for doctors and chemists in an area. The idea won few Business-Plan competitions too. However, Akshay and his cofounder, both being tech guys did not know what to do once the product was built and hence did not pursue the idea further.

An offer from MEGA

While working at GSoc, Akshay also started contributing to another project known as project Bower (a package manager for web) by twitter. He added couple of features in the initialization command, as a result of which it became more powerful in the process of creating a package. Looking at his contributions, the maintainer of the project who was also the lead engineer at MEGA(of MEGAUPLOAD fame) offered him to work with them. But as Akshay was in 3rd year he had to let go of the opportunity.

When placements season arrived, Akshay had only two choices - either join ThoughtWorks or work for a startup. He sat for the interview and got rejected. Akshay says,

So, I would say that I've had two 'checkpoints' in my life, the one where I get introduced to my seniors and get inspired and the other one, ThoughtWorks rejection. Now when I think of it, it wasn't that bad. If it wasn't for that rejection, I wouldn't have joined HackerEarth, met Aishwarya and started AboutNumber.

Akshay built the complete backend for AboutNumber and the company has already launched a private beta. In future, Akshay wants to help the startup ecosystem in the India and also bridge the knowledge gap in the schools and colleges with what the actual requirements of the industry.

These may seem like big words for a 22 yrs old, but looking at his passion does not seem impossible!


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