[Techie Tuesdays] Ravi Suhag - From helping his dad in farms to winning hackathons
Hackathons aren’t special for Techies, but what makes them special for Ravi Suhag is that he almost lives off them- Winning them has become a habit for him. Born and brought up in a small village in the Jhajjar District of Haryana, andstudying in a Hindi-medium school, computers were almost an alien concept for Suhag. For a kid who used to work in a field, it was almost a shift in destiny to be working relentlessly in hackathons winning them one after the other.
It was extremely difficult for this kid not to be intrigued by electrical devices in his vicinity. He started tearing down all the electronic devices in the house, be it a radio or a tape recorder, or even a table lamp, in order to figure out how they work. Like every curious kid, he kept a separate corner in his home dedicated to his experiments: His own little lab. In one these experiments, when he was in class 7th,Suhag bought electronic items from a junk store to build an inverter for his home.
Suhag’s introduction to computers began when he took admission in Electronics Engineering and bought a computer for himself. Before this, his tryst with computers was confined to cyber cafes. He remembers an incident when a friend asked him for a copy of a software, and Suhag copy-pasted the shortcut from his computer to his portable drive.
Soon he started playing around and learning things. He also conducted formal workshops in electronics and embedded systems for his friends and juniors. He wanted to build a website, but did not have any money or resources for it. So, Suhag decided to learn web programming by himself, building a website for himself eventually. As his prowess in web technologies increased, he started a company in his third year (2010), Inspiration Edge.
Suhag had no money to go through all the formalities of registering the company. He did everything possible to make money - teaching, sales and marketing. He also took up a job in Appin Technology Labs to save up some money to generate capital for his company, besides selling health insurance for a while to raise money for Inspiration Edge.
After graduating, Suhag took up a job in Hoppr as a front end developer, where he got to know about different communities focused on different technologies. He started attending meet-ups. Though his primary role was of a front end developer, Suhag went ahead and learnt the full technology stack to expand his abilities. Suhag worked at Hoppr for 10 months, and since then has been freelancing with multiple startups.
In July 2013, he participated in and won his first hackathon organised by Knowlarity. Suhag used their API to build a DTMF-based cloud telephony app. One could enter a question, and then enter the contact number of your friends. The app will call you friends, and ask them the question in DTMF format, which they can answer by pressing a key on their keypad. The app was live for quite some time, but then had to be taken down as the cost of API used was rising.
Till date he has participated in seven hackathons and won six of them including the latest hackathon by Sequoia, where he won the first place in Analytics track.
In one of the hackathons organised by Directi, Suhagwas awarded the title of Rockstar of Design. Though most of his hacks are closely associated with design, Suhag doesn't like to think of himself as a design person. He believes in the philosophy of "Be all you can be ".
Suhag is extremely passionate about Internet of things, and has been playing around a lot with Arduino, doing sentiment analysis on public data.
At present, Suhag is consulting with Harvard University, helping them in a joint project with the Government of India, where governments can use data to build better policies. He is currently building the dashboard, visualizing different data related to MGNREGA, and training the NIC developers with open source and use of web development.
Suhag is also expanding on one of the projects he did in AngelHack hackathon to find trending stories and convert the content archive into API, which will enable developers to build on top of it. He wants to make it a full-fledged startup.
Looking at the future Suhag says that his dream is to have a maker space specifically for students, where they can work on things that will have an impact, and make innovative stuff.