I have known Kaustubh Katdare for 11 years now. I continued to know him since I met him because I liked him playing guitar and singing Kishore Kumar for us, we liked walking, eating bhel and mocking at people and because some where our thoughts were alike. In fact I was probably the first person to laugh at him when he joined a GRE class in Pune. Little did I know that I’d be interviewing him in the form of a budding entrepreneur. The_Big_K is the apt way to start the interview series. I hope you enjoy it.
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i. Your superblog has been a popular stupidity buster. How stupid do you think people thought it was? What kind of reactions you faced?
K: I started blogging because corporate world forced me to. I sincerely believed that my managers were insane. In corporate world any simple decision would mean : Decision to call for a meeting – Time wastage in getting the right conference room – Time wastage in asking the co-workers to vacate it so that we could get in no later than 10 minutes after our scheduled time – dialing remote team’s conference phones – waiting for them – reading out agenda – resolving disputes on agenda items – tackling everyone’s intelligence – finally arriving at a consensus defined by the manager – assigning ‘task’ items and documenting them all in the name of ‘process’. I needed a place to vent out my frustration and blog was my secret place to do it. I observed that the shabby looking, never smiling and always ‘busy looking’ coworkers were rated higher in appraisals and got better paychecks. Slowly, I started realizing that people exhibit stupidity almost everywhere in various forms and levels.
I convinced myself that instead of getting frustrated it would be better for my health to start enjoying the stupidity around me. Dilbert comics & books further confirmed my conclusions. I thought to myself, “Why should I keep all the fun with me only? Let me share it with the world and point out stupidity in everyday, otherwise ‘normal’ actions.”. I kept on adding posts after posts and somehow people discovered the blog and helped in spreading the word. I never wrote anything to attract people and until now, people’s opinion has not affected my blog. Frankly speaking; people don’t have an opinion. They will believe anything that you tell them; provided you repeat it multiple times. For example: Fair & Lovely ad, huh?
ii. I have been involved with Crazyengineers.com almost since the inception. I have seen the growth & the popularity. But what I have not seen is the satisfaction in your eyes. So what is in store? Where are you taking it?
K: I wish to see it growing into an Engineering Company diversified into various engineering bussinesses. Since I do not have a background in business, I learn tens of new things every day and implement them which helps me have a better understanding of this world (business & entrepreneurship). CE is now owned by CrazyEngineers Technologies Private Limited and I’m now trying to understand how to run a company.
There’s no reason for me to be satisfied. I see lot of interesting things to do. CE already has the power of so many CEans to grow and achieve what it aims to be. If things go right, CE will be a company that every engineer will want to join and work for.
iii. Entrepreneurship doesn’t come naturally to people’s lives like you and me. When there is so much less support around, how do you deal with the conflicting opinions?
K: Entrepreneurship isn’t natural in the society that you and I grew in. I’m a big critic of Maharashtrians’ negative attitude towards entrepreneurship. Steady paycheck, job security and early life settlement is of paramount importance and and in many cases’aim in life’ for most of them. Of course, there’s nothing wrong in it. But those who want to break out; shouldn’t be looked at as evil-doers. If you (Mayur) remember; our professor had told an interesting fact about the entrepreneurship cell in our alma mater. He had said, the top rankers are picked up by top IT companies (irrespective of their engineering discipline) and those who don’t get selected anywhere opt for ‘entrepreneurship’ as ‘last choice’. Why can’t this trend change? Why can’t the ‘intelligent’ ones opt for new ideas, new ventures sacrificing the short term gains? In the long term; they’ll end up above the rest, for sure. Most importantly, they’ll help in building a startup atmosphere.
Every entrepreneur is a hero in his/her own eyes; but a total idiot for the outer world. They will wonder why you’re not working for <Oracle, Infosys, TCS….> when there are so many opportunities around. It’s a hard realization every entrepreneur makes over a period of time, I guess. Because he/she’s the only one who sees the ‘potential’ in his/her venture and why it’s worth doing than adding tabs to the already written code while sitting in a big IT building.
People’s opinions no longer matter to me. The only part tough so far is to deal with a family member getting hurt by someone’s comments. My family now knows what I do so all is well. Rest of the world doesn’t matter untill I’m selling something to them :-P.
iv. 90% of engineering students today achieve their degrees by copy pasting from books, journals, websites, practical, papers etc. If I ask you to write few lines for them, which will change their attitude; what will those lines read?
K: Copy-pasting is not bad. Even Einstein said that creativity is all about hiding your sources. Not many people know that the “DOS” responsible for Microsoft–IBM deal (which made Microsoft millions of dollars in its initial days) was not written by Microsoft. They just bought it from a talented engineer and modified it.
I admit that I was a copy-paste guy for most of my engineering days. But soon I realized that it wasn’t going to help me achieve what I dreamed about. Copy-paste is good if you want to end up like your neighborhood Pintoo bhaiyya. Even if 1% of engineers start using their own brain in their work; India will become world’s engineering hub. We’ve the talent; but we need to realize that we’re talented. Unfortunately, it isn’t so easy.
v. Do you really want to start an *engineering* college for Maharashtrian Brahmins?
K: Yes. Why not? Maharashtrian Brahmins are already in minority and there’s no one to take care of them. One thing is sure, it won’t be AICTE approved because engineering won’t be taught in traditional way. The engineers our college will produce will be top notch! If there’s anyone interested in this initiative, be with me.
vi. Thank you so much for your time. Would you like to refer me to some one who I can interview here?
K: No need to be formal. I’ve plenty of time which gets wasted anyway. You should interview Amit Grover of NurtureTalent.