Not to know is bad. Not to want to know is worse. Not to hope is unthinkable. Not to care is unforgivable.
— Shakthi (@v_shakthi) June 26, 2014
What’s your background?
I am a qualified Network Engineer. I did my Engineering and subsequently masters in Networking in the 1990’s. Like all other engineers I went to work in India’s IT sector where there was an amazing variety of opportunities and possibilities those days. My job took me all around the world Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, England, USA. I got brilliant opportunities to work with CitiBank, Cisco, At&T, Vodafone and a whole lot of companies that were bringing in the tech revolution into the world. In the US, I was in San Francisco for sometime and later in Atlanta. All the travel and hectic work schedules were interesting but there was something else that I was looking for, I was constantly grappling with that.
So after roughly two decades in the IT industry, I gave up my 9 to 5 job and decided to become a blogger. Those days, the number of bloggers in India were just a handful. I was then introduced to this platform called twitter. It was a fun group of techies talking to each other and exchanging ideas back then. I loved it. By that time, my first blog on the blogger platform was a big failure! I gave up blogging for sometime and concentrated on trying to make twitter my platform. Gradually I developed a plan an stuck to it
Slowly my twitter presence grew and I was getting noticed. Then again, I took my online friends a bit too seriously and treated them like my offline friends. Quickly some messy scenes happened and I learnt my lesson. But then I could not give up the trust that more than 140,000 people had in me for a few messy people,so I stuck on. And it paid off. Today, I am considered one of the biggest influencers in the country in the technology and digital spheres.
I had an opportunity to work with the great team that makes Social Media Week Bangalore happen. I delivered a keynote address there and from then on things looked better and better. Meanwhile I had started a new blog which is not a Top Tech blog yet, but is slowly and steadily getting there! I started writing regularly for print and online publications and started getting noticed! The readers of The Quill know that while I am not a Star Blogger, they get honest and very clear opinions about everything. All this may seem normal and uninteresting, but for someone in a wheelchair in my country to do all this and keep at it takes quite a bit of doing. So that is my short story! 🙂
— Shakthi (@v_shakthi) July 23, 2015
How was 2014 and early 2015 ?
Very eventful and rewarding! It started with me starting to write for my friends’ blogs to make a living. They were there for me when I needed them. In a way, they made me what I am today. Technically, the year marked the entry of two of my favorite companies to India – Xiaomi @ and Gionee @. These guys came in and simply turned the mobile market upside down.
They disrupted the whole paradigm of selling “premium” mobiles. They showed people that mobiles can be brilliantly spec-ed and affordable at the same time. Blogging is now a serious profession and influencers are respected for their opinions online. The startup scene in India became abuzz with activity and interest. Many innovative teams got together and created so many brilliant products and platforms. India became a valuable market for tech companies and got the attention it deserved.
In many ways, the end of the IT movement in India began and I feel that it is high time that we moved out of the services and customer support model and start working on innovation based business models. It has begun and will take deep roots now. I am excited to see where they are going to go. Many are foreseeing the end of the startup/valuations bubble soon, I tend to disagree, every sector corrects itself in cycles and the ones without proper value and clear vision will be cut out. Hence that is not new. What worries me is that many startups are making a habit of going after valuations without transparent business models, and the VCs do not seem to mind that! That has to change and change fast!
Anything you’d do differently?
I would definitely have loved to move to Ireland! Jokes Apart, no regrets at all. Given a chance, I would redo the same thing exactly the same way, but yes I would have loved to have started The Quill six months earlier! I would have been much happier. The Quill is now essentially an extension of the way I think and write. Write Right! That is all I want to do. I feel like writing completes me, especially mobile and android tech. Having said that, I am big on twitter but not yet a big BLOGGER, just a BIG blogger like I say. Learning everyday!
Plans for the future?
I currently help startups with their digital strategy and presence. I also work with brands that are looking to create a sustainable online engagement model. I would like to build a practice around that and build an agency that is known for honest and sustainable practices and results. And yes, it wouldn’t hurt to make some money on the side too! I would like to employ only differently able people to work there! If there are any VCs listening, please let me know! I am planning to start training young people on how to organize their online persona and presence. Life now is 50% online and 50% offline, most people get the first one wrong, I want to help there. Also irrespective of discipline, I would like to train young graduates on getting digitally aware and hence be more employable. Lofty goals, but hey, aim for the stars and all that right?
What is the tech scene like in Bangalore? what are you excited about?
Bengaluru is the Silicon Valley of this side of the world and there is absolutely no disputing that. Everything you will find in San Francisco you will find here and 100% better. The city has a very positive disposition to technology and it shows. I have seen Cable TV operators who can talk Fiber Optics and courier boys who understand responsive websites here. The policies and infrastructure aside, the very diverse talent available here makes this city THE tech destination in the country and the presence of just about every Tech Giant here is testimony to that.
I am excited about the truly cosmopolitan culture of the city and the currently buzzing startup scene here. You will find a founder in every street with a credible and brilliant idea. I am looking forward to the next 5 years here. Also, we have THE BEST set of Tech Bloggers and writers here. Kind of like Android Phone makers – together but unique. I love the blogging circle here. I am never leaving this place!
— Shakthi (@v_shakthi) July 23, 2015
The quill, how much of your views come from within India, and how much overseas? What’s the goal of the quill?
Currently India – 60% and Overseas – 40%
The Goal is to become a credible and respected Technology destination that works without bias or influence, get into the Top 500 on Alexa and then see where we can go from there!
— The Quill (@thequill_in) July 22, 2015
You have a good following on twitter, who do you find engaging with you? In what ways have you found it useful?
I have been very blessed when it comes to twitter, I value every person who follows me and try and follow everyone back. With the exception of trolls and bots. Mostly people looking for tech insights and digital related information interact. For me, it is about building a network and not a twitter account. I try to add value to everyone who interacts with me and expect the same from everyone I follow. This is a win-win in terms of traction, interaction and even influence. Twitter is a hub and spoke network to me and I take that very seriously. People like Barack Obama @ and Rehman Mallik @ follow me, but hey, I can’t wake up every morning thinking what I will tell them today can I? I don’t take the number seriously but I love the network and work hard to maintain and expand it on a daily basis.
You do a few things, how do you manage to balance them all?
Where there is a will, there is a way. And I personally believe that sleep is over-rated and time is limited. So I try and squeeze in more work into the fixed hours that we all get. My family helps a lot by being supportive. I have a brilliant set of friends who help me keep sane in the madness. Time Management starts with keeping your inbox clean on a daily basis and doing that without a folder called “pending” and yes, a lot of music helps too!
— Shakthi (@v_shakthi) July 23, 2015
What tech do you use to make your life easier?
Where do I begin. It starts with my three smartphones that are carefully comfigured exactly the same way, one for home, one when I am out and a third backup. I do a lot of emailing from my mobile. I am hyper-active on social media so, my mobiles help a ton there. I have a lot of online stuff that Dropbox helps to organize. I am a BIG fan of MS Office and use it even on my android devices. MIUI is brilliant when it comes to scheduling meetings and arranging a whole set of things around it. I love wordpress. I am in my mind thinking of an android-based self driven wheelchair in the future. Fingers crossed!
What tech do you wish was invented already to make your life easier?
Android should have been here in the 90s. I tell you, we would be living on Mars now. And yes, only MIUI and Amigo versions! Nothing else! Imagine having an OK Google search when handling a seminar! Brilliant!
Have you been to Ireland? What’s your impression of the Irish tech scene from where you are?
I applied for a job once, everything went well but fell through due to my mobility issues, let me know if there are any more openings! Would love to move there! I read a lot and know that Ireland is a hotbed of tech. I know that Ireland is a veritable tech hub in europe and houses a cosmopolitan population of techie who are working on exciting stuff. I plan to visit once, have heard a lot of things about the culture and accessibilty there.
Will we have a Web Summit style event in India too soon?
We already do – There is Social Media Week, Various other events and a lot of bloggers gatherings with the industry happening regularly here. We have a lot of TedX stuff also happening.