Switching off the lights

Earlier this year, Animesh and I, took the tough decision to stop QICE & Learnflow – the companies that both of us started 5 years back. I write this post as a sort of timeline, on how we went from starting up our company to winding it up a few months back. I also plan to write about the lessons learned from all this.

In 2011, As I reached the end semester of my college, I hardly had starting a company on my mind. My plan was either to get a job or fly away to the States to do my M.S. But after I had gotten a couple of job offers, I realised they didn’t challenge me enough to warrant giving any amount of years in my life to it.

I scored a decent score in the GRE exams, but not enough to make it to the top universities. And frankly by the time, the exam ended, I was just honestly glad I didn’t have to study any more. Somehow, I couldn’t see spending more time looking at books, and memorising them to spit it all out in the exam. It was becoming clear further studies were a no-go for me.

As I wondered over what to do with my life, I got a call from a friend who had worked for Microsoft. Microsoft had outsourced training to one of their partners, who were looking for trainers. The assignment was to train college students on C#, a platform I was far too familiar with. I immediately enlisted Animesh’s help and thus began our journey.

Somewhere in the middle, one of the companies that offered me a job called me up to inform me of the joining date. Waking up from an afternoon nap, I told them, that I won’t be joining. When pressed for a reason, I just said “I am sleeping.”

Over the next couple of years, we would go to roughly 40 colleges all over India to train students on a variety of topics. Ultimately, after a while, we got tired of shuttling between cities and infrequent assignments, that we set up our own centre in Nagpur.

We began training students in Nagpur and ran multiple batches introducing students to the wonderful world of programming. But somewhere down the line, training was getting a bit at us. I was beginning to understand that programming is not for everyone (and sometimes even wonder, if it is for me)

I met students who would just grasp everything on the first day, and go figure out more and come back with the entire program done. These kind of students hardly needed any training, except for an occasional push in the right direction. And then there would be students, who would join, because they heard Computer Programming was a lucrative career. The trouble was, they would sometimes have a tough time grasping the concepts. Even after 20-30 classes, there would be students fumbling with the basic GET / POST concepts. It was certainly hard to deal with such students. It might sound elitist to say this, but not everyone has aptitude for programming. (Note : Sometimes I falter so much with programming, I wonder if, even I have aptitude for programming.)

Honestly, we would have roughly 1-2 decent students in a batch of 20. This was not working out as well as we thought. So somewhere down the line, we shifted tracks to building software. We started with building websites, graduated to web apps, and ultimately mobile apps. We were now a web / mobile development agency. This is where the fun began.

We hired a few amazing people, trained them, and worked on some amazing projects. We learnt a whole lot about building web apps, new technologies and worked with some good clients. We had our fair deal of project mismanagement, overshooting budgets and timelines – the usual issues. If it was not for this time, I wouldn’t have learnt so much about software and people, in such a short time. Running a business was like putting to test all my skills at the same time. More than anything else, I understood a whole lot about myself – and that has been helpful.

After doing this for a good deal of 5 years, it reached a point, where due to multiple reasons – we were not able to continue what we were doing. When I had started, I had never thought of quitting. I had always thought this is what I would be doing forever. For me, dissociating with the company, was the toughest – but it had to be done, no matter what.

And so, after 5 years, we took the decision to wind up operations. We spent the next couple of months, helping people transition to their new jobs and clients with their project. Looking back, I have been incredibly lucky to have spent time of my life on a huge challenge, and with some amazing people by side. And in retrospect, this has been one of the best phase of my life.

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