In her new book 'Super Siblings', author and entrepreneur Prachi Garg chronicles some inspiring stories of enterprising siblings. We bring you an extract from a chapter on WittyFeed, one of India's largest content platforms.
So many sleepless nights have been spent in hostel rooms, with youthful dreams and ambitious plans. Many ideas are born and built, some die on the other side of the sleep. Some live to see the morning of fond memories. Some even become half way milestones for the daring few who take the brain storming day-dreaming sessions to the next level. But it is this undisputed golden period of bricking aspirations with the cement of potential that becomes the foundation of creating dynamic adults out of college boys. Some use this period to sail through the tough years of education by fitting into suitable company of peers, some step up further still and discover friendship that becomes more meaningful than most bonds they have had for life. It is out of these bonds, companionships and explorations of equations that the lucky few also find people who grow up to become their brother from another mother. Such bonds stand strong through the test of time and such friendships culminate into bonding that spills beyond coffee table discussions or night outs. These are the people who practically become the pillars of each other's life.
Exploring such bonds of brotherhood and friendship, I walked into the swankiest of offices in the city of Indore; a place that the entire internet is crazy about, one that churns more creative juices than probably a buffet of artists would have in the streets of Italy during the Renaissance movement. With colors to break clutter, triggers to instigate brain-storming and seats to put you into a comfortable, playful mood, it took some effort to shut my awestruck jaw. While some places were filled with people diligently chalking ideas on boards, others were surprisingly calm and soothing. It was in this corner that I saw someone with his head on the ground and feet up in the air - the Sirshasan posture. "Brain-storming has many meanings. This is me storming my brain with blood-flow and energy. That's how most of my ideas are born!"
Meet the young and very talented Shashank Vaishnav who can charm you with a smile and engage you in a relay of conversations that will blow your mind. Shashank, at twenty- six, is one of the most dynamic leaders, a masterly thinker, a creative simulator and co-founder of the second most successful content generation portal in its domain in the entire world! He is also a friend, partner and brother by bond to his best-friend from college and his comrade for both personal and professional journeys. Vinay Singhal, the other co-founder in the picture, was also the founder of dreams with Shashank back in their days in engineering college. The first member in his family to dream big and pursue engineering, Vinay is known for his perfection, for his die hard attitude and for his larger than life energy that puts a zing on anything it touches.
A small hostel room in Chennai witnessed the formulation of ideas and action plans that culminated into many entrepreneurial endeavours, ventures, failures and successes initiated by the ambitious pair. With serious deliberation, this pursuit led to the establishment of Vatsana Technologies in 2011. Times changed, other founding members altered their aspirations too, but before and beyond everything, Vatsana stayed afloat and sailed through many days of crests and troughs. With their independent as well as mutual interests and capacities, the duo had an array of skill sets including content development, social media management, business strategy to name a few from the list. How this buffet grew into a mammoth business is a story straight out what would make a great film script! It all started with a page on Facebook where they would put together things of interest that people would like to read and engage with.
"With a whooping four million followers of the page, we realized that it was time for us to monetize this audience. So we built a website and put ad sense and started our journey. Later we realized that it was a common problem. A lot of other pages had an audience, but no content, and that is why we came up with the idea of starting a platform that would have content in a myriad of categories," Vinay explains about the genesis.
In September 2014, the dynamic duo launched WittyFeed as a solution which is a one stop platform for content creators, consumers, and publishers. Declaring it as the 'Mecca of virality,' the co-founders explain the enterprise as being a modern age tool for all mediums of expression that is redefining how the internet can access and generate content.
However, the stalwarts of this viral genius were not born with silver spoons or lucky charms. In fact, it was each other's support, their true brilliance and the drive to excel, no matter what that changed their course of growth. A little sneak peek into what went behind the making of what we know as WittyFeed today is a spellbinding story. After Vatsana Technologies launched into the world of enterprises, many hurdles of time, financial investment, stress of academic pursuit for the college students and change in priorities came to action. While most members and friends drifted apart, Shashank and Vinay continued their efforts.
"It was at this stage that we walked on different roads for about a year, making our own discoveries, building our own strengths," Shashank recollects.
'These are the best of times, these are the worst of times' was certainly true for the friends as well as brothers! Despite their individual accomplishments during their time away from each other, the duo found themselves at a juncture that shook them up.
"Just when we thought we had hit the right spots in our respective work, my mentor turned his back on me. Exactly around this time, Shashank was on the verge of signing the most devastating of deals had it come through!" Vinay expresses with an obvious relief in his tone about what happened next.
This jolt, that actually came as a blessing in disguise for the duo, brought them back together as they planned to merge the best of their endeavours. Thus, with a series of failures, dead ends and bankruptcies to their list of incredible experiences, Shashank and Vinay got back together to build WittyFeed and bring it into what has today become the largest website in the country in terms of content generation and amongst the top 25 most read websites in the UK.
While these brothers from different mothers were exploring and earning credits in the world of enterprise, there was another person, close to both Shashank and Vinay, equally passionate about the charisma of the internet. This was the then seventeen-year- old brother of Vinay, Parveen. It was Parveen who had discovered and started tapping on the phenomenon of internet virality and mastered its tricks and treats. Today, as the third co-founder of WittyFeed and a dedicated power-house COO, he is the man who takes care of the social media, content, and traffic acquisition for the venture and at twenty-one, stands suavely as one of the youngest successful entrepreneurs of the country. Thus, the brothers cum friends cum entrepreneurs form the most invincible trio that is breaking hell loose on internet with their wit, sharpness, strategy and determination.
Sitting in the office buzzing with energy, enthusiasm and evidently pouring success, you wonder what at all would be missing, or even remotely challenging for this trio who seem to have cracked the code! But a simple question to the co-founders will bring you the answer, bringing along with it an astounding insight into how simple and yet supreme effects do experiences and especially failures have in the lives of great men.
"You have to go through the failures and mishaps to understand what works and what doesn't," Shashank explains. "And I consider us very lucky to have figured out at least what doesn't work."
In the beginning of their experiments with the venture, Shashank and Vinay indulged in what they call parallel entrepreneurship, investing in many ideas around web content and more. While these experiments were individually doing fairly well, the co-founders soon realized that it was diverting and distracting their resources into way too many channels.
"There came a stage when we had more content and users on our portals than needed. This could have been a time to sail away in the flow and let the many streams of Vatsana overwhelm us," Vinay shares, "but we took this time to step out into an objective purview and look at where we wanted to head and how we wanted to steer this now giant ship."
With great power comes great money - the trio at WittyFeed had already witnessed this within the first few years of operation.
'Super Siblings' is published by Srishti Publishers & Distributors. It has 199 pages.