At the latest event of the Pune Rails Meetup – we organized a hackfest for the ‘second’ time (ahem – the first one ended before it started). This time however, we had a plan:
“Citizen Empowerment for Better Governance” – the aim was to complete the MVP for this in 2 days! We had a record attendance of 25-30 people on both days. I was skeptical of how much we could do, how much we can organize and if we can manage to keep everyone satisfied – it was make or break!
http://kipwiki.heroku.com — WE DID IT! This portal is almost complete (a few technical glitches but over all I would say it was success in more ways than one. The source code is hosted on github: https://github.com/punerb/kipwiki The hitch was that MongoHQ use v1.6 which does not support $nearSphere conditions for geo-spatial indexing — this causes our geo-location to go for a toss.
These are the lessons we learnt:
This was not mandated but recommended (LoL — “mandatory pair-programing” — an oxymoron?). This photo says it all. Everyone paired with someone automagically — and it worked like a charm.
There were plenty of more modules build, tracked and tweaked. However, everyone was open to change, talking to everyone AND most importantly committed to “GETTING IT DONE”.
What we did
Initially,we had some mocks that we got confirmed – narrowed down the scope of work to 2 days, discussed with Peter at length what he wanted and then planned this hackfest. The first morning – we discussed the plan and with 1 hour we got down to business. This was our rails stack:
– Rails 3.0.7
– MongoDb (via Mongoid)
– Devise & omniauth for authentication
– mongoid-paperclip (with S3 as storage).
– Heroku and MongoHQ
– jQuery search result filtering
The Party continued into the night
Peter sponsored not just the lunches and dinners – but also ensured there was a steady flow of juices, snacks, fruits and beer! Shardul did not miss the chance to ‘showcase drink-fest’ 😉
Peter even bought a ‘Hackfest’ cake – what more could we ask for?
We worked on the first day till 11.30pm and then crashed to be ready for Day2. Day2 was very very productive and we were coding till 1.30am in the night to reach the finish.
Lots of beer, fun, ‘resolving conflicts’, ‘git blame’ games — and even doing something right like this one of Sergey! 😉
Coding, Designing and Testing
We were able to churn out a LOT of code indeed. But it did not start there. We had to design the web-portal with our designers, we had pivotal tracker to track stories and rspec to test the models. No we did not do ALL this. We used Pivotal tracker to check and evaluate stories and unfortunately we did not do Test Driven Development. Some of the things that we need to improve.
The excellent part of was that we had some rock-star programmers – who churned out a LOT of awesome code and we had some excellent designers who helped with designing.
“427 commits from 17 developers” and here is the impact:
We missed out on Test Driven Development!!
This is one thing that we need to do differently at the next hackfest. Its very important to see this work beautifully and always be ‘code green’.
All in all I think we are ready to be a part of RailsRumble later this year and I do intend to get Pune.rb on the RailsRumble map!
(Pune-based Startup ShopSocially, whose launch was covered on PuneTech last year has recently been in the news again for their launch of SocialConnect, a product for online retailers to easily add social shopping features to their existing e-commerce site. Suneetha talked to Samir Palnitkar and Sunil Arora of ShopSocially, and this article starts with an overview of ShopSocially (again), and then goes on to their latest offerings, and future plans.)
Buying a camera or a laptop and looking for some advice? Referrals seem to be taking over shopping decisions now more than ever, and the web is a key player in this activity. It’s this concept that ShopSocially has leveraged successfully by integrating the concepts of online shopping and facebook. Samir Palnitkar and Sunil Arora talk about how ShopSocially has come on the online social shopping map. Samir Palnitkar, an alumnus of IIT-Kanpur, is the President of ShopSocially and Sunil Arora, an alumnus of IIT-Kharagpur is a Founding Member who now looks after the technology aspects of the company.
Sam says it all started with a thought about harnessing social networking. Jai Rawat (CEO of ShopSocially) had spent several years in the ecommerce and online shopping space. As social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter were becoming popular, Jai realized that social recommendations via Facebook and Twitter would become a key traffic and revenue driver for e-commerce. These thoughts were the foundation behind ShopSocially. In the offline space, we tend to consult friends before making a buying decision. Why not do the same in the online space? That led to the idea behind ShopSocially set up in 2009.
You just need to register a free account with ShopSocially and shoot your shopping questions or declare your impressions on the platform. Why waste countless hours researching stuff and reading anonymous reviews? Of course, this works best when you have lots of ShopSocially Friends. Your Facebook friends automatically become your ShopSocially Friends when they join in. You can also earn badges or become ‘Shopping Gods’ depending on the intensity and frequency of your activity.
And how does it work for a retailer?
“Retailers can integrate with ShopSocially’s social commerce platform to harness the tremendous power of social recommendations. ShopSocially helps turn every purchase into a conversation and a social endorsement driving significant ‘friend referred’ traffic back to the retailer site. Retailers can get 2% to 6.5% incremental sales by integrating with the ShopSocially platform.”
ShopSocially has evolved quite a lot its model. It started off as an end-user site. Then they realized that the ShopSocially platform was highly attractive for retailers who wanted to socially enable their websites. So they launched Social Connect, to allow retailers to easily plug in to the ShopSocially platform. SocialConnect allows the retailer to add social features into the existing e-commerce platforms. Specifically, after a customer has purchased something, they are encouraged to share this purchase with their facebook friends (i.e. recommend this item to their other friends).
In addition, ShopSocially also automatically creates a new “Shoppers” tab on the company’s facebook fan page, where website where prospective customers can check whether any of their existing facebook friends have bought anything from this merchant, and if yes, what they’ve been buying, and what the reviews are.
ShopSocially started working with retailers in a fixed fee model but soon realized that it was easier for retailers to work with a performance-based or a subscription-based model; so quickly changed their pricing to meet the needs of retailers. Samir quotes an experience here. “We were thrilled when one of our retailers saw an increase of nearly $1 million in revenues per year by integrating with the ShopSocially solution.”
By now, I was getting convinced that it was all limited to the web user, but no, ShopSocially is already seeing beyond that parameter. Samir tells me that ShopSocially is as relevant for a customer outside the web precincts. “Yes. Social recommendation is how we buy most of our products, whether online or offline. In the near future, ShopSocially plans to bring product sharing to mobile devices. That will allow shoppers to share offline purchases with friends.”
So what about India specific plans? Sunil Arora says “In the next few months, we will be rolling out our solution in India. We expect retailers to embrace ShopSocially really quickly. Currently, ShopSocially is the only company in the world that offers a comprehensive social commerce suite for retailers. There are other competitors, but no company offers a suite that integrates with the most common user touch points, order confirmation page, Facebook FAN page and order confirmation email. Check this out here http://shopsocially.com/partners
So what is the future map?
“ShopSocially will continue to add other social components that benefit retailers. These components will increase sharing and drive incremental traffic to retailer sites. Another dimension is integration with popular shopping carts such as Magento, Shopify and osCommerce. ShopSocially will continue to make integration simpler by offering pre-integrated plug-ins for various shopping carts. We feel that ShopSocially has the opportunity to become a global billion dollar company. We do not need a large team (maybe < 100 people), but we will continue to handpick the brightest minds to work on the exciting problems that we are solving daily.”
What:TechMarathi meeting, featuring “How to build Marathi Websites” with Prasad Shirgaonkar When: Saturday, 25 Sept, 4pm-7pm Where: Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Atur Centre, Model Colony. Map. Registration and Fees: This event is free for all. No registration required.
ShopSocial.ly is a Pune-based startup that launched a couple of weeks back and immediately got coverage from both TechCrunch and GigaOm – which is a major achievement for any startup.
To give PuneTech readers some insights into what it takes to build and launch a startup like this out of Pune, we talked to a bunch of people associated with ShopSocial.ly.
First, here is a short interview with Jai Rawat, CEO of ShopSocial.ly:
Congratulations on the launch of ShopSocial.ly and the coverage from . Can you give a brief overview of ShopSocial.ly from your point of view?
We all trust our friends advice much more than what the advertisers tell us. Yet, currently most of our shopping is influenced by the ads. ShopSocially is built on the vision that the influence needs to shift from ads to our circle of trust – i.e. friends.
ShopSocially allows you tap into the collective wisdom of friends to get trusted recommendations. Friends can not only ask questions, they can also share their purchases to get comments and feedback.
The idea of social shopping is not new. In fact, many people in the Pune startup ecosystem will be familiar with the success of Kaboodle which launched in 2005. So how is ShopSocial.ly different?
First a disclosure – Kaboodle CEO happens to be a very good friend and fellow IIT Kanpur Alumnus.
While the original premise behind Kaboodle was similar to ShopSocially, they have really focused more on shopping search rather than creating a network for friends. Recall that at the time Kaboodle started, social networking had not taken roots.
On the ShopSocial.ly about page, I notice that you appear to have used a lot of small Pune companies/freelancers in building your product. I recognize Shashank Deshpande (of Clarice Technologies) who usually does usability, Prakash Thombre (of widemediaguy) who does graphic design, Rohan Dighe (of SocialWebFactory) who does social-media/facebook apps, Mangesh Yadav (of Joomlian) who builds websites, and I’m sure there are others that I do not recognize. As someone interested in the Pune “startup ecosystem”, I’m thrilled at this level of collaboration amongst Pune’s small companies. Would you comment upon how you approached this aspect of building your product, and whether you see this as a continuing/sustainable approach in the future?
There is certainly no dearth of great talent in India – even for the cutting edge web 2.0 technologies. My previous startup, AirTight Networks is also based in Pune and was one of the first product companies born out of India. Just like AirTight, ShopSocially product development has happened completely in Pune. The team has done a phenomenal job. In fact when people visit the site, one of the first question they ask me is who built the site and where did I find these people. They are quite incredulous that we were able to find such talent in India.
So yes, I very much see this as a continuing /sustainable approach going forward.
What do you see as the primary challenge for ShopSocial.ly to tackle now?
The immediate priority is to really understand and analyze user behavior and make necessary changes. If we can delight our users, they will feel compelled to invite their friends and it will go viral.
Your previous company, Airtight Networks, was an enterprise software company, and this one is a consumer web service. Can you talk about the difference in approach required for these two different kinds of companies? What extra efforts does a Pune-based startup need to take to be able to succeed in these two markets?
Enterprise software and consumer web service are two very very different animals. Enterprise products sell on functionality. Usability is important but it is more of a race to build the most number of features. The product comes with a thick user manual and is used by a few people who get special training to use that product.
Consumer web service on the other hand needs to be very intuitive and simple. It is very tempting to add a lot of features and the hard part is to maintain the discipline of keeping it simple.
I would say that building an enterprise product is a little harder especially if your customers are abroad. Unless developers understand the customer mindset, it is hard for them to build the right product. For consumer facing products, it is a bit easier because you can think like a consumer yourself. However, at the same time, consumer facing products require a lot of iterations on the user interface which can be very frustrating.
What are the most common mistakes you see amongst the young entrepreneurs these days?
I think one of the biggest mistake I see is that often they are more focused on perfecting their VC pitch rather than their idea. Their goal is to somehow convince a VC to put some money into the company. This is exactly the wrong approach. First and foremost you need to convince yourself that it is worth spending the next few years underpaid and overworked chasing this idea. Your energy should be focused on researching and refining the idea until you can honestly sell it to yourself. Once you are fully convinced, even if you don’t get VC funding, you may still find the passion and energy to pursue it anyways.
I always tell them to ask a simple question to themselves – is the idea worth failing at? The odds are stacked up against you. 9 out of 10 companies fail. However, even if you fail, you should be able to look back and say it was still worth it.
As indicated in one of the questions to Jai, we at PuneTech absolutely loved the fact that so many different Pune companies have been used by ShopSocial.ly in building their product. We tried to talk to some of them to get a feel for the interesting aspects of working on ShopSocial.ly.
Rohan Dighe, Pune-based founder of SocialWebFactory, who did the tight integration of ShopSocial.ly with facebook, points out that this exercise had some interesting challenges:
We noticed that people end up with two different networks of friends – one on ShopSocial.ly, which is smaller and more focused, and another on Facebook, which is larger and more diffuse. The conversations + comments that happen around any post are very different in these two settings. To ensure a seamless experience, what we now do is pull the entire Facebook discussion around any ShopSocial.ly post, and display it on ShopSocial.ly along with the native comments.
Another great thing about the Facebook integration is that ShopSocial.ly does not have a user registration or user login mechanims. We fully leverage Facebook for this, and thus we are able to get a full profile of any user (from Facebook) without them having to provide any data, and without them having to remember yet another username and password.
Shashank Deshpande of Clarice Technologies who helped ShopSocial.ly on user interaction design & product branding, points out that one of the most difficult things to do in a product like this is to keep it simple:
Shopping and socializing are two activities that we all have been doing for years, and hence we know a lot about them. Due to this, the first instinct would have been to add lots of features related to shopping and lots of features related to socializing to the product. However, doing that results in a product that non-techy consumers find a little confusing and overwhelming. We had to work really hard to reduce the functionality of the product and bring it down to a very small number of actions that are intuitive, and yet powerful enough that encompass the most important aspects of the product. The “Shout” and “Share” actions that you see on ShopSocial.ly are the result of that process.
Visual designers at Clarice Technologies had a challenging task to create product brand that would appeal to the international audience. Choice of product logo, colors & overall visual treatment was critical to make the product stand out from the plethora of consumer portals.
At the end of all these conversations, doubts still remain about what potential is there in this area, and we decided to get an expert opinion.
Basically, Social shopping is not a new concept, and there have been a number of startups in this space, including successful ones. For example, was started 5 years ago, and sold to Hearst corporation in 2007. Luckily for us, one of the co-founders of Kaboodle, Chetan Pungaliya, is now based in Pune. Although Chetan is not connected to ShopSocial.ly in any way, we caught up with Chetan to get his views on this market. Specifically, if social shopping is more than 5 years old, is there still scope for new startups to do interesting things in this space? Chetan thinks there is still a lot of potential:
The existing batch of social shopping startups, of which Kaboodle is one of the most successful, happened in the pre-Facebook era. They have their own social network, and users went there specifically. However, if social shopping can happen in the context of a user’s other social activity, for example, while doing other things on facebook, that can significantly improve the reach. New social shopping sites that nail this can do well. Also, as the internet becomes more entrenched and people start buying more categories online (which were not being bought online before – for example, art), new models of social shopping will emerge. I think, this remains an exciting space to watch.
There you have it – a broad multi-person view of ShopSocial.ly. This is an experimental format for PuneTech, so please let us know what you think of the format in comparison to a more conventional overview/interview.
PlanetAikon is a forum that allows “community powered innovation”. It is a Pune-based startup which allows its members to “connect, collaborate and co-create”. It strives to be a unique innovation ecosystem bringing together a community of ideators, contributors and sponsors – in other words, it connects the guys with the bright ideas, the guys with the money, and the guys with skills and time to implement the idea.
This is the story of TZen, one of PlanetAikon’s success stories. It is written by Prateek Dubey and originally appeared on the PlanetAikon Blog, and is republished here with permission.
TZen – The Tool whose Time has Come
Hi- I am Prateek Dubey and I have a Story to share with You – The Story of Tzen
The Inspiration and the Rationale
It all started when Zensar Technologies Testing Center of Excellence decided about 2 yrs ago to develop a test tool which will be used for Manual Testing for Projects in Zensar and to encourage use of Test Tools among associates. Add to that the prohibitive cost of branded Testing tools and the Training & Upgrade costs associated with it were the significant business drivers which strengthened our resolve to build such a tool.
We developed our first Test Tool prototype which was a Test Management Layer over an Opensource Defect Management Tool called “Bugzilla”, which was based on technologies like CGI, perl and mysql.
We soon realized that our prototype was not going to fulfil the future requirements of Test Management, as CGI was slow and handling large data in an efficient way was a challenge. This was the time when we started a new prototype which was based on new AJAX Technology. An article about a newly introduced web services concept called REST sparked further ideas. After a month of design and re-design we finally had a draft design ready. We chose php for implementing our web services to support the development of a quick, easy to understand and highly responsive tool. We wanted this application to be a full-fledged WebTop Application, keeping in mind that we were designing it for the future. We came up with a prototype which was named “TZen” by our project manager Vishal Wani. Vishal encouraged us to do a Demo of our Prototype to some internal projects. The Demo was an instant hit as nobody had ever seen a Web Application which loaded only once and then ran on the browser as a Desktop Application.
With Vishal’s and Testing Practice Head Prem Apte’s continued support, we started development of our product with help from Testing Community in Zensar. As we developed TZen further we were facing serious technology challenges as “Ajax” was a new technology and we were at par with rest of the world in exploration of the same. Thus, every time we ran into an issue we had to resolve it mostly by ourselves. We were also using Technologies like Yahoo UI library and Dojo, it took us around 6 months to come up with a first fully functional TZen prototype. We deployed it at various projects and got a lot of feedback on our implementation, TZen was still very basic in functionality and we still had a lot of work to be done. During this time we had a lot of organizational changes in team and finally we were left as a 2 member team from a 4 member team.
Reinventing TZen with Community Powered Innovation
TZen went slow for about 6 months until recently when it got revived by a Zensar Opensource Innovation initiative with the help of Planetaikon Platform. We started with significant doubts about what we could achieve through an Open Community involvement. But with support of NASSCOM (under their Innovation Initiatives) and the leadership at Zensar we soon found ourselves inundated by requests from individuals from other companies to join this initiative.
We had the usual initial teething issues as folks were adapting to working on a on-line collaborative co-creation platform (as against meeting face-to-face or the “business-as-usual” of e-mail exchanges).
We got a lot of feedback from participants which led us to shortlist 27 (twenty seven) new features to the existing version of our tool.
Those who contributed did so because of their passion to create something and did so in after-office hours and on weekends. In approximately 5 months time we were able to come up with our Release 1.1 with those 27 additional features which we have again contributed back to the community.
Our Vision is to develop TZen into the most successful Opensource Test Management Platform. Our Team size has now grown to 66 (Sixty Six)!
TZen is designed ground up to be Opensource and Agile development compliant product. It can be developed quickly and tested easily. This was recently re-integrated when a small set of students with only a few days of TZen exposure, created a “Commenting System” for TZen , which is going to be featured in the next TZen release again a validation of the value that communities can provide
TZen – A Snapshot
TZen provides most features that a Test Management Tools must have. These include:
Test Plan Management
Test Case Management
Test Execution Management
Defect Management (integrated with Mantis)
Reports and Exports at various levels
The Road Ahead
As we progress, we look forward to the community to help us take this product to new heights. Some of the features we plan to include are
Extensive graph and Chart support
Server pull services and more….
TZen has got a lot of business, technical and innovation opportunity ready to be explored and taken forward, improvements at every level are in progress.
We are now throwing open another call to professionals who are keen to participate in taking TZen to its next high. We are looking for Php 5 developers, Testing Domain Experts, Usability Domain Professionals and Testers.
Come add to our adrenalin and let us show the world how the audacity of Ideas can be supported by the passion of communities.
Here’s a Diwali themed post for you as PuneTech takes off for a few days.
Legendary Marathi author Pu.La. Deshpande once said (and I am paraphrasing here) that there is no need to travel the world, because you can buy anything that you would really want at Pune’s Laxmi Road. Unfortunately however, thanks to the globalization of Pune traffic, even a trip to Laxmi Road is a major journey these days, something that most people would want to avoid.
That is where laxmiroad.in comes in. It’s an online shopping portal that allows you to shop at your favorite Laxmi Road shops (including sweets from Chitale Bandhu and Karachi Sweets, and Marathi (and other) books at Varma Book Store) from the comfort of your browser, and get delivery at home within 24 hours. Currently this service is available in Pune only – sorry, PuneTech readers in California, and 86 other countries including (and I am not making this up) Croatia.
Instead of fuelling the engine of her car to sail through the sea of extremely congested moving -to-office traffic on a Monday to satiate her kids sweet tooth needs, Pradnya Jawadekar simply switched on her CPU to log on to laxmiroad.in and shopped online for Bakarwadi and Moti chur ke laddu to her heart’s content. For Jawadekar who stays in Aundh finding about the very city centric online portal laxmiroad.in was pure bliss. “The idea of hunting for a parking place in the shopping pockets of the city makes me shudder and Laxmi road tops the chart of the busiest shopping hubs in the city. The thought of honking repeatedly in that traffic and slipping like a snail in itself is very de – motivating for a shopping spree. So many a times with a heavy heart we have compromised with the kind of stuff we get in Aundh and its surroundings, only occasionally mustering up enough courage to fight the traffic to go to Laxmi Road or Camp,” shares Jawadekar who now simply buys online thanks to the 43-day old portal.
There are gift vouchers, and Diwali specials. PuneTech advisor Amit Paranjape even managed to put in a request for a book that was not listed in the online catalog and got it delivered the next day.
This is a list of free web-services that are useful to run a business. It was generated by members of the Pune OpenCoffe Club on their mailing list. The list was compiled by Freeman Murray, and uploaded to the PuneTech wiki. Please add to the list based on your own experiences. Since this is a wiki page, anybody should be able to modify it. Click on the “Edit” button to add.
There is no single comprehensive source of information for all the events in Pune that are of interest to the Technology community. The PuneTech events page only carries information about events coming up soon. IT Vidya has an Events page but that is for events all over the country, and is also not comprehensive enough. Also, both of these are more like blogs than an events calendar, and are missing many features that a calendar should have.
On the suggestion of Freeman Murray, we have started using upcoming.org as an events calendar for tech events in Pune. The Pune Tech Events Group on Upcoming will track all the tech events in Pune. This is a free, non-commercial, community driven initiative. Anybody can join the group. Anybody can add events. Anybody can subscribe to get updates.
Since 2006, the UoP introduced the scheme to encourage college and varsity-level research projects by teachers and students. The university provides Rs 50,000 to Rs 3.5 lakh for each project, depending upon the proposal.
PMC has gone hi-tech. Yesterday, they unveiled a new, improved website that is expected to be more userfriendly. They can now apply for birth and death certificates online and pay municipal taxes online. PMC is the first corporation to have a payment gateway (through ICICI bank and HDFC bank) according to CIO Anupam Saraph.
Yes, Pune has a CIO – Chief Information Officer. The PMC collaborated with SEAP, the Software Exporters Association of Pune, to appoint Anupam, who will guide the direction of all hi-tech goodness that is to happen in PMC soon. Pune is also the first municipal corporation to have a CIO.
“The website has been a voluntary effort by the software companies in Pune such as Persistent software, Eclipse software who provided manpower purely on a voluntary basis,” said Saraph.
The other important feature in the website is the inclusion of Wiki software that allows creation of an employee zone for internal management of the corporation.
Through Wiki, employees would now be able to create, edit, link, and organize the content of the projects they are involved in.
To ensure better navigation, the PMC website will change every month. “In the next version Wiki software will allow the citizens to talk about development plans of the city. Later versions intend to include the software for citizens to help the corporation with their strategic infrastructure expertise, so as to develop a standard in the city,” said Saraph.
“Till now we have trained 180-odd employees and expect to train 50 employees a month to ensure more usage of the software,” he said.
The website in it present form has been visited by more than half a million people.