Stories from Delhi and Chandigarh Visit
It's a travelogue covering the stories of meeting partners and people in general, and my perspective on it.
Every story has a protagonist, who is at the forefront in the entire story. We know that Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. However, Buzz Aldrin assumed an equal amount of risk, but didn’t get as much exposure as Neil. Also, there must have been an army of people who contributed to reach this milestone, including the sweeper who was helping put a man on the moon. Since the camera focus is mostly on superstars, the stories and emotions of side characters, who very much contribute to the plot, are under-played.
In this travelog, which aims at a business objective of meeting Frappe partners and conducting Partner Maturity audits, I will focus more on the interesting conversations struck with the founders, the cab drivers and people in general. Let’s explore the human side more than the business one. As per my learning, it’s as crucial as learning about the business aspects.
We landed at Chandigarh and took a cab ride to reach Panchkula, one of the suburbs of Chandigarh. It started as a silent ride, till we nudged our cab driver a bit. There was a quick move made by him at a crossing.
“Bhaiyya, no need to worry. We are just on time”, I told the driver to take it easy.
“This is Punjab ji. This is our normal. No one cares about rules here”, replied the cab driver.
After a couple of minutes, I triggered a discussion about drug abuse in that area, which is prevalent in the news and movies. To this, our cab driver started with a defensive answer, but later contradicted himself.
“In the movies and TV series, it is oversold. That’s not as bad as in other Indian states like Goa and Mumbai (due to Bollywood). Celebs consume it, but never get highlighted. Why us?
Yes, a problem does exist. Even I myself was rescued. I smoked-out 6 small cars due to this habit, which my family bought to employ me. But the problem is not as big as they show. It’s bigger in other states.”
Then he himself started opening-up about night-life, separate girl’s nightlife, till we reached the Korecent office. For the case, no matter which state, drug abuse is a horrible disease which spreads fast. I choose the word disease carefully, as it does need to be treated like one. Just looking at it as people indulging in a bad habit is mis-understanding the entire ball-game. It should be prevented & treated as proactively, just like we prevented ourselves from coronavirus.
Visit at Korecent
Rohit has been in the Frappe’s ecosystem for good five years now. He has been a regular conference visitor from very early days. He is a very careful talker who likes to speak slowly, articulate and deliver the sentences with perfect pronunciation.
He started his career as a SAP consultant turned trainer. He cracked quite a few complex projects for SAP India. Some of the apps built by him for his customers were later turned into a product for specific industry verticals. That’s how heroic his tenure was.
Rohit was stationed at the client-site and they just loved them. In fact, they also offered Rohit to join that company, however, Rohit showed loyalty towards SAP. One fine day, he received a call from an OEM to visit the SAP office. To his utmost surprise, handed a relieving letter stating restructuring as a reason. He was just asked to head-back to the client’s office. Rohit did the same, and to his second surprise, he was offered an appointment letter by the customer (where he was stationed).
This episode left Rohit with a bitter feeling, as his loyalty wasn’t valued, in-fact played with. He decided to not work with that customer and started with a small freelancing project. Since he had credibility in the eyes of old SAP partners (like Siemens) he kept getting small consulting projects and training assignments. As time passed, Sapna (his wife) joined and they started building a team from their small room at their residence. Rohit says that one of the core values at Korecent is to value the loyalty shown by the colleagues, and ensure they are not left hanging in the middle, like he was at one point of time.
Being from Chanigarh, first planned city in independent India, he has developed a taste for aesthetics. “Why hide the imperfections with plaster and paints”, he said justifying the designs of Le Corbusier who choose plain brick-walls and unflattened surfaces for structures.
The idea beyond the Partner Maturity audit is to understand the founders better, and build rapport with them. For me, Rohit came-out as a person who doesn’t want to go wrong, hence a very meticulous planner and calculated talker. He works with the customers who value his work and diligence, hence USA as a target market. He would rather wait and validate a business model, rather than being very bullish about the idea and directly jumping into it. That makes him an ideal partner who can take good care of the customer, however okay with the steady and organic growth of the company.
With Korecent Team
While we completed auditing, heard Korecent’s side and explained our expectations as OEM, it was evening already. On the way back to the hotel, we spoke about city administration and which political party was better. As per Rohit's review, he did sound very opinionated (which is natural). However, in the interest of sounding balanced, he took a neutral position ;)
Another Day, Another Cab
On day two, we were headed to meet NestorBird, our relatively new partner from the north. It was a quick 30 mins ride, but wasn’t enough for the cab driver to deliver his stories.
I just inquired, “Do you make enough by riding Uber cabs?”.
He started as “Sirji, I own this and a few other cars. I have drivers who ride them and pay me on a daily basis. I am driving today just because I got some time now.
I need to drop my kid off at school. She will complete 10+2 soon, and then we are off to Australia.
I have been to Australia once. My sister lives there. We can get citizenship there easily. We will migrate there. Many people from here have such a plan.”
This much content on small nudges, and you can get the cities mode in some capacity. We Indians losing our cream talent western countries is also a pretty realistic topic. It talks so much about our nationalism claims, but picking a different place to build our career. To my own criticism, I can’t represent the other side. Perhaps they got a valid argument (like studies or security) as well. Sounds balanced? ;)
Visit at NestorBird
NestorBird, despite being in the ecosystem for four years, got introduced in the 2022 conference. They had a team bigger than I anticipated, with a pretty humble and buzzing office. I noticed a few faces like Hardshdeep who I had troubled a lot with for completing certification evals.
Ashish Tripathi, founder of NestorBird, comes from a humble background. He hails from Kanpur, a town with very different characteristics than that of Chandigarh. Though he didn’t have a business background, he comes with an entrepreneurial and growth mind-set.
Around 2017, myself and Rushabh visited a company in Chandigarh. They were a funded start-up. Then, Ashish was employed with them, driving Frappe services. Though that company wasn’t our customer, we did consulting for them, yet walked-out empty handed. Call it Karma, Ashish separated from that company (around covid) and started NestorBird, mainly focused on delivering ERP services.
In retrospect, every visit I made with Rushabh, we hardly had any conversion. However, we noticed that they are still part of the open-source ecosystem in some shape or form. Reminds me that in the open-source business, product goes first, and business follows.
NestorBird is doing just fine for themselves. They were smart-enough to migrate the old customers to FrappeCloud and ensure their listing is retained with the Frappe’s target model as well.
With Core Team of NestorBird
For Ashish, he is more of a growth hacker than a quality centric. However, he has hedged it well by having CMM level experts on the board. His own hunger for growth has ensured the steady conversion of customers on Frappe. They are grappling with the problem of scaling-up teams, which they are solving with campus hiring. For some reasons, the idea of bonds to retain the staff is pretty prevalent in the north, unlike the rest of India.
For us, representing Frappe is a privilege. We receive the respect and honors for which the entire team has worked for years. Me eating-up all the credits also feels unfair. This time, NestorBird’s team took us to a famous chain called Kareem’s about which I had heard about for decades.
Postlunch, we parted ways and headed to Delhi, the capital of India. It was exciting for me as I was visiting the monumental city for the first time.
We reached the capital through great Indian railways. The first impression after coming out of the stations was a bit astonishing. It was crowded and unorganized like anything. Autos didn’t even have a meter on them, and were asking 2x or 3x for a ride. There was a separate queue of manual rickshaw pullers. Really? Manual rickshaw pullers in 2023, in the capital of India?
We decided to walk to a near-by monumental place called Connaught Place. On the way, footpaths were occupied with homeless people. There was litter and overflowing chambers. Being from Mumbai, which is one of the biggest metro cities of the world, we also witness poverty on the face. Perhaps, the big cities like Delhi and Mumbai, which see such a huge immigration of laborers and workers, such a scene are inevitable. And if that’s the reality, why hide it behind walls? Within these sorry picture, you can take a moment to appreciate that cities as big as Delhi & Mumbai allow over occupation, mostly fairly, and some a bit cruelly.
Visit at Dipane Technologies
Dipane initiated our journey with Frappe as a customer for his family business called Muti-color steels. Naturally, entrepreneurship is ingrained deep inside his blood. He told our team during the multi-color implementation at multi-color that if this doesn’t work, I will be your biggest opponent in the market. And if you make it work for us, I will be your biggest seller. After seeing how Frappe apps streamlined his business problems, sticking to his words, he initiated spreading word about ERPNext like a fan-boy.
Mr. Rajesh Gupta (Dipane’s father) was also impressed with the capabilities of Frappe. Seeing Dipane’s interest in Frappe, he further pushed him to pursue a business around Frappe. Now Dipane is dedicating 80% of his time on Dipane Tech, a business around Frappe! I see it as a testimony for Frappe’s products and services.
We caught Dipane for a lovely homemade breakfast. We were soon joined by Mr. Rajesh. He looks very excited to expand the entire ecosystem of Frappe. As a businessman, he felt a lack of trained people who can be functional from day 1.
Sharing his perspective as a business owner, Mr. Rajesh said, “For businesses like us, the biggest blocker in the ERP implementation is getting existing staff to learn and use it. They have a full-time job of buying / selling / stocking etc. In the entire implementation story, if we can reduce the role of existing staff, the implementation could be successful much faster.”
That came from the horse's mouth, along with the possible solution. As a Rotarian, they also initiated a skill development center to conduct vocational courses like welding, plumbing etc. Now that there are fewer takers for these professions, even industries face lakh of trained resources for these profiles. Mr. Rajesh suggested if we could use the same Skill Development center, which is govt. Supported, to teach ERP solutions to the 10+2 and unemployed graduates.
The idea to scale-up the ecosystem flows from all directions, but proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let’s see who takes this initiative from the community. If it clicks, it can certainly take the entire Frappe Ecosystem to the next level. For me, the take-away was how industrialists collaborate, evolve the ecosystem, use the government machinery, upskill people and eventually grow their business. The simple term growth isn’t just business growth. It requires you to do 100 things around it, which looks disconnected, but operates as a cog-in-the-wheel and contributes to their growth story.
With Core Team of Dipane Technologies PL
Dipane was generous enough to offer us a ride in his executive class vehicle. Crossing through narrow lanes and delhi and religious processions of Ganesh Chaturthi and Muharram, we made it to Kanak Infosystems.
Visit at Kanak Infosystems
Gaurav Bhasin, founder of Kanak Info. systems come from humble backgrounds. His family hails from UP (nearby state) and had no background of family business. He completed MCA from Delhi and did a couple of paid assignments as a freelancer. He discovered Odoo in 2012 as an open-source project and started dabbling with it right-away. He was lucky to game some decent size project in very early days and build a team around it.
For the IT enthusiast with no or limited resources, open-source apps come like an angel who supports them to pursue their hobbies as a profession. With time and scalability needs, they naturally evolve into entrepreneurs. Like Gaurav, many freelancer-turned-entrepreneurs in the Frappe’s ecosystem also could build their businesses as Frappe’s open-source apps had too much to offer already.
While Odoo changed its stand on open-source, Gaurav initiated exploring the real open-source alternatives to Odoo. He discovered ERPNext & Frappe soon but remained stalker only. It was only after the word-of-mouth getting stronger for Frappe, Gaurav convinced his team to take a leap of faith and started taking Frappe projects. Seeing a decent profitability in Frappe based projects, they became Frappe Partners to boost their credibility. In a couple of days only, they started seeing the inquiries flowing their way.
It was heartening to see the hospitality of Kanak’s team. I inquired if Odoo guys also visit you guys, Gaurav laughed it off saying, “now we hardly connect with their partner managers”. It was utterly surprising for them to see Frappe being a OEM having their team visit the partners.
With Core Team of Kanak Infosystems
By the time we left Kanak, it was already evening. We tried reaching another partner, but didn’t receive any response from them. After some contemplation and searching, we decided to initiate a tour to monumental places of Delhi.
Delhi has a rich-rich-rich history of empires getting formed, wiped-off, bloody wars and re-evolving itself into new cities. In the last 900 years, around 5 empires / dynasties / sultanates which had Delhi as their power seat. As times had it, each empire built the monument which would stand as a testimony of their rulership for the future generations. That’s what makes Delhi one of the most monumental and historic cities in the world. Given the time limitation, we could have covered fewer sites, so we moved on with the list quickly.
That evening (after Kanak’s meeting) was our only chance to cover that site. It was a quick metro and rickshaw ride, and we reached the historic site. It was dark already.
Finally, qutub-minaar, a tower I have been hearing about since my childhood. It was lit with a weird flash-light. We walked closer and found the inscription on it. The outer structure was of red-stone, was well maintained and looked beautiful.
Within the same compound, there were a host of monuments. At the central courtyard was Quwwat Ul Islam masjid constructed by Qutbuddin Aibak. Right in the center of the masjid stood the iconic iron pillar which dates back to 3rd or 4th century AD. I recollect studying about this pillar in school which chronicles the metallurgical expertise of India in Gupta Period as well.
The Rickshaw Puller
After a busy day, we headed back to the hotel. From a metro station, we rented a cycle rickshaw puller in order to support him / save our money / experience it (pick whatever works). Ram was about 55 years aged, and resided in Delhi for the last thirty years. He has a wife and kids (adult) back in the village. After seeing no sign of support from kids, he was left with no option but to deploy his only asset, the working body parts to work. In Delhi, he had no fixed place to stay. It’s a new footpath where he would park his vehicle and rest for time.
While talking, he was riding on a main road, alongside motor vehicles. To pull the rickshaw meant Ram putting his entire weight on one side of the rick to make it move, and then shift his weight on the other side, and keep doing it. As we ended the 2 KM ride from station to hotel, Ram was completely drenched in sweat. They are often paid less than what an electric rickshaw driver gets paid. Ram just left it on us to pay whatever we felt fair rent. He played smart there.
For us, it was a day where we took a ride in a Mercedes and also in a manually pulled rickshaw. I visited a nearby mosque in juggi’s / slums and also checked out ruins of a six hundred year old mosque. We met self-made businessmen and also ones like Ram. It was just one day in Delhi, which showed us so many faces of life, co-existing and surviving together. The city which accommodates everyone and offers an opportunity to struggle and thrive.
The entire journey helped me empathize with the human side of people a lot more. Even if it’s for work, unless you explore their personal side, map their journey and aspirations, you can’t strategize anything at all.
Leaving you with the pics of the last day when we visited Lutyens Delhi, Indira Gandhi’s house (now museum) and monuments built by the mughal emperors like Lal Qila, Jama Masjid and Humanyun’s tomb.
Umair is Frappe's co-founder, VP - Partnerships, and mentor for Frappe School team.