Kaustubh Katdare, known as ‘The Big K’, is the founder & administrator of CrazyEngineers. Kaustubh graduated in 2003 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Kaustubh founded CrazyEngineers on 26 November 2005 in with the sole purpose of interacting with engineers who are working on greatest engineering projects. CrazyEngineers soon became popular among engineering students & working professionals through word of mouth.
Kaustubh is a guitarist & vocalist. He enjoys traveling, playing table tennis & badminton. Kaustubh blogs at ‘The Big K’s Superblog which is a blog about technology, life & common sense.
Q1. Tell us how you thought of creating this community–CrazyEngineers?
CrazyEngineers started as a hobby project back in 2005. I was employed with a leading IT company. Our company provided online newsgroup for employees in different offices to interact with each other. I’d remain active on them during the 10 minute breaks I took every two hours. I loved the idea of interacting with other employees, sharing ideas, technical knowledge and awesome jokes. I’d occasionally receive mails from other employees appreciating my posts and how they loved reading what I contributed to the newsgroups.
I always loved watching two shows on Discovery Channel; “Extreme Engineering” and “Mega Structures”. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a huge, mega project or work on an extreme-engineering project. Out of curiosity, I began searching for an online place where all these engineers who work on big projects came together to discuss problems they faced. However, even after 10 minutes of intensive search I couldn’t find any such place. I was shocked and surprised. For me, it was something ‘obvious’ that should exist. I decided to create a place where engineers from various parts of the world would come together and interact with each other to solve problems, exchange ideas and share knowledge. Thus, CrazyEngineers was born on November 26, 2005. All CE members celebrate it as “CrazyEngineers Day”.
Q2. Why the name was on satirical side? I mean why not “Great Engineers”, “We Engineers”, or “Young Engineers”, etc.?
We don’t intend the dictionary meaning of ‘crazy’. Because you can’t go far in life without being ‘crazy’. The world we live in is filled by creations of engineers whom the world once called ‘Crazy’. Wright Brothers were ‘crazy engineers’ who had crazy ideas of creating something that would let us fly in air. Virgin Galactic is now coming up with something crazy which will now enable space travel for common people like us. Similarly there are few crazy engineers working on project bloodhound that’s aiming speeds of 1600 kmph on road. CrazyEngineers is about engineers with crazy ideas, that will change tomorrow’s world.
Today CrazyEngineers boasts of thousands of engineers from over 180 countries, as young as 84 and as young as 10, from various disciplines from Agricultural to Aeronautical. We believe engineering is about attitude. Not formal degrees or certificates. You’ll be surprised that we even have people from medical background as CEans.
Q3. What do you feel is the need of a dedicated online community for engineering in India given that engineering colleges are coming up like primary schools?
Large part of CE’s community comprises of engineering professionals and students from India. I think the quality of Indian engineers needs to be improved. We do produce engineers in bulk compromising the quality. Usually people choose engineering because it’s a short-cut to the job world. Get into any engineering college, mug up engineering subjects, get your degree and find your employment in any of the IT company that has no work related to your engineering trade. I even don’t like the fact that Indian IT Industry is mostly a services based industry where most of the ‘servicing’ work happens. There’s been no innovation from any of the top IT companies. I followed that path for 3 years before deciding a new path for myself.
I also realized that there is a serious lack of awareness & attitude among Indian engineering students about technology, entrepreneurship and ability to think creatively. CE helps in bringing engineers from diverse backgrounds and trades to come together and that has helped many engineers get new perspectives. We compiled a presentation to highlight what our engineers say–http://www.crazyengineers.com/why-do-we-love-crazyengineers/
Q4. When you thought of developing this community, how you went around to create it right from the start. Share the story with us.
After noticing that we needed a community for engineers, the domain name ‘CrazyEngineers’ was registered; only after confirmation from my mother. I told her my thoughts and the name I had in my mind and she instantly approved that name saying “It’s excellent! I see the potential!”. It was November 24, 2005 when the name was registered. I worked very hard for the next two days to launch the site on http://www.crazyengineers.com/forum/ on my birthday (November 26). Note that there was just the forum running, it had nothing but a script on the front page that redirected visitors to the forum. The small talks followed after about 8-9 months.
I launched the site and informed my friends about it with excitement. Almost everyone said it won’t work. The excitement was gone, but the thought of proving everyone wrong kicked in. That helped in favor of CE. I ran CE without making any money for 3 years. It would have been very easy to quit as there was no one paying attention to what I was telling them. I’d wait for days to see just one person visiting the site and leaving in just 5 minutes. I kept on contributing content to the site and totally unknown people started helping promote the site. Even today, the biggest contributors and supporters of the site are the ones who I’ve never met.
Q5. What’s the visibility of the site and how popular is it?
CE’s got 88k registered engineers and lakh of engineers visiting the site from over 180 countries, majority are from India. The numbers are growing up every day. I’m happy because it’s all through word of mouth and search engines. We’ve been covered through Television, newspapers, magazines and websites.
CE is accessed by eminent personalities, CEOs, entrepreneurs and our articles are also used as reference material in American Universities.
Q6. How to you contact engineers to feature them–I mean the engineers who have done something in their fields.
It’s usually a telephone call or simple email that works. We’ve never had anyone denying us as most of the eminent personalities we’ve contacted loved the concept and appreciated our work. We feature few of the greatest personalities associated with engineering and entrepreneurship including Mr. Paul Buchheit (Creator of Gmail), Mr. Martin Cooper (Inventor of Cell Phone), Dr. Bjarne Stroustrup (Inventor of C++ programming language), Mr. Guy Kawasaki (Ex. Chief Evangelist, Apple Corporation), Mr. Leonardo Chiariglione (Creator of MP3), Mr. Girish Wagh (Designer of Tata Nano) and many others.
Q7. What you do to make your site more visible to engineers, aspiring minds and students?
I haven’t done anything special except in the earlier days. Most of CE’s growth is through word of mouth referral and search engines.
Q8. Do you plan to collaborate with colleges and institutions to make students aware of your site and get more activity online?
With CE’s global visibility, we regularly get queries for media partnerships, event partnerships and so on. We were the platinum partners for US’s biggest science and engineering festival 2010 and also their preferred partner for the next event. We also regularly associate with IITs, NITs, Developer Summits, Conferences, Engineering college events. I believe we have a long way to go.
Q9. What are your future plans?
At present we are focusing on growth. CE is a wonderful platform, free for everyone and engineers benefit just by spending their time on CE. It’s way better than killing time on Facebook. Everyone who wants to spend their time productively, should visit CE at least once every day. There is huge knowledge contributed by like minded engineers every day. More than that, everyone is so friendly that even the new members get hooked on in just few minutes.
Q10. Any message you would like to share with the readers and perhaps some fellow engineers?
I think India desperately needs engineers who can create new things and set examples for others while operating from India. We also need entrepreneurial engineers to create opportunities for others and lead the technology rather than just following it. Engineers should at least try to have new ideas and start a company because even if it fails, we’ll at least be able to tell our grand children that we had a company of our own.