It is not clickbait. I am going to tell you the real story about the business we build. It was illegal. It skyrocketed more than we expected. We had no choice but to shut it down, otherwise, we would’ve been expelled from our school. This is a true story, of Logicwala, built and launched in 2001 by Sandeep Joshi, Ashish Soni, and yours truly.
So, what was this business?
While in our first year of masters, we started learning about internet, HTML and power of internet. We have limited access to internet in the college at the time, but there were plenty of corner stores called “cyber cafe” across Indore where you can spend 20 Rs. for 30 mins of Internet access. Those were the days when PhotoCopy and STD-PCO were being replaced by Cyber Cafes. Come to think of it, how the days have changed and things around us have involved in such a short amount of time. Every few hundrede meters on the road, there were Photocopy/Xerox shops with Yellow and Black colored signs. Then there were the STD-PCO booths which we used to call long distance or internationally. No one knew what is a mobile phone. Those were things in movies, mostly fictions. Then came the internet and everyone ran to buy some computers, get a loan from the bank and opened a Cyber Cafe. Train reservations, Job applications quickly became some of the first things that people will go to Cyber cafe for – apart from the usual Internet – entertainment. Netflix, Google, YouTube were not even born then – but Desibaba and other such sites prevailed for adult entertainment.
Anyways, in midst of this all, the trio (Sandeep, Ashish and I) decided we should build a website and make some money. This will also help us with our annual project for the school work.
What should the website do?
Sandeep was our mastermind when it came to studies. He was a gold medalist at state level. He was (and is still) smart and knew a lot about education. We decided to build a site that will help kids with preparing for their board examination – specially 10th, 12th board. Then we decided that based on our knowledge of BSC, BCA, MSc we can also help students with Physics, Maths and Computer Science. So we started working on building a site that will provide help for students. Logically, the site was name Logicwala.com. (We booked a domain on Freeservers.com, so we got logicwala.8k.com) While building the site a Idea hit me. What if – we create model question papers for Board exams, and publish them online. Based on the syllabus and past 5 years of papers, we knew our model papers will be 80-90 percent accurate. There is a limited syllabus in 10th and 12th board and everyone knows what are the most important topics that come in exam. If we give them a form of model paper, people would be more likely to use them and get a good score if they study those questions. We all liked the idea and started building the model papers.
We released papers for subjects in order that they were going to be in the exam. To spread awareness of the sight, Soni and I went to every cybercafe in the area and put up our posters and told the owners about Logicwala. Our marketing message was a learning and study platform for students.
Words of marketing got twisted and every student visited the site was found saying Logicwala is the website with “online exam papers”. Someone spread the rumors that the exam papers are leaked and available on Logicwala.
To our astonishment, our model paper was 95% accurate! Overnight, people started to come on the website and sending us messages to provide papers for other classes and other subjects. You probably have guessed by now that it is illegal to provide the exam papers to students before the exam.
Indore’s prominent newspapers, Dainik Bhaskar and Prabhatkiran ran the news. Their headlines saying – “The times have changed. You don’t need to go to Rajwada at 4 am in the morning to get a leaked paper. It’s available online!”. Sandeep, Ashish, and I didn’t read those newspapers. We were too busy making changes to our website. But I started getting calls from my classmates at home. Once I got back home and got the message, I called a friend back and found out about the news in the evening newspaper. I rushed to Soni’s house and we quickly decided to “unpublish” the model papers. Then, we decide to leave them up and just call them “Sample Questions”.
Why did we shut it down?
We thought that its fine now that we are not calling them model paper. We slept peacefully. Next day, as we entered the college campus someone told me that our head of department and the professor of Computer Science was waiting for us and asked for us urgently. Little concerned, we walked in her office and found the new paper lying on her desk. She showed us the article and asked us what it was? Being honest, we said, “We don’t know mam. This is the first time we are seeing it. “. That was the truth. We read the article. And then we read Ms. Saxena’s eyes. She was not happy.
“I want this gone before Raj Kamal sir sees this”. That article had all of our names – thanks to the Contact Us page on our website. We pulled down the model paper section and left the site up for study material. But, the damage was done. People had associated the site to model papers and not many people coming to the site were interested in study material at the time. Specially, we learned later, that no one was willing to spend 40 Rs. an hour to study online. They would rather watch some adult entertainment or Bollywood gossip or chat on Yahoo Messenger with strangers than spend money to learn online. That was 2001. The times have changed again – as the Coursera IPO proved.
This small episode was a great lesson in our entrepreneurial journey. Sandeep, Ashish and I believed that anything is possible and we were ready to do a lot of things together. I will share a lot of those stories on the pages of this blog. I hope you’ll like them.
Please share your comments, suggestions and feedback.