Changing the Face of Nepal

History

When I graduated from high school, 95% of my friends got scholarships abroad for higher education. After studying at one of the best schools of the country and not being able to go abroad for higher studies was a complete “failure”, at least that’s how it’s looked upon here. I wasn’t sure what I should do next.

I wanted to study architecture but I failed the exams. A year went by and computers were replacing typewriters. I felt it was the future and the colleges here had just introduced a computer engineering course. I joined.

This was the first time I was using a computer. Despite the Y2K fears about computers, I spent all my annual income that I earned from teaching previous year. Computers were very expensive then. For a relatively poor background family, my parents couldn’t afford it and when I was continuously using the hacked dial-up connection and the telephone bill came out to about Rs 3000 in a month ($30 at present day), they scolded the hell out of me. Getting a dedicated internet service was out of question. Luckily, the college of engineering, introduced internet service on a 8-bit colored monitor which looked way pixelated to read anything. It was then, I started the journey of researching and a passion developed.

Passion

I was always interested in art and design since childhood but I could never sharpen that skill because there were no formal classes in school or after that. I did that whenever I had a chance. With computer and internet, this passion re-evolved. In college, I used to bunk lectures and run to the library to read the HTML bible or go to the internet, save a Photoshop tutorial on a floppy disk and bring it back home and practice. This was more fun. Web was only evolving at this time and people were creating websites in Geocities and Netscape was the most popular browser. I knew web could be better but it was so limited. Soon, I was designing websites. Even before finishing college, I was working—designing logos, illustrations, websites and doing some programming as well.

As soon as my college ended, I joined Digital Max Solutions, a company founded by one of my senior friends during the same time. It was a startup and we were focusing on developing websites for local companies. Since web were just starting, many didn’t feel they even needed a website and we were doing very few of them. Since this was not enough to sustain the company, we looked into other areas and outsourcing was one of them. It was just evolving and we were very lucky enough to grab that opportunity. After sometime, we became one of the best known design companies in the country and we started collaborating with some of the best companies. We started doing bigger projects and custom websites was one of them. We grew to a 30 people company, quite a big company during that time.

How I Started WordPress?

Soon, we were doing so much repetitive projects from ground up, we were starting to look into various open source CMS at that time such as phpNuke, Joomla, Drupal, etc. Most of the time since all of these were hard to customize, we would end up with custom CMS, repeating the same or similar code which just took longer to complete a project. WordPress was just beginning to appear on the web searches and it was mostly popular for blog. We researched and spent sometime building our own company website using WordPress and gladly, it was possible. So, we started using WordPress as a CMS for simple websites. As WordPress advanced, we were doing some serious long term projects in WordPress.

A New Beginning

In 2008, I parted ways with the company as I was doing more of people management than creating nice things for the web. I started to research as I wanted to try something new. I didn’t have much money saved and buying a new computer and a power backup system was a challenge. We had a 16 hours a day power outage and it was becoming harder for me to survive. While I hadn’t dived into WordPress world much, I started researching more. I signed up to WordPress.org and started looking on themes. This was relatively new to me and I discovered how wrong we were using WordPress before. We were changing core files to customize WordPress instead of creating themes and plugins. How stupid was that?

So, as a first learning project, I took Kubrick, the default theme during that time and changed style.css file and some PHP files to create my own theme SimpleX. I ran it on my website wpshoppe.com to write a blog about WordPress and also give the theme away for free. I also contributed that theme on WordPress.org. Soon, it was downloading so fast, it appeared regularly on Most Popular Downloads list. That was an opportunity. So, soon, I created another theme called Cleanr and added that to WordPress.org. That too became popular. I was so happy to know that Mozilla were using that theme on some of their project blogs. This was a point where I realized giving away to the community will eventually give yourself something, even better.

With this experience, I joined Graph Paper Press, a company that delivered WordPress photography themes. It was a very unique idea as most of themes then were blog themes. Most photographers were only using Flash based websites. To do something different and pushing WordPress to do something that it wasn’t designed for was indeed challenging. I was proud that our team was working on ideas that changed the photography world.

In 2011, the company called in for a meeting and after 3 years of working together, we finally met face to face in WordCamp San Francisco. We met with personalities from Automattic and other companies to talk about how to contribute more to WordPress. We started contributing both to WordPress.org and WordPress.com and we soon saw highly successful themes there.

WordPress Community in Nepal

By then, I, along with few friends, who were involved in WordPress projects, started a local WordPress group. After seeing what WordCamp was like and how actively people were involved in shaping WordPress, I got into the group actively to let every WordPress developer to come together and contribute to WordPress, form a better community and eventually help each other.

We started meeting every month and talk about WordPress. We started organizing WordCamp Nepal since 2012 and I was fortunate enough to have been the lead organizer for last 3 years. The group has grown from 4-5 member to 4700 members in Facebook right now. A lot of people are helping each other in projects, communities and to WordPress. We have had core contributors as well. I have been also leading the WordPress translation. The best thing about this whole thing is that, I have seen students and professionals coming together and starting new businesses. Some have started multiple companies, some has grown from single man to 150 people company and the success is not limited to home alone, they have been popular in the whole world. We are also trying to prove that we can do something within the country and you don’t have to go abroad to make a living. This is the perfect example of how we can all benefit from a good community. This group has been encouraging entrepreneurship to change the face of Nepal and I am very happy that we have succeeded to some level. The WordPress community has been labeled the largest and most active IT group in Nepal.

The More You Give, the More You Get Back

So, apart from this happiness, I have been fortunate enough to be with my wife, work from home and take care of my sweet little daughter. With the recent devastating earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks, life has been affected a bit but it’s slowing coming back to normal. I have successfully completed my eco-friendly home experiment—trying to be self sufficient by going off-grid, drinking rainwater, growing organic vegetables in the garden and reusing wastes. I can proudly say that WordPress has helped me directly and indirectly in this journey. It has been proven that the more you give, the more you get back. Thank you WordPress. Thank you community!