Technology

Keep it simple, stupid

SMART THINKING: Founders of Foradian Technologies (left to right): Abdullah Hisham, Viswajith A., Arvind G.S. (centre), Abdul Salam, Unnikrishnan Koroth

SMART THINKING: Founders of Foradian Technologies (left to right): Abdullah Hisham, Viswajith A., Arvind G.S. (centre), Abdul Salam, Unnikrishnan Koroth  

Foradian, a start-up, hits the right keys and becomes a big hit

“Foradian overtook Infosys. Not in revenue but in Alexa ranking: Foradian 1362 and Infosys 1399. Wait for my tweet for the revenue one,” tweets Unnikrishnan Koroth, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Foradian Technologies, a small Mangalore-based technology start-up.

Since his tweet, Foradian's Alexa ranking — an indicator of web-traffic on any site — climbed up to 1,000. While the start-up has been around for nearly two years, it “rose to fame” recently after it released a downloadable font of the new Indian Rupee symbol, a day after the Government formally unveiled it. What it did was simple: just mapped the font on to the ‘grave accent key' – ‘keyboard-eese' for the key above the Tab key on the left side of the keyboard. This allowed computer users to download this simple desktop application on to their computers and be able to use the brand new symbol on their Word processing applications.

Technology-wise it was too simple, but the invention touched a nerve, says Koroth. It also drew the company a lot of flak for toying with ‘too low-tech' an invention and deriving significant media mileage out of it. Within a week of the release, the Foradian site had 30 lakh fresh hits. “Suddenly people had begun to recognise us. Something really simple like this font was a game-changer for us.”

This game-changer, Koroth points out, was an invention that was both simple and stupid, alluding to the popular start-up philosophy (a simple adage popularised by web-based start-up 37 signals) that start-ups must dabble with inventions that are both stupid and simple. Predictably, critics said that the ‘low-tech' invention was ‘stupid' because it wasn't Unicode or Unicode-approved. This meant that each individual had to separately download the font application. “We could easily have mapped the font to a Unicode location, but then it would have been complicated for common people to use (users would have to punch in a combination of symbols to get the font). So, we decided let's give it to people in a ready-to-use format!” Yes, for common computer users it was a ‘simple' useable thing, something that allowed them to use the font immediately, and for the ‘tech-snobs', as Koroth puts it, it was ‘stupid'.

Other achievements

Though Foradian has stumbled into fame and recognition post the Rupee release, the company that was founded by four college-mates and a common friend after quitting their respective jobs in various MNCs — Unni Koroth, Abdullah Hisham, Arvind G.S., Viswajith A. and Abdul Salam — has several technical projects to its credit. Significantly, the team is known for Fedena, a web-based, open source education services ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), that earned it international recognition when it was presented at the World Ruby Conference.

Now, all set for the launch of Fedena 2.0, the five hope that it will evolve towards a e-learning and e-infrastructure solution used worldwide. Currently, it has been tried out by e-learning projects in Kerala, a few have downloaded the freely-available software in Africa, and it is being translated into Spanish by members of the Open Source community. Koroth hopes that Fedena will pave the way for e-learning in India, where anyone who wishes to impart education will not have to buy land or build a school; all they will need to do is set up a Fedena installation in the cloud, and proceed.

“Currently, many schools use ERPs to streamline their activities, but the software is expensive. Here, we are offering this Free and Open Source product, free of cost.” How will they monetise? “Premium services, of course! We charge for support and premium services if schools require our support.”

Open Source

Koroth says that their company firmly believes in the power and strength of Open Source. Worldwide inventions have taken place because of the Open Source movement, he says. Further, it is simply because of Open Source technologies that people like him can start a company, and now be able to break even. “We will give back to that technology. People ask us if it isn't an issue that people may be downloading Fedena and using it in their own name. But I believe that if the technology is good, they will come back, they will return to the source for more!”

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2020 5:56:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/Keep-it-simple-stupid/article16135374.ece

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