Interview with Akash Arun, Co-Founder at Paintcollar

logo-heading

[This interview is sponsored by workspot.in , India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on workspot.in. If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit workspot.in]

 

Paintcollar is an online marketplace for artists where they can upload their created designs and then sell it in the form of merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, etc. The designer just needs to upload the design on the site’s product creation engine and use the available templates for creating the desired products. Once the designer creates the product on the site, the company handles the manufacturing and delivery of the products while the artists do what they love doing. This way the start-up enables the artists to reach the massive retail market and get value for their artwork without much of a hassle.

Launched in September 2014, Paintcollar now has more than a 1000 artists selling their designs in the form of merchandise through them. The mission of this start-up is to bring art to everyday life in the form of affordable products and not restrict it to just galleries and exhibitions. Recently, Universal Music India has made them their online partner for putting out the official merchandize for their Indian artists. The company started by a group of enthusiastic engineers has also raised an undisclosed amount of funding which it plans to use for further expansion of operations.

Let’s see what its co-founder, Akash Arun, has to say about the company.

33d93fc1.akash

Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.

I graduated from NIT Trichy in 2013 and joined Emerson Network Power India. I was placed under the datacenter business of the company where I handled the complete supply chain of all the incoming projects. Apart from that I’ve done a few internships with IIM-A and IIM-B as an analyst. We launched Paintcollar in 2014 and were managing it along with our jobs. I finally quit my job in early 2015 to come onboard with Paintcollar full time.

When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?

I already had an entrepreneurial background. My father had quit his job to start his own pharma company when we were kids. I saw him struggle as we did in his early days and that is when I realized the passion that you develop when you are in the driving seat. I tried to start a LAN gaming firm back in college which unfortunately couldn’t do that well.  While working at Emerson, my college friend and colleague, Amogh proposed to put up a stall at Mood Indigo selling posters. We were joined by a couple of other colleagues, two of which are the current co-founders of Paintcollar. The stall initiated the discussions of starting something good and we all carried the same passion for building something of our own . As a result, we developed the concept of “connecting art with lifestyle” into Paintcollar.

posterTubes

What were the early days at Paintcollar like?

It was rough I would say. The concept we are carrying out requires a lot of optimizations both technically and strategically. Initially all four of us were just passionate guys minus the knowledge required to build the idea. As the concept seemed really promising we jotted down the requirements to build it, divided it among ourselves and learnt the hell out of everything. Never to forget my best buddies, Siddhant and Manu who actually developed the technical infrastructure and backbone of the app.

Paintcollar is a unique concept in India and we were the introducers of it to the country. We had a tough time convincing the initial artists to come on board, to optimize the Just-In-Time supply chain for all of our products and finally acquiring customers. India has become a discount driven market when it comes to E-Commerce. People want to buy cheap, irrespective of the product and quality offered and in this market convincing someone to pay just for designs is a hard nut to crack. We were able to convince a few Indian metal bands which gave us a push.

On technical aspects I was looking out for every possible resources I could use to minimize the cost with maximum efficiency. In time we got the support of Microsoft’s Bizspark program and AWS support by being the finalists of NASSCOM’s 10000 startups.

Can you please describe what a typical day at office is like?

It’s always fun and we hardly leave office. We always follow the rule of work hard and party harder. Currently it’s a small team and everyone’s problem is discussed until the best possible solution comes up. We don’t have any role defined job definitions. A person can have the sole responsibility of a particular job that needs to be done but no one sticks to just doing that. I guess this is what a typical startup environment is like.

There is thrill in everyday’s challenge, everybody is motivating and trying to push each other’s limit to the next level.

phoneCases

Can you tell us about the technology stack used at Paintcollar?

We have built our application with MEAN stack which is basically MongoDB, Express, AngularJs and NodeJs. The stack is sufficiently fast and easy to understand since both the backend and frontend are written in plain Javascript.

Is there any technology that you’re personally betting on to help you scale up?

My bet would be on the IaaS and PaaS services. In my opinion the biggest challenge a developer faces is to set up the ideal environment for the application. Once the app is developed, we spend a lot of time reading about cloud computing, fail-safe architecture, etc. This might be good as far as gaining knowledge is concerned but as an app developer I would like to focus more on stuff that is directly affecting my business. Many companies are working towards providing ideal container solutions but innovation is definitely required in this area and I would be selfish to make this statement.

How are you using Business Intelligence and analytics at your company?

We are a data driven company. Every idea that comes up on the table has to be backed up by actual data. We observed that the analytics that GA or other services are providing is not that sufficient and so we have developed our inbuilt analytics system. We believe that every inch of our website and every part of our service creates a great impact on customer retention and conversion. Any change done with the UI goes through multiple blind user testings. Every ad we release is optimized based on the performance of its previous set. Four of us lead specific areas and every fortnight we have our internal meeting with our charts on the board.

Paintcollar

How else does technology help your company stand apart from its rivals?

I would say our concept is a total game of how good you can optimize your tech and supply chain. The product creation engine we have developed for the designers is one of it’s kind, it’s snappy and considers every angle an artist would think of. We have our automated order processing system wherein every order that comes in is treated systematically and sent to the proper merch unit. We have also designed our customer service interface a bit smart. If you have already logged an issue with us, our interface redirects your call to the same person who has handled your case initially. This way our customers don’t have to get involved in a loop, explaining a simple issue to 10 different people.

What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running Paintcollar?

NodeJs does not support multi thread operations, this was the first challenge we had while building the web app. We could not allow multiple users to upload their designs at the same time. Fortunately, we sorted it out with a little help. The biggest though is keeping up with the changing technology. We observe an extra feature added to the stack every now and then, it’s good but to use the good parts you need to bend a few existing structures too. This indeed is difficult when you are already a small team and the change is rapid.

What are some of the attributes you look out for in a prospective technology employee?

Clear basics, passion to learn and updated with the current tech is what I prefer. I have learnt from the internet myself and I totally don’t think hiring only A grade people is the key towards building a great company. I prefer people who have displayed their learning skills in a couple of projects they have executed. In today’s environment of rapidly changing and advancing technical aspects, people who have the ability to deliver by learning fast are the perfect match for us.
I would prefer hiring a person who has executed 10 different functional projects over the ones who have built just one but a mind blowing project in the same time. Again it would be my choice with respect to what we require currently.

How do you keep up to date with the latest happenings in the technology world?

You can’t miss anything when you are surrounded by techies all around you. Apart from the hacker news and reading articles on other platforms, I try to keep myself up to date with new projects that pop up on github etc. I spend more time on hacker news than youtube I would say.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

We follow a scrum pattern, which means the challenge you have the next day is already decided on the previous day. Now that’s exciting enough and since we are a small startups there are multiple of them. I am glad we have a bunch of super enthusiastic people to lead the run.

paintcollar-1024x734

What sets Paintcollar engineering culture apart?

Well, there is no culture as such, we just do things keeping in mind we know each and every line of code we write. The best part being we never give up on any problem. There hasn’t been a single requirement that has been turned down because we weren’t able to crack it. This in a very childish way makes me feel proud.

Which Paintcollar value resonates best with you?

Creativity is what best resonates with all of us in here. There is absolutely zero fun in doing things in the traditional way. I always try to think (or sometimes over-think) to find a better way to execute stuff. Although, every time I think I’ve found the best way, it seems pretty normal after a few days go by.

Post-1

Any piece of advice for the techies out there?

Get out of your comfort zones. No app developer has made it big without knowing the in-and-out of ops and vice versa. Run after the knowledge, build something you like and the rest of the things like jobs and money will run after you.

 

[This interview is sponsored by workspot.in , India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on workspot.in. If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit workspot.in]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *