A conversation with Harnish Rajput, co-founder of Piblitz.com, on college, startups, and surpassing rejection.
By Foram Fanasia
Harnish Rajput graduated in the year 2020 as an electrical engineer. When the world was caught up in a frenzied attack of Coronavirus, he, along with his brother (a 2018 graduate mechanical engineer) fueled their start-up company, Piblitz. The company was registered in the month of January this year and has seen success ever since. The two engineers developed a platform where they open-sourced hardware technologies, providing a tool to students and professors for their projects’ and research’s documentation, collaboration, and control.
In layman’s terms, Piblitz is a website where people can take up any previous project and modify it into a revised version. It is a synergistic effort, where you can solve or ask doubts and take inputs from other users. This provides access to a vast amount of resources and knowledge. You can also create a profile and present your pieces of work.
As the co-founder of Piblitz, how does it feel to be recognized by Startup India and prominent newspapers like The Times of India?
We started the work in August where we put in a lot of time and hard work. However, we were constantly rejected by being told that our idea was flawed and the hardware won’t work on the open-source. We were finally accepted and now many students from renowned institutes like NIRMA, IISc, NIT Surathkal, and SVNIT, as well as professors, are using it. This recognition was extremely joyful and it motivates us to keep working on the product while improving it for our users.
How did you come up with this idea?
The credit goes to my brother, as initially, he thought of this. The idea was very simple. There are open-source softwares where you can vary the code and create a modified website. But this was never done on the hardware side.
The idea struck him when he saw a cooler at home. He thought, “Why can’t we edit this into a better version digitally?” That’s where we thought of targeting the open sourcing of hardware projects, which was still untouched. We started from there and kept improving.
How has SVNIT helped or supported you in your venture?
This is the first startup that we registered but this isn’t my first attempt.
The first startup idea I had was in my second year. At that time, there were no buses on campus. The cycles left behind by the graduating batches were left for no use. We wanted to start a cycle repair shop in SVNIT where the final year students would register their cycles with us, we would repair them, and pass them on to freshers via the authority. Basically recycling the cycles! But this idea was lost in the ideation phase and prototyping. We were rejected there.
The second one was A-Pal, where we would deliver food in the hostels. This is where I learned how to run a business and it gave me a practical exposure. Piblitz is the third one. So I can say that my startup journey did begin in college.
What was the most challenging phase of your journey?
There was this situation in January when we registered. My parents kept asking questions like ‘why don’t you take up placements and get a stable career?’ On top of that, we had a lot of other responsibilities. We had started a club called ‘Youth for Planet’ in 2019. I committed my assistance to help my best friend Mrityunjay Sharma in organizing Sparsh. There were plenty of things going on and I couldn't focus on the startup. At that time, we had a lot of legal work waiting to be done. But at the end of the day, it was my choice to take up all these responsibilities. Except for balancing my grades and other activities, it wasn’t that difficult.
What is the one important thing that you would like our readers to know?
I knew in my first year itself that I wanted to do something different. Jobs weren’t the dead-end to me. I’ve always wanted to do a start-up or an NGO which no one was daring to take up. I would just like everyone to explore a lot. For example, CHRD, Renesa, and technical clubs provide a free trial to a lot of new things that you might be interested in. By the end of second year, know what your forte is and start working from then itself.
What are the difficult and fun parts of your journey?
I had applied for 7 to 8 companies like JP Morgan, Amazon, etc. but did not qualify there. So, I was very uncertain about my future as I questioned myself on how I could begin with the startup if I don’t have a job. So that was a bit demotivating. Then I decided to quit the interviews as they were going nowhere. The fun part is, right now I have around 10-12 interns from SVNIT who probably would’ve gotten the jobs that I didn’t! So hiring them is a fun part.
What according to you are the essential skills that engineers today are missing?
Practical implementation, period.
I feel that in college, the work done by clubs like Drishti, SAE, ACM, etc. is actual engineering. We usually see them hiring people from second year and onwards, but the students interested and selected there are very few compared to the number of students in the college. So, more and more students should work in this direction. Although I won’t be the right person to ask this because I’m not working exactly as an engineer. You could call me a software engineer but definitely not an electrical engineer.
What was it like to graduate amidst a pandemic?
I will be very honest that this lockdown period has been beneficial to me and my startup as I could focus on it more. So, I had an undue advantage for myself and my work.
But the sad part is my friends and I were working with the motivation that at the end of college we will be chilling. But we did not get those last few months, so it was a bit disheartening. It was easy for the startup to grow but emotionally tough on everyone.
What is the lesson you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs of SVNIT?
Focus on one thing and don’t hesitate to start it because the first steps are difficult. I had a lot of fundamental ideas in my college years. The frequency of these ideas would be almost every fifteen days, like I wanted to do a lot of things but you know, we need to stick to one thing and not wait to begin the process. It gets very difficult to start after college.
Second thing is, prioritize your work. For me, the grades weren’t my priority, although I did learn a lot. I discovered what I wanted to do and that worked in my favour.
I would just like to say that do not hold yourself back from learning. Go out and explore to the fullest.
Renesa would like to thank Harnish Rajput for this interview and wishes him all the best for his future endeavours.
Visit piblitz.com for more information about the Piblitz platform.
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