Origin Story: shaadi.com



The original logo I created. (yes, that font is Comic Sans!)

After years of answering questions about my role in originally co-founding shaadi.com, I figured it would be easier to pen the origin story of shaadi.com. Hopefully, this will clear up any misconceptions of it’s early days.

The idea for shaadi.com really started on August 9, 1995. That was the day of the Netscape IPO and what would be the beginning of the dot com euphoria. I had just graduated from Indiana University (IU) in May 1995 and was going to start working at Andersen Consulting (now called Accenture) just days after the Netscape IPO.

Netscape going IPO was hugh for me since I had been using Netscape products before they were called Netscape. Initially, the browser was called NCSA Mosaic and all the tech people on the IU campus were using it because it was created up the road at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).  The team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) included Marc Andreessen who went on to start the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Before Mosaic, everything was text based using the Gopher protocol. However, with Mosaic everything appeared graphical and was the start of the internet that we are all familiar with now.

After seeing the Netscape IPO rocket into orbit my brother-in-law, Sandeep Jain, and I kicked around many ideas we felt the internet would transform. The two ideas we kept coming back to: jobs and matrimonial listings. Both of these areas were already large revenue generators for print media and we felt a digital version would be a great business disruptor. In then end, we decided to focus on matrimonials.

So in early 1996, I bought the domain name shaadi.com from the only place you could at the time – Network Solutions. And we were in business…well not exactly. Someone still had to build the website and I was tapped to do it. I didn’t expect a lot of traffic initially so I decided to create the website as a static site, meaning any changes to the site had to be manually coded/changed. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but I launched version 1 of the website using Microsoft’s FrontPage which had just acquired the software from a company called Vermeer Technologies. 

Version 1 of shaadi.com was officially launched on October 1, 1996 – you can check out an archived copy of it. (If you look closely at the bottom of the page, you’ll see we used keyword stacking to get ranked higher in search engines like AltaVista, Lycos, etc. This was years before Google and their PageRank algorithm which killed that technique to game the search engines.)

Within hours of the launch we started to get traffic and people were actually filling out the form and putting their details online!  I approached many universities around the area and asked for a list of student email addresses and they gave it to me, remember this was back in 1996 when no one seemed to care about privacy protection. I initially targeted the Big Ten universities (located in the midwest region of the US) which had a large Southeast Asian population, those students in turn helped to spread the word virally to the East and West coast universities.

Two things quickly emerged:
1. having a static website was not viable because a lot of time was spent on manually editing the HTML pages
2. It turned out that individuals did care about privacy protection and wanted some level of privacy

There was no way we could continue operating the website without looking to the future. It was time to create a dynamic website and give people some sort of privacy. The technology stack (as tech people like to call it) consisted of:

– Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS) as the web server
– Active Server Pages (ASP) for the web pages
– Microsoft Access for the database (oddly enough, I still have that original database)

I picked Microsoft because the alternative was Perl and honestly that just seemed too esoteric at the time. Back then, technology was difficult and marketing was easy whereas today it’s the exact opposite. During the summer of 1997, I bought an “ASP for Dummies” book and started to code the dynamic website. By day I was a consultant at Andersen Consulting and at night Sandeep and I were burning the midnight oil to launch version 2 of the website. We also allowed people to use an email alias such as 100405@shaadi.com that would point to their real email address, that was a massive hit and it helped to get more people onto the website.

As luck would have it, I was assigned to the Iridium project based in Scottsdale, Arizona and my roommate was Vijay Shah. Vijay was busy building an e-commerce portal called IndiaPlaza.com. Here were two guys building one of the largest Indian e-commerce portals at the time (Vijay) and one of the largest Indian matrimonial websites (me) all out of an Oakwood rental apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona.

If you ask anyone who was knee-deep in the internet business at this time it was a crazy period. I made the mistake thinking that this period would come again. My thought process was: I graduated from college in ’95, bought a domain name in ’96, did some gorilla marketing in ’97 and ramped up shaadi.com to be the largest matrimonial website in the world by ’99. I thought we could do this again and again for all sorts of verticals – shampoo, rinse and repeat.

In late 1999, I was approached by Siddharth Mehta about purchasing the website. I recently had left Andersen Consulting for Cisco Systems and was drinking the internet kool-aid. Cisco was on a high as well and the stock was going through the roof, I was pretty sure I was going to retire within a couple years with all my stock options (haha!). On March 27, 2000, Cisco hit a high of $80.06 briefly making it the most valuable company in the world.  I decided to sell shaadi.com and Siddharth flew out to Los Angeles and finalize everything. A few weeks later it was official, I changed the contact information on the domain name from myself to Siddharth. We had just sold our baby.

Between when we sold shaadi.com and 2001, the internet economy collapsed and took everything with it down the toilet…including stock options. In 2001, Siddharth sold shaadi.com to it’s current owner – Anupam Mittal. Coincidently, Anupam was running Satyanet and started the matrimonial website Sagaai.com in 1996. Once he bought shaadi.com he rebranded everything under the new domain name and continued to lead it as the largest matrimonial website in the world.

Moving from iOS to Android…



Every 6 months I’ll go through the motions of proclaiming that I’m dumping iOS in favor of Android. I’ll complain about how the pricing delta between a top Android phone and the latest hotness from Apple is increasing. Then, I’ll write down a list of things I use on my iPhone and try and map it to the Android ecosystem.

4 years ago is the first time I said I was going to dump iOS and shack up with Android. Back then when I made my list, Apple supposedly had the perfect ecosystem where everything worked in harmony whereas Android was like your crazy cousin that lived in a trailer park – scary. But over the years Android got its act together and now is on par with the Apple ecosystem…yes, hell has frozen over for this die hard Apple fanboi.

It might seem scary when moving to a different platform but today it’s very easy. There are really 4 things to think about when moving from iOS to Android and vice versa:

  1. Data – email, address book, calendars, reminders, photos, videos, etc…
  2. Apps – Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, etc..
  3. Cloud Service – Your data is getting backed up to a cloud service (you are doing this right?)
  4. Content Streaming – More and more people want to stream content from their phone to a TV

Everyone knows about number 1 and 2.  But, most people fail to backup their data and then complain when their phone dies or gets stolen, there really is no excuse except you are stupid. Content streaming was a deal breaker for me but with the introduction of the Nexus Player a complete Android ecosystem is now in place. Most people won’t or don’t care about streaming but as we take more pictures and videos it’s much easier to view the content on a big screen.

Does this all seem a bit too much? Don’t worry, I created a PDF guide that shows what things you need to consider when jumping from one platform to another. Instead of me making that list every 6 months, I just decided to create the PDF and share it with everyone as my Christmas gift to you!

So, when will I actually move over to Android? I’m hoping 2015 brings a slew of slick phones from the Android ecosystem. I’ve got my eyes on Obi Mobiles, which is the company started by ex-Apple CEO John Sculley. The rumor mill suggests they are working on some phone designs that can compete head to head with the iPhone.

Happy Holidays!

Download the PDF guide

Datsun No-Go Fiasco


datsun-goA couple of weeks ago the Global New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) tested the Maruti-Suzuki Swift and Datsun Go (owned by Nissan), two cars which are sold in India. Most countries have their own automotive standards board like the US has the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), India has the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). NCAP is an initiative by the United Nations to make cars and roads safer around the world. NCAP usually has stricter norms in countries where big companies can push around the government officials…kinda like India.

So what were the results of the frontal impact tests for the Maruti-Suzuki Swift and Datsun Go? They deemed both cars unfit for Indian roads and sent a letter to the CEO of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, stating he has no business selling a car that is so unsafe and should immediately stop producing the car.

The outrage in India was pretty much…not there. As expected a spokesperson from SIAM had a quote to justify the abysmal results:

Every country has its own safety requirements. Our cars are meeting safety norms set by the government. The protocol followed by Global NCAP was not designed for India and tests must be conducted based on the conditions here.

Of course, the cars tested were both without airbags and I’m willing to bet those are the most popular variants of those cars. The reality is most people will place money above their own safety in an effort to save money. And that’s the crux of the issue where SIAM is stuck, consumers don’t want to pay for expensive safety features and car manufacturers are just giving consumers what they want. But at some point the government needs to make some hard choices and enforce that ALL cars have a minimum set of safety features. If all cars go up in price by Rs. 30,000 (USD 500) then so be it, at least people will not die needlessly.

The crash reports for both cars are below:

The PDF of the Maruti-Suzuki Swift results.
The PDF of the Datsun Go results.

YouTube clip of the Datsun Go impact test:

Modi’s Government Transparency Plan


attendanceWhen Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, was campaigning for the top job in India he talked about the need for more government transparency. Like many, I figured this was true to a certain extent but really more about campaign politics to get more people on his side and more votes. However, a couple weeks ago the Modi government launched attendance.gov.in – a dashboard to see government employees attendance records. I guess the idea is that if government employees work for the public, then the public should be able to track if those employees are actually going to the office.

That’s a hugh step forward for government transparency, currently it’s not available for every Indian government employee but I’m assuming over time it will encompass them all. However, just because they show up doesn’t mean they are actually doing any real work. So, as more and more services go online I’m sure the system will also be able to track their efficiency as well.

The Indian government loves using paper for everything because they probably hate trees. Actually, the real reason is because when things get heated with a particular government scam, the government officials involved cam throw up their hands and say “the files have been lost.” However, by using computers like the rest of the world you can start to track the progress of the work being done and as a by-product you can have multiple backups of those “files” – crazy right?

The attendance system is just the first piece of the puzzle and I think it’s a step in the right direction.



My Quantified Diet Project


quantified-dietThe holidays are almost upon us and soon people will start to gorge on food. Then they’ll start a new years resolution to try and lose all that excess weight…it’s a vicious cycle and I’ve been there. For the past 2 months I’ve been running an experiment that is strictly based on numbers – I’ve been tracking EVERYTHING that that goes into my body (food) or gets burned (exercise). This experiment is part of a bigger movement called the quantified self – which is using technology to track all the various numbers and bring some science to the idea of losing weight.

Step 1: The first thing I had to figure out is how much I weigh and how overweight I was. The standard that most clinicians use is the body mass index (BMI) or Quetelet index, which is a measure of my mass and height. You can use this calculator to find your BMI. Now you have your BMI number and number of pounds/kilos you are overweight by. (My BMI was 26.6, which puts me in the overweight category)

Step 2: Next, I needed to figure out how many calories my body typically needs which is known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). This calculator can help (another one – calorie intake and BMI). I’ve found that the online calculators have a wide variance, so you’ll have to average it out or just pick one and go with it. (My calorie consumption is around 2,400 per day).

Step 3:  Figure out your target BMI. People will take drugs to lower their cholesterol number so they can be in the healthy range but for some reason people just don’t care about the BMI. For me it was not only about losing weight but also getting into the healthy range of the BMI index. I decided to shoot for 23.5. That works out to about 173 lbs. which means I have a goal to shed 23 lbs.

Step 4: How many pounds do you want to lose per week? It’s easy to say I want to lose a pound a week but when you look at it mathematically it’s not so easy. As a rule of thumb, 1 pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So to lose 1 pound you would need to cut 500 calories per day either from your diet or increase your exercise. For me to lose 1 pound a week, I needed cut my calories to around 2,200 and also ran 20 minutes a day…everyday.

Step 5: Track your calories and exercise. For calories I used the MyFitnessPal app, it’s got a massive database of food that you can select from to track your calories consumed. Since I run, I used the Nike+ running app and then would add the calories burned into MyFitnessPal.

Implementing the above system, I was very surprised of the preliminary results. I was able to drop about 15 lbs. in 10 weeks which is more than I expected. As always, your mileage will vary and the real test will be for me to sustain this level of heightened awareness and determination in the long run.

[Nov 10, 2014 – 3 month update]

  • Started at 89 kg (195.8 lbs)
  • Now at 80.9 kg (177.98 lbs)
  • Shed 8.1 kg (17.82 lbs)
  • 1 sugar packet = 1 suger cube = 4 grams of sugar = 16 calories (a 20 oz bottle of Coke has 65 grams of sugar or about 16 sugar packets)
  • Ran 20 minutes a day (87 out of 90 days)
  • I’ve come to realize 80% of the weight loss was from reducing my calorie intake and the other 20% was from physical activity

[Dec 10, 2014 – 4 month update]

  • Now at 79.0 kg (173.8 lbs)
  • Shed 10.0 kg (22.0 lbs)
  • Ran 20 minutes a day (118 out of 122 days)
  • portion control, portion control, portion control…did I mention portion control?

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