It was in 2007, when I started doing my CFA from ICFAI. It is a long-distance education program and we used to have weekend classes, and sometimes after working hours. That time I was bitten by the owning-a-website bug and Dhakkanz had not born yet.
One fine day, post our class, our teacher asked us if anyone would want to take a responsibility of making an emailing list for sharing the sample papers that he would send. I found that as an opportunity and took that up. Firstly it started with sharing the papers which our teacher used to send. Later it became a way to sharing queries and answers. But slowly I felt the need of making a group email ID which could be used to send emails and their replies to and people could subscribe. That time around 15-16 students had shared their email IDs with me.
Then I got to know about the Google Groups. One could make a group and get a unique email ID which could be used for sharing via emails without disclosing the email IDs to whole group. I started ‘CFAStudentsGroup’ group on Google Groups. There were emails getting shared, pages were written, people even started sharing job positions and that became quite known within the CFA students of ICFAI, but limited to mostly Northern geography of India. The count had risen to somewhat 100-125. I used to have discussions with my friends and other students as to how could I bring more value to students. What is the need of the hour and what is that will make this concept fly high. And frankly, I also wanted to make some money out of it.
I then started exploring the web for alternatives. I had heard of blogging that time, but had no resources (read as: writers who could write) for the same and I myself wasn’t too confident on my financial articles. Also, with what I gauged from my discussions with several students, the need of the hour was ‘something or somewhere students could go and find resolutions to their queries, do discussions and also spend some light time’. THAT was another ‘opportunity’. That was the time when I thought of starting a Forum for CFA students.
I not just wanted to start something organized, but something genuine. But this meant spending some money and this was the time when I actually spent some money. I bought a domain and hired a some hosting space for launching my Forum. It was called www.CFA-Forum.com. And that was the launch of my own website. I guess it was 2008 already.
Then came little success
It became quite popular. The website gained lot of traction from lot of students. There was sharing, there was discussion and there was misuse too. The visitor count ticking numbers in 100s. There were times when unknown faces would greet me in the Delhi’s Metro while travelling for classes, who would know me as the owner of the website (I have no idea how did people recognize me, as I had never shared my picture anywhere publicly).
The popularity was also reaching those students who were doing their CFA from the US Institute. Just to give you some background, CFA from US is very popular and both institutions at that time were fighting hard over the term ‘CFA’, which finally got won by the US Institute. Now, obviously the students of US Institute used look down upon my website and even mocked about we being Naive.
But that was alright. I was more happy knowing that I had my intentions clean and sharing the knowledge, with indifference to which institute one was studying from. And, I was successful to the limits of my resources.
Here is an archived page of my forum that I pulled out today, first time after 5 years
Managing the website was not easy. I had to spend a lot of time (post my working hours) on internet filtering out the scum (bad posts), replying to students, making other students (who were friends) to reply to the posts and even sometimes to keep dead-posts alive.
During this time I learnt a lot of Forums, their technical aspects, plugins, coding etc. Believe me, I had never worked on even HTML before this. And I could now tweak codes to mod the websites. It was a great learning and that helped me a lot in my future endeavors.
What just happened?
I had made one mistake, which many entrepreneurs do in their initial times. Doing a proper study. I made the same mistake.
When my website gained traction from the students of AIMR (the US Institute), it also rang some bells at the Institute itself. I am not sure if it actually got that popular or some student did the mischief. Within 6-7 months of launch of the website, I received a notice from AIMR’s legal department that I could not use the term ‘CFA’ commercially or otherwise as it is a registered trademark. If at all I continued doing the same, I could be sued. I was shocked. I had no intentions of doing that. My only aim was to help the students.
I was both sad and happy. Sad, because I did not get support anyone to fight against that. I alone could not do it and frankly had no Idea about what shall I do. One of my lawyer friends also suggested to pull down the website as AIMR’s claim was true. I even contacted ICFAI University, if they could help me with this, but in vain. I met some people from the university, but they refused to help directly.
I even thought of selling of the website, but that too didn’t happen. Within few days I realized time had come and I would have to shut down the website. But yes, I was happy. I was happy to have achieved this much. From an entrepreneurial aspect, I had done OK, if not good.
‘Never Say Die’
So, that was the story of my entrepreneurial efforts. I am still bugged with the entrepreneur bug, but haven’t been able to do anything big, other than my Dhakkanz blog. Even this blog faced some bad luck.
I am waiting for the right time, right opportunity and availability of right resources. I know I will do something again.
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