Interview With Founder of Shabdkosh.com : Maneesh Soni
Shabdkosh.com is an online Hindi to English and English t0 Hindi dictionary. It is also offered in various Indian Languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu. Shabdkosh means dictionary in English, is visited by thousands of visitors every day. Alexa.com ranks Shabkosh under top 300 websites of India and under 5000 websites of the world.
Shabdkosh.com is an online Hindi to English and English t0 Hindi dictionary. It is also offered in various Indian Languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.
Shabdkosh means dictionary in English, is visited by thousands of visitors every day. Alexa.com ranks Shabdkosh.com under top 300 websites of India and under 5000 websites of the world.
Many of us might be using this site often but few know that the founder/creator of this site is from Udaipur. Maneesh Soni is an Electronics Engineering graduate from IIT Delhi and holds his master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Virginia Tech and Master’s in Business Administration from University of Texas. He pursued his early education from Alok School and St. Paul’s, Udaipur.
Born and brought up in Udaipur, Maneesh’s father Gyan Prakash Soni is a post graduate from IIT Roorkee and worked for Department of Irrigation, Govt. of Rajasthan for 40 years.
Maneesh has been working in semiconductor industry for about 12 years now. He has designed systems that are used in IP Phones, broadband cable modems, cell phone towers, digital cameras, printers, etc. Recently, he is working on systems that will be used in factory automation – robots, motors, assembly lines etc.
Here is a detailed interview with Maneesh Soni about shabdkosh.com, his professional and personal life.
Maneesh, how the idea of shabdkosh.com came in your mind? Who or what inspired you?
I was always very passionate about Hindi language. This may be because of the environment in our family where my grandfather was a learned scholar and author in several languages including Hindi. When I came to the United States about 10 years ago, I saw that the internet was growing rapidly and transforming people’s lives. I tried to look for websites in Hindi and found none that were of good quality. Being an engineer, I investigated and found that computer systems were just beginning to have built-in support for Hindi. To put what I learned into a real-life system, I thought of building a website in Hindi. It brought several things together – my interest in learning how to build a website, an idea for a website that could be useful, do something in my mother tongue and in the process make a contribution to Indian people whose tax money has been spent on my education.
How were the early days of shabdkosh.com, did you find it tough marketing or promoting the website?
The early days of shabdkosh.com were challenging. I was very new to internet technologies. It was not like today where you could just search for anything and you would get the information. Thanks to the outstanding public library system in America, I was able to borrow lots of books from library and study web programming techniques. Over just a short period of time, I learnt a lot and immediately put my learning into practice. It also helped that the life in America is very efficient. So, one can devote time and energy to personal pursuits also. I was able to do that.
To market the website, I just sent a message to a Hindi users group on internet. To my surprise, people actually visited, liked the site and also provided me with feedback. I incorporated their feedback and over time, I improved the site. Since then, practically all the growth has been through search engines.
Today, shabdkosh has millions of monthly visitors, how do you manage such a high traffic and you have no official team right?
One of the great advances of our time is that technology has removed the barriers where only very large companies could run big operations. Today, there are many examples where individuals or very small teams are running large websites.
By building on my knowledge, by using best quality service providers and by automating a large portion of the website management, the site has been running for over 7 years with hardly any unplanned downtime.
The website is continuously monitored by paid system administrators. That takes care of a lot of administrative tasks. In addition, for web and editorial tasks, people are hired on contract basis.
Would you mind sharing some technical details of shadkosh? How many servers you are using, the domain name and contributor behind the website?
We use dedicated servers and also use content delivery systems to accelerate the site speed. These decisions are continuously evaluated and changes are made based on recent traffic statistics and future projections. As a policy, more details on the technical aspects of the site management cannot be revealed.
The site receives contributions from many users. There are thousands of registered users and tens of thousands of words have been contributed.
As the website has good reputation and traffic, didn’t you ever think to quit your day job and make shabdkosh as your fulltime work?
Yes, I have thought of that. But its time has not come yet.
Being from Udaipur, what do you think about the IT sector of the city? What could be the future of IT in Udaipur?
Udaipur is a city known for its natural and man-made beauty. It is best to play on one’s strengths first. So, my idea for Udaipur would be to create world-class infrastructure and attract tourism as well as business related events. It will require vision, planning and execution on cultural, urban development and technological fronts. If the people of Udaipur and government can do that, it will naturally prosper without having to look at IT sector.
And as far as IT is concerned, Udaipur must focus on infrastructure first. It has tremendous potential to be among the best cities to live in India. If there are good schools, health care facilities, housing, public transport, wide roads, adequate& dependable supply of water and electricity, then Udaipur can become an ideal IT destination. Then, the bright youth of Rajasthan will not have to look for other cities and countries for well paying jobs and higher standard of living. What is important is to make the city and its life attractive to IT companies and IT workers.
Who is your idol? What is your source of inspiration in everyday life?
My idols change as I grow in life. For last few years, my idol is Steve Jobs of Apple. His passion for technology, his attention to detail and his instinct to know how to make technology easy for common people is admirable. He has made excellence a habit among the engineers at Apple. If engineers in India can follow that, there can be transformation.
What are your likes and hobbies?
In addition to managing the website, I have learned how to fly small airplanes, dabble with sketching once in a while, read books and do some photography. I also enjoy playing with my children a lot and that leaves me with little time to do other things.
What if someone offer your 1 billion dollar for shabdkosh.com?
This is very high assessment of its financial potential. But if someone offered an attractive price for the site, I would consider running it full-time for the buyer and also put the large number of other plans I have for this site into practice.
Being away from Udaipur, what are that 5 things you miss about the city?
The five things I miss are being with my parents and family, going to Neemuch Mata temple early in the mornings, driving by Fateh Sagar at night, enjoying the fury of monsoon rains and having a sense of belonging.
What is that one thing you don’t like about Udaipur?
The increasing road rage among youth on the city roads is something I am worried about. Udaipur is small and it hardly takes 10-15 minutes to go around the city. Still, there is extreme impatience among people and it is getting worse.
Any message for our readers?
Please accept wishes for a happy new year. Hopefully, Shabdkosh is useful to you. If there is any feedback, feel free to write via the website.