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Initially created as a wordpress blog in 2010 to “bridge the information gap and reduce our dependency on the college and individuals”, Project Cloud has slowly been growing in popularity as the ideal platform for law-school related announcements. In this e-mail interview, Chetan Tripathy (NLU-Jodhpur Class of ’11) tells Bar & Bench about the perils of bootstrapping, the importance of law school and why you should always do the things you love.
Bar & Bench: Hi Chetan. Thanks for speaking to Bar & Bench. You started Project Cloud during your final year at NLU Jodhpur around 2010. How did you come up with the idea? And secondly, how did you go about executing this idea?
Chetan Tripathy: As a law student, I was keen to publish papers and attend conferences. However, it struck me how hard it was to get hold of information. The law school would put up notices and posters but they would vanish in a day or two. There were no emails or reminders. Sometimes only a few students would get to know about certain opportunities and wouldn’t share them with the rest. Most of all, we lacked a comprehensive information dissemination mechanism.
So the core idea was to build a site that would bridge the information gap and reduce our dependency on the college and individuals. If the situation was so bad in the top law schools, what would it be in the second and third tier law universities? A lot of enthusiastic law students are missing out on some exciting opportunities. And only because we haven’t devised a way to circulate information to each student.
I started web-designing when I was in seventh grade. So I was not new to it but being in law school meant I had forgotten to keep up with a lot of developments. You have some amazing technology today to start your website. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would go about things but I started off something really simple with WordPress, which is an easy-to-deploy website management software. It began with me posting announcements in an easy to read format. From there I proceeded to creating a platform that would allow institutions, organisations and students to make their own announcements.
Bar & Bench: How big is the Project Cloud team?
Chetan Tripathy: A large chunk of the hard work is done by those who make the announcements. None of this would have been possible without the students and others across the country who spend their time and energy to make these announcements. In the process they ensure that everyone has a fair chance to participate and contribute.
My role is complimentary. I have to develop and ensure that the site is intuitive and bug free. I also need to ensure that products such as the law school calendar and mobile apps are regularly updated. Most importantly, announcements require moderation to ensure that our readers are provided the latest information in a format that easy to read and understand. What makes all this possible and keeps me inspired is the amazing feedback and support that I have received from the Project Cloud community.
Bar & Bench: What was the initial response?
Chetan Tripathy: It was silent. And I knew that was to be expected. Many people launch blogs and websites and judge their success with the number of visitors and Facebook likes. It is frustrating when you put in a lot of work but no one shares your content and soon the site has to be shut down.
The fact is, as I realised, your success depends on your focus and dedication. It took almost two years for Project Cloud to get traction among law students. It’s really easy to walk away when you give everything and nobody notices. This makes it really important to do what you love. You’ll think twice before giving up. If you hang in there, you’ll see that people appreciate your work.
Bar & Bench: So there are quite a few sites which cater to law students these days, specifically providing information about upcoming events. How is Project Cloud any different from these sites?
Chetan Tripathy: Project Cloud is a dedicated announcement platform. So when you see an announcement on Project Cloud, you’ll notice it has been made by someone associated with the announcement. For example, if there is a call for papers announcement, it would usually have been made by someone associated with the journal. This gives our readers the ability to interact directly with the announcer. Each time there is a new question, the announcer receives a notification.
Some of the other popular features include the law school calendar and events map. The law school calendar also helps students keep track of upcoming deadlines and has also been embedded in the mobile app. The events map shows all upcoming events on a big map. So if you want to travel cross-country and need a reason to do so, that’s the tool to look for.
We’re also allowing websites and blogs to embed the Project Cloud law school calendar as well as a widget that would show the latest announcements. Since these are free, they will be extremely useful for both site owners and bloggers who can embed them easily by just copying a few lines code provided by us.
Bar & Bench: Do you see this as becoming a source of revenue at any point of time? What are the kind of numbers (of visitors) your site attracts right now?
Chetan Tripathy: I think it is too early to speculate on future revenue from the site. However, the success of the site will depend on the number of people who access it and take advantage of its features. I cannot comment on the exact figures but we have received viewers from almost 160 countries. Over the last few months we have seen an increasing number of readers and announcements from Europe and Africa.
Bar & Bench: I also noticed that Project Cloud now has an App for smart phones. Are you some sort of programming whiz? And if so, what on earth were you doing in law school?
Chetan Tripathy: I’m definitely not a programming whiz. It helps to have a computer background. I used to design programs and websites before I got into law school so I understand how to go about the process.
I’m really glad the app has been well received. The mobile and tablet app has been designed to help law students keep track of upcoming deadlines and read the latest announcements. Currently the app is available for the iPhone, iPad and the Android phone. It’ll soon be available on Android tablets.
None of this would have been possible without the five years I spent at law school. The law school experience is sacrosanct. You should definitely not wish it away. It gives you the space and time to define yourself which is very important when you are in your early twenties. I even took the time to write and publish two volumes of poetry. So everything contributes in its own way.
Bar & Bench: With respect to Project Cloud, what are the kind of improvements or changes that you planning to bring?
Chetan Tripathy: For me Project Cloud is all about building a site which will encourage students to get out and indulge in their passion. It’s about providing an outlet to everyone no matter how exotic their interests are.
There is a lot of room for improvement in terms of reader convenience. In the coming months, users will notice significant changes in the announcement process. It is challenging since the process has to be simple and easy for even first-time users.
We will be seeing the introduction of a number of features over time. For example, we would like to introduce a better commenting platform which would encourage readers to ask more questions. A lot of features are locked into our growth in terms of readers and announcements over the coming months. With feedback from our readers and announcers, we’ll make progress together.
Bar & Bench: What has been the most difficult obstacle/s with respect to Project Cloud?
Chetan Tripathy: The biggest challenge at this point is getting the word out. And because I am bootstrapping, there are number of financial challenges which prevents me from promoting the platform. The future success of Project Cloud is reliant on the goodwill of its readers and announcers which is why it is important to provide the best online experience to everyone on the site.
Bar & Bench: Lastly, once you complete your LLM are there any other projects that you plan to work on?
Chetan Tripathy: There are a few other projects which I am working on, including one relating to the right to information. Though new and challenging, there is a lot of scope for Project Cloud to grow and become a productive tool for students. The next few months will play a crucial role in determining its future potential. The core philosophy, however, will always be about ensuring fair opportunities for students everywhere.
Chetan Tripathy graduated from the National Law University, Jodhpur in 2011. He is currently in the final stages of an LLM program at King’s College, London.