Interview with Rahul Bansal, Founder and CEO of rtCamp

Rahul Bansal is one of the most recognizable faces in the WordPress community in India. As founder of rtCamp Solutions in Pune, he has led his company to become a VIP Service Partner, the first in Asia and among just 13 globally. He travels often to speak at or attend WordCamps and open-source software conferences, and you can catch up with him at an upcoming trip!

Rahul has spared time from his tight schedule for an email interview on the subject of adopting WordPress as your technology of choice — from building a career around it, to using it as a robust backend solution for your next project.

Let us take a look at his valuable thoughts.

We often witness skepticism among young engineers when it comes to adopting WordPress as a career option. There is often a feeling about WordPress being for small-timers, or an option of last resort. What would you advise these aspiring web developers?

I often see many newcomers blindly following new trends just because it feels “cool”. At the same time, they feel anything old and established, be it a programming language such as PHP or software such as WordPress, feels too “mainstream” and sometimes “boring”.

In the real world, there is no perfect language or software. Rather than going after trends blindly, it is wiser to pick something based on your interest first.

If you are passionate about a technology, you will be able to do produce high quality work with it. Your skills and experience on a technology matters way more than the technology itself.

Talking about WordPress, yes it’s free and easy to use, so naturally “small-timers” prefer it. But it’s flexible and scalable, as can be seen by its usage among many top web sites such as TechCrunch, Time.com, News Corp group sites.

Of course, getting WordPress to work for big sites requires some additional work, but it is way less than compared to what an engineering team would require to get other alternatives working. So WordPress should not be the last resort, but first choice!

The more experience you gain, you will be amazed to see how fast you can start building on complex ideas.

A common fear in the minds of clients and developers alike is that WordPress is dangerously insecure. In fact, WordPress 4.7 attracted a lot of negative press for a major security issue. How do you think you would dispel such a thinking?

WordPress is open source and used a lot more than it’s competitors. This means it has more eyes on it, watching it closely. So WordPress issues likely get noticed faster and result in more press coverage. But as WordPress community is big, such issues are fixed very quickly.

I don’t think there exists a decent sized software without security issues. In case of closed source or not-so-popular software, these issues remain undiscovered, but they are still lurking.

Even a company like Apple has had to deal with security issues. So running away from something because of a few security issues won’t help. It’s just like you don’t stop driving because there is data which indicates that thousands die in car accidents.

So the way forward is to follow the established best practices. Like there are things you can do to drive safe, there are things you can do to keep your WordPress safe.

If you are not a WordPress expert, let the expert manage your WordPress. It’s like having a chauffeur to drive you around. Not as cheap as driving yourself, but it can certainly increase safety, provided you hire the right person for the driving job!

Similarly, to keep your WordPress safe, there are many affordable managed WordPress hosting solutions around. Not only they will keep your WordPress safe, they will even protect you from most other security issues.

It is pretty amazing to draw inspiration from rtCamp, looking at the rise from its founding in 2009 to becoming Asia’s first WordPress VIP Partner. Your company is a great boost for web development agencies in the entire region. Do you have some advice for rising WordPress agencies that look to you as a trend setter?

I started a WordPress-only agency because I was using WordPress for my sites, working as a freelancer on WordPress projects already. The “agency” part was a natural progression of my personal needs and professional skills.

I did not start a company with a growth plan or clear goals. So I find it very hard to give any “business advice”. So I will just tell you what worked for us:

  1. We did what we loved — We started on WordPress when it was small. We used WordPress because it was free and easy. We developed on WordPress because we were using it. At no point, we looked at trends or market share. Working on something that we don’t use always have been out of the question!
  2. Build a nice work culture — Look at things from an employee’s perspective. If you are running a company where you wouldn’t want to work as an employee, chances are your employees are not passionate or serious about what they do!
  3. Karma — We started giving back as soon as we could make our ends meet. “ROI” wasn’t even in our dictionary. Giving back hurt us many times but we didn’t stop. Because we were convinced that it was the right thing to do! I believe that good karma prevails in the end. If you are 100% sure you are doing something good, and not getting results, you need to fix something else. Never stop the good act!
  4. Perspective — When I came out of college, I was already in love with WordPress. I wanted to code on many aspects of WordPress but also needed to earn a living. I made a list of things that were popular in the WordPress ecosystem and searched for projects related to them. If I find a match, I would work for it for as little money as possible. At rtCamp, we still do this. From our perspective, we don’t work for clients. We just want to have fun with technology. Design big stuff. Handle big traffic. Push the limits. Clients are just sponsoring our adventure and in return getting whatever stuff we are building out there. It’s just a coincidence that what we build is useful for our clients!

Could you shed some light on the importance of being part of an active community?

Community involvement is very important. I cannot express this enough in words.

Be it a local meetup group or WordCamp or any other conference — you need to step out and meet people. Speak out loud about your problems. Nobody is perfect and that is fine. The deal is to improve yourself on an ongoing basis. One thing at a time.

Community involvement is not always about getting leads for your business or direct value. It’s all about being open, open to learn and open to change. You may be better at a few things compared to others, but you cannot be great at everything.

When you go out and meet people in your community, you often learn small things from them which can help you big time. Who knows, something you say might help someone else big time too!

The important part is to open yourself to give as well as receive as much as possible.

We all are awestruck by the rise of JavaScript and its conquest of the web. Would you believe WordPress is the ideal backend for most web applications?

I am not sure what you mean by “ideal backend”, but for most content-driven applications, WordPress is a good choice.

It gives you a lot many features to start with and is now available readily over a JSON-based REST API which makes building API-driven applications a breeze.

In my opinion, WordPress is not only good for JavaScript applications, but also mobile applications.

It gives so you many things out of the box to get a great headstart in today’s competitive world!

Thank you so much, Rahul, for all your valuable insights! 


We hope this interview serves as an inspiration for budding developers and entrepreneurs in the WordPress community in Sri Lanka.

Do help us spread word about September’s event by sharing this post with your friends. You can also share your thoughts by commenting right here, or on our Facebook page.

 

The Rise of WordPress in Sri Lanka – A Brief History

Sri Lanka today has a steadily growing WordPress community led by tireless contributors at the front. We are concentrated in the capital city Colombo.

The history of WordPress on the island can be traced back to 2010, when a hugely active Linux community got together to create a Sinhalese version of Linux. Just like many technology groups, the same people happened to be members of the Sinhala Bloggers Union, at a time when WordPress competed with Blogger as the platform of choice.

WordPress surged ahead as the preferred CMS, owing to user-friendliness, programmer-friendliness and rapid development activity worldwide. Long before we had an organized meetup group, WordPress found interest among small companies and freelancers selling websites and web solutions.

As WordPress rose silently in Sri Lanka, an avid blogger named Rakhitha Nimesh Ratnayake decided to write a book “Developing Web Applications in WordPress”. This was published by Packt in November 2013, four years before the REST API was finally baked into the core of WordPress 4.7. The book was an indication of the immense promise provided by WordPress to developers who wished to transform the CMS into a full-fledged application framework.

Regular Meetups

Setting the momentum for regular meetups required significant sacrifices by our first community leaders, Dasun Edirisinghe and Harshadewa Ariyasinghe. The Colombo Meetup group was formed in 2015. We also have in our fold Mahangu Weerasinghe and Prasath Nadarajah, both longtime WordPress users, and contributors. They were at the first meetup with Dasun and Harshadewa.

The very first meetup happened in a modest coffee shop in September 2015, and this was added to our WordPress Meetup Chapter. The next took place at the Royal College Auditorium in November 2015, with Dasun speaking on contributing to WordPress Sinhala and further taking us on a back-to-basics tour of the WordPress platform and theme development. More meetups followed, and the attendance count fluctuated.

But the vanishing people didn’t cause us to lose heart. We had to conduct at least three quality meetups to continue pursuing the aim of getting an approval for WordCamp Colombo – an event that would put Sri Lanka’s WordPress community on the world map.

Our quest for WordCamp Colombo was successful, and we are confident the 2017 event will determine the future for WordPress in Sri Lanka.

WordPress 4.7 and the REST API

Over the last couple of years, Human Made took the lead to bring the REST API into WordPress and expose raw JSON data across platforms. The metamorphosis of WordPress into a headless CMS with Version 4.7 is the second turning point in the history of WordPress after the introduction of Custom Posts Types in 2010. Our WordPress community could not afford to be left behind when history was unfolding in front of our eyes – hence multiple meetups since November 2016 have been dwelling on the subject.

A significant boost to the WordPress Colombo Meetup group was the participation by members of the Colombo JavaScript meetup group at the February workshop-style meetup.

Gearing up for the Future

At the time of writing this blog, WordPress in Sinhala is 71% translated. Credits go to Dasun for monitoring this effort during 2015, and Chevindu for contributing a bulk of the translations. Contributors from the Sinhala Bloggers Union and other members of the community also carried out a notable role.

“Learn JavaScript, deeply! It is the future of the web” — Matt Mullenweg

We wish to actualize Matt’s advice in our lives and careers, and the enthusiasm shown by Colombo’s JavaScript Meetup group earlier this year makes us optimistic about huge new value additions to our own community.

Apart from Colombo JS, we have linked up with university students and are planning hands-on workshops to help them adopt WordPress. These early adopters from among undergraduate students will help shape newer versions of WordPress and its endless implementation ideas.

Have you thought of being part of the Sri Lankan WordPress community? You don’t necessarily have to be a programmer. Even if you are a programmer, you do not need to possess special badges and insignia. Every role will be valued. You could also be a business owner looking for the finest web solutions, a photographer capturing memorable moments, or a linguist who can help transcribe videos and translate content.

Keep an eye out for updates on this site, as we prepare for WordCamp Colombo 2017 on 23rd September!