How often do you see anything related to science in any media platform? Even if you see them, do you know how much of the science coverage is attributed to mass media in India? It is just 3 percent. Much below than the desired level.
Meet Santanu Das, the founder of MachPriciple have a vision of connecting all the academicians and general public into a single platform. MachPriciple is a social platform where scientists can promote their work and science enthusiasts can learn about the research.
We had an amazing interview with Mr. Santanu discussing his work, achievements, and challenges. Check out the full interview below
How will you Introduce yourself to the world?
My name is Santanu Das and I am a physicist, engineer, and founder of MachPrinciple.com. I am an alumnus of some of India’s leading universities. After finishing my engineering in Aerospace from IIT Kharagpur, I sat in the qualifying exam for Masters and Ph.D. program in Aerospace, Computer Science and Physics. In all the three exams, my all India rank was within the top 10.
Finally, I chose to do a Ph.D. in Physics from IUCAA. After Ph.D., for a short time, I worked in the LIGO India project, which is the first Gravitational-Wave observatory of India. Presently I am working in a joint position of Fermilab, the premier particle physics lab in the world, and University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Throughout my academic career, I felt a need for connecting scientists and academicians with the general people. That’s how I came up with the concept of MachPrinciple, a social network for academicians.
Tell your readers about your achievements till today (Be Honest) !!
I was always very curious about space. That’s why I chose to do a bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering. During my engineering days, I started the first student satellite project of IIT Kharagpur, the STUSAT-1. However, the project got delayed, the team fell apart and the satellite was never launched.
I also headed towards the Robotix and the Artificial Intelligence group in Kharagpur. Painting is my hobby. I organized 4 art exhibitions while I was in Pune. I also sold my paintings. While talking about science, I published 26 papers in Physics and Aerospace engineering in different journals. I also wrote multiple software packages which are used by different groups and have their Wikipedia pages.
I felt that it’s really important to connect scientists with the general people. People love to hear about science if it’s said simply. So I started to promote my research in a WordPress blog. Which slowly grew and finally took the shape of a social network. Today it has more than 12,000 registered users.
Tell us about your start-up!
Its quite sad that the science coverage attributed to mass media in India is abysmally poor, i.e. around 3 percent, which is far below the desired level of 10-15 percent, as we see in other developed nations. Therefore we need a social platform where scientists can promote their work and science enthusiasts can learn about the research. MachPrinciple.com is a professional network that is specially created to fulfill that need.
Then several additional features are built on top of that to create values for students and researchers by helping them to share their presentations, writing feedback about their institute, finding conferences, etc.
“What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
Apart from connecting people in a social network, the most important thing we are doing presently is that we are developing a platform where college students can share their class notes, question papers, presentations, etc. in the public domain. This will help students from junior batches and students from other universities to access the lecture notes.
In fact, during my college days, I learned many subjects from reading MIT OpenCourseWare and Perimeter Institute lecture notes. It will also help the students to show their presentation to others. They can show their presentations during their Job interview and explain to them what they have done in college. So it will even promote the works that students have done during their college days.
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What’s your take on your segmented/targeted Market?
The main goal of MachPrinciple.com is to connect people who are somehow linked to the education system. They may be school students, college students, parents, teachers, professors, researchers or scientists, MachPrinciple.com connects them into a single platform.
Scientists can promote their research, College students can share their class notes, course presentations, etc. Parents can learn about the latest scientific research and tell their kids. They can also get feedback about different school colleges and universities etc. Professors and researchers can find upcoming conferences to go to. So in a way we are creating value for each section in academia.
What are the challenges you have faced and what are the current challenges? Mention the top three challenges for both.
The first challenge was to develop the social network. My brother, who was a web-developer, designed the first version of a website in 2015. More than 80% of the initial codes of MachPrinciple were written by my brother. But developing such a big network just by him was impossible. I also did not have sufficient money as a Ph.D. student.
After I joined UW Madison, I got a decent salary to hire people. I hired a company for developing the website. But they did not do much and delayed the project for 7-8 months. So I had to fire them and it was difficult to develop the site in the initial phases. Now we have a good team of web and app development.
After the development, it comes to marketing. It will never behave as a social network unless there are a few million users. We are just starting our journey. So we are trying to reach out to people and grow it faster. When we launched the website last year we were having 1-2 registrations a day, sometimes even 1 registration in a few days. But now the situation is changing. Now the main challenge is to develop strategies to grow it fast.
Why you have started up? Be specific with your reasons!!
As I told you before, as an academician I felt the need of connecting all the academicians into a single platform. It will help researchers with science outreach. Starting the WordPress blog was completely personal.
I wanted to promote my research, in particular, a paper that got rejected by a journal. I started assuming that if I write about the work in a blog post then everyone will see that. But things don’t work like that. There are about 600 million blogs around the world. It will take 5-6 months for different search engines to list your blog. Coming to the first page of the search engine is a farfetched dream. But anyway, I keep writing posts related to scientific work in the blog.
Then my brother developed the initial codes for the blogging website in 2015 and we moved from the WordPress website to the custom coded blog. We never stop developing. The first version of the social networking site is launched in Dec. 2018.
Where do you want to see yourself in the next 5 years?
As I said, we started very slow. But now after about 1 year of launching the website, we are getting about 60-100 new registrations a day. A social network will grow exponentially. That’s how the social network grows in the world.
As people will learn about our network, find their friends on the platform, and gain trust in MachPrinciple, they will join the network. Presently we have about 60,000 monthly active users. After 5 years I want to see a situation where we will have 100,000 active users a day.
Please share your learning for fellow Entrepreneurs?
I will again repeat the cliché line, “Never give up”. You don’t know what will happen in the future. I started MachPrinciple as a simple WordPress blog 6-7 years back. We slowly kept on adding new features. People started joining. Finally, we launched the social network and from a couple of hundred users, it grows and grows.
Now it has 105,821 science articles. Can you imagine what would have happened if I ever thought of stopping the old blog because it was not growing? The journey is never easy. But keep on being consistent and do what you love to do.
Mr. Santanu das is looking for investers on his business to work smoothly and grow in the market. Check out his website – https://machprinciple.com/.
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