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The Story of the Ashnik Times
Kaustubh Patwardhan I Director – SE, Asia & HK, Ashnik
Bogged down with work on hand, an email reminder popped-up in my inbox about completing my article for the Ashnik Times Newsletter, by today. Keeping everything aside, I opened my notepad with the resolution to comply with the commitment. And suddenly I found myself staring at the empty white screen with black cursor blinking and winking at me mocking me for no ideas to write on. Shying away from that derisive ruthless cursor and the white screen, I closed my eyes and dug my head in my palms trying to concentrate. After a few uncertain moments, my scrabbling mind and empty clanking of the keyboard with backspace and delete buttons were winning over the letters typed. Then suddenly, a moment of enlightenment struck me like lightning and sentences started pouring out, one after the other. The flash of creativity lasted enough to help me sail through the moment bringing all the insights gathered over the last few weeks from industry, customer discussions and partner engagement. The article was sent in time to the marketing team to publish.
I have been through similar experiences several times in the past 5 years while writing. Today Ashnik Times turns 5! The whole team has been holding this Govardhan Parvat (means uphill task in Indian mythology) by writing every month consistently, marketing it, promoting it. This is an important milestone for Ashnik. But milestones are just numbers; there is a story and history behind these milestones. So what was the story of Ashnik Times?
October 2013 – It had been 5 months since I had joined Ashnik. Most of the team was new and fresh. We were forming new strategic technology partnerships, navigating various channel partners, markets, territories, reaching out to new prospects, leads, customers, gathering multiple insights. But the big challenge was while we were trying to unfurl our wings with new technological alignments gaining new insights, it was important to communicate the same to our network in the most personalised way possible and that’s how the idea of an e-newsletter was born.
But then why we chose the name Ashnik Times and not something else? Of course we wanted to get technology and open source world news in people’s inboxes. But just copying a bunch of latest news or articles and using it was not the idea. Many other bloggers and organisations were already doing it. So, what would be unique for us to communicate? Our perspective on the industry, people, work cultures, customers, partners, evolving technologies, open source and more was something that the audience found more value in, than just receiving regurgitated stuff from the internet. There was a lot of feedback coming in from the readers on how they found the information particularly useful or how they were looking forward to reading the next issue and more.
So it became a reflection of our team – Ashnik and our perspectives on business, our culture, our values, our people, our technology alignments, our partners, and of course Times alludes to news in general but also to our time spent gaining those insights while working here at Ashnik. And, that’s why the name Ashnik Times was the most apt one.
If I look back, Ashnik Times has gone through so many changes. For our first few newsletters, the landing page in email body contained the complete articles. Over the period, we realised that landing page should not be long as people usually don’t like to read long content in emails, also it should not be heavy on size as many email servers would reject such content, but it be such as to create curiosity about the article and excite them to click the link for full article. Keeping those aspects in mind, the landing page was reformed to a shorter version with a summary passage from the article with the article embedded in the email body. We also had lighter sections such as ‘Did You Know’ right from the first issue which would highlight some insightful statistics and it still continues to be a part of all our issues. We also started including customer quotes and references. Recently, we started including Vlogs as part of our newsletters, owing to the high amount of video consumption by readers. So the constant process of evolution is something we believe and implement. We always made sure we included pertinent content curated by us with our insights and experiences, interactions, industry trends and technologies.
As the circulation and subscription increased substantially, our technology partners saw value in participation and approached us to include their articles too. Many of them also got inspired to start their own e-newsletters as a new initiative.
It is easy to start an initiative but very difficult to persist with it. I feel that this 5-year milestone for the Ashnik Times is just the beginning. We have just completed the baby stage. There is a Sanskrit saying about how to deal with your child through your life and it goes something like – Pamper for the first 5 years, analyse and correct till the kid is 10 and then on be their friend for life.
Now with Ashnik Times, I feel the 5 years of pampering are over and for the next 5, it will be looked at more critically for its content, focus, creativity and value addition for the readers. With time, the format, content, medium, audience, writers, contributors, promotion strategies would change, but the concept will be the same and will continue to flourish. With the famous Robert Frost lines, I conclude my Story of the Ashnik Times –
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Kaustubh Patwardhan is Ashnik’s Director for Southeast Asia (SEA) and Hong Kong. He leads sales, strategy and business development for the region. Kaustubh joined in 2013 and heads Ashnik’s SEA enterprise open source business with responsibility for strategic planning, channels and partners, sales and operations. He has been instrumental in building Ashnik’s culture which is centered on agility and innovation, aligning it to the core ideology of open source itself. Besides playing a key role in Ashnik’s multi-fold sales growth trajectory, his key accomplishments are building a solid partner ecosystem across the region and being highly responsive on customer engagements.