Something interesting happened in India for the WordPress community a week before Diwali holidays. A WordCamp was organized and it was not in one of bigger cities but in a smaller town of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
We decided to catch up with Gaurav Singh who headed the organizing committee of WordCamp Jabalpur 2011 and ask him questions on how to go about organizing a WordCamp.
Q. How did the idea of having a WordCamp in Jabalpur come into being? Who were in your group and helped out in organizing it.
I was introduced to WordCamp by my friend Aniket Pant when I was doing internship at Delhi Metro Rail Corporation in June this year. We were fascinated by the idea to organize WordCamps in our cities (Goa and Jabalpur) and applied for it. Unfortunately he was not granted permission and I managed to succeed.
After getting permission, I got warm support from my juniors in college, namely Roopal, Ankit and Apoorv. They were the real organizers whose efforts made this a success.
Q: Jabalpur is not a metro in India, what had an disadvantage or an advantage?
Jabalpur not being a metro in early days felt like a big disadvantage as most of the tech guys and companies are based out of cities like Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. In beginning it seemed really hard to get some sponsors from Indian companies, who were not ready to support because it was organized in a tier-2 city. Some speakers had to cancel their slot because of 2-3 days long journey and non availability of tickets.
On a brighter side, we were able so cut down costs, as a tier-2 city is relatively cheaper when compared to metros. This made us save on infrastructure cost like venue charges, bandwidth(donated by BSNL at 1Gbps) and other such items. Above all, we are happy that we were able to spread WordPress and open source in a city which is not too involved in web development. WordCamp was covered in the local Hindi daily(Dainik Bhaskar) for 5 consecutive days. Now I get calls from people who want to shift their HTML sites to WordPress. I consider this to be a big achievement.
Q: Were you all WordPress developers or just enthusiats?
I am a WordPress freelancer since 3 years and have my little contribution to WordPress community as well. Other organizers are WP enthusiasts and now trying to get more into it since WordCamp.
Q: What was your single biggest challenge in arranging a WordCamp?
The single biggest challenge was to convince tech guys from metros to travel some 500-1000 km to join us for WordCamp. Most of them were professionals and had to take leave from their day job to reach here. It was awesome meeting them all and would like to thank them for being here during WordCamp.
Q: Jabalpur being a smaller city, do you think more WordPress fans from other smaller cities would be inspired?
Yes, it was managed totally by undergraduate students. We can hope to see more such events coming up in future. I had a e-mail conversation with Andrea, an Automattic employee who managed WordCamps across globe, told me that applications from India have increased exponentially since WordCamp Jabalpur.
Q: Your advice to anyone looking to organize a WordCamp in India and tell us about any India specific challenges?
I would suggest people, never start exporting speakers from outside your city. First look in the local WordPress group and see if someone is interested in being a speaker. Also as WordPress is not a very well known topic in most of Indian colleges, I would suggest offer some discount for students as they are the backbone of all tech developments in future.
The biggest India specific challenge is lack of WordPress community. We don’t have local WordPress meets and also developers are not on a common mail group for better discussions. If possible, try to form a community and keep that strong even after WordCamp.
Q. I was struck but the fact that WordCamp Jabalpur was held very close to Diwali. Considering a lot of bloggers and WordPress enthusiasts are college students, did having it during vacation time help or hinder the camp.
The weekend we choose WordCamp was the only feasible date from our side. A weekend before that meant we had little time for preparation and a weekend after meant no tickets for most of last-minute planners because of the Diwali rush. However the dates in end proved to be good for us as most participants being students, had this even at the start of festive season just before vacations in colleges.
Q. Finally who helped you organize WordCamp Jabalpur 2011?
The names of organizers and volunteers are Roopal Jain, Ankit Chansoria, Apoorv Anand, Arya Bhasin, Neha Nupoor, Ambar Khan, Kautuk Kashyap, Akaar.