Rising from the Rubbles: How WebRobo found an existence in the aftermath of earthquake

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Rising from the Rubbles: How WebRobo found an existence in the aftermath of earthquake

 

The 7.8 earthquake in Nepal was a catastrophe. Dreams shattered. Bones battered. Thousands of casualties, including Madhu Khadka. And yet, Madhu turned the situation around for himself to pursue his dream of building robots for interactive learning. With constant motivation from his friends and family, he picked himself up, dusted off the sceptics, and began his entrepreneurial journey with the IT company WebRobo.

Madhu, 24, turned what Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) had to say about entrepreneurship: “Entrepreneurship is jumping off a cliff and building a plane the way down.” For him, it was about hitting rock bottom under the rubbles of the great earthquake, and building robots on the way up.

 

A message from the universe

A Bachelor’s level student of IT Engineering at Nepal College of Information Technology (NCIT), Madhu had a passion for robotics and he found his dream at a school event.  He accompanied his friend Nischal to receive his nephew’s school results in 2014. Amidst the tense crowd, he found his friend’s nephew slip aside to a corner and play with a toy car. The sight of 2nd grade student playing with a toy car sparked the light in the mind of Madhu. He recalls thinking, “What if we could make learning more fun? We can incorporate that car as his study material. We can build a robot car that would teach alphabets and use voice control for interactive learning among kids. That was the message from the universe, and my friends and I have been refining the idea since.”

With the robot car in mind, Madhu and his team entered the Microsoft Innovation Center Imagine Cup Nepal 2015 (a premier student technology program and competition). They bagged the runner up position, and began incubating their startup around the product, when they faced a great tragedy.

 

Surviving the great tragedy

All the dreams and initial work got crushed in 25 seconds. On April 25, 2015, Madhu was meeting up with his friends at Jatra Café, Basantapur to discuss about presenting the product in a program that was to be held later that day. “We had received an offer to work in the US with our product, given that we have a team of five,” says Madhu, “Things seemed to be falling into place when the earthquake ripped it apart. We were buried under the rubbles at the same café where we had been discussing the project. Everything happened so suddenly. I was fully conscious but confused. I heard my leg break, and when the rescuers got me out, I remember being taken to Bir Hospital, where luckily my friend Swarup Rajbhandari found me and took me to Teaching Hospital.” He adds, “I was in a state of coma for nine days.”

Things seemed to be falling into place when the earthquake ripped it apart. We were buried under the rubbles at the same café where we had been discussing the project. Everything happened so suddenly. I was fully conscious but confused. I heard my leg break, and when the rescuers got me out, I remember being taken to Bir Hospital, where luckily my friend Swarup Rajbhandari found me and took me to Teaching Hospital.

The doctors had lost hopes for Madhu to walk again, but with constant support from his friends and present teammates, he got through.

Lying in the hospital bed, he observed that there was no means of proper information for people. He came up with an idea for a mobile application to fill that gap. This app would not only notify users about the scale of an earthquake but also have information about the relief services being provided by various organizations, with their contact information available to users on their mobile devices. (The app is under incubation at WebRobo at the moment.)

 

Initiating WebRobo

Recovering from the incident, Madhu had a couple of ideas for the venture by now. He wanted to build robots as well as the application. But he also knew that these two ventures were not going to sustain itself. That’s when he combined the ideas of web applications and robotics to start WebRobo, an IT company currently providing website development, software development, mobile app development and digital marketing service. The ‘web’ aspect of the venture was going to act as a backbone for the ‘robo’ aspect as revenues generated from it would be contributed to developing robotic prototypes and running daily operations. 

Madhu initiated WebRobo with Manik Shrestha, 27, and his friends. “I called Manik dai and told him about my idea for the venture. I knew him from college days and he had experience of working in the web sector for four years,” says Madhu, “We joined hands and began working from my room while my broken leg healed. We bootstrapped everything among ourselves. Manik dai and my friends would come over, have client meetings in the room, work day in and day out on the projects received.” They worked first three projects, starting with Helmets Nepal, at his room, and then officially established the venture with an office space at Kaldhara, Kathmandu on April 13, 2016 (Baisakh 1, 2073). Since then, they have worked on 12 projects so far, both local and international.

It also collaborated with Webomatics, its sister company founded by Sobha Shrestha and Menson Sundash at the time of establishment, which works with web applications, Facebook marketing, e-commerce, and Wordpress.

 

Facing criticisms

Madhu and his team faced harsh words and criticisms on their innovative idea of robotics. They presented their dreams to the wrong people who demoralized them to go ahead. People they looked up to did not believe in their idea which made them question their vision a number of times. But despite the general criticism, Manik kept them motivated to keep going.

 

Living the dream with the team

Apart from sharing tons of inside jokes and constantly mocking each other that made me laugh hysterically, the jolly 8-member team of WebRobo shares the big dream. The team members have always been by his side and is continuously working to make their dream work, which can lead them to go haywire sometimes. But their mentor and co-founder Manik keeps them sane and on track, according to Madhu. 

A team is definitely needed, but dreams need to match. I have had this idea for about two years now, and while in college I tried to form a diverse team comprising of seniors and juniors but it didn’t work out because our dreams did not match. Also, we did not have a mentor then. We have Manik dai now who motivates us and we’ve all been learning so much from his knowledge and experiences. There have been mistakes here and there, but I value my team above all because when dreams match and people come together like this, things are bound to turn out well, and it has been going good.

The dream team is comprised of Madhu Khadka (founder), Manik Shrestha (mentor and co-founder), Swarup Rajbhandari and Safalta Shrestha (Android developers), Reman Bala and Bibek Kumar Ray (Designers), Nischal Karki and Sunil Rajbahak (SEO: Search engine optimization). Each team member is voluntarily working to specialize in different fields of their interest.

“A team is definitely needed, but dreams need to match. I have had this idea for about two years now, and while in college I tried to form a diverse team comprising of seniors and juniors but it didn’t work out because our dreams did not match. Also, we did not have a mentor then. We have Manik dai now who motivates us and we’ve all been learning so much from his knowledge and experiences. There have been mistakes here and there, but I value my team above all because when dreams match and people come together like this, things are bound to turn out well, and it has been going good,” shares Madhu.

 

Learning from mistakes

Being an engineering student, Madhu feels that lack of managerial skills has hampered business. He has faced instances when he was not able to communicate properly to a team member and they take it the wrong way. “I am not equipped with HR skills, but I am learning,” he says.

Working in the booming yet small IT market in Nepal with an innovative idea has been a challenge for WebRobo. “People don’t understand it unless we show them how things are done. They want to get the job done with least possible budget, which is not always feasible,” says Manik. WebRobo provides clients with a month’s test time for websites, after which they can choose whether to continue or not. The projects are taken with fixed cost packaging, and the focus is on quality service.

People don’t understand it unless we show them how things are done. They want to get the job done with least possible budget, which is not always feasible

 

Aims for the Silicon Valley

The big dream as Madhu states is to make WebRobo renowned across the globe and match the service level of Silicon Valley. The WebRobo team is targeting the international market in the big picture and working on enhancing their products for the same. They have been working on developing softwares and have robot prototypes under incubation. 

“There are lots of struggles in a startup. There will be failures, but you need to find the motivation to keep going. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to walk after the earthquake incident. If I had given up then, I wouldn’t have reached here today. I’m walking fine and have built this venture with my dream team. The trick is to never give up, it will all be worth it,” expresses Madhu.

There are lots of struggles in a startup. There will be failures, but you need to find the motivation to keep going. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to walk after the earthquake incident. If I had given up then, I wouldn’t have reached here today. I’m walking fine and have built this venture with my dream team. The trick is to never give up, it will all be worth it.

 

 

 

Comments

  • Guest
    madhu khadka Thursday, 23 June 2016

    really happy to get platform to get heard....

    Reply Cancel
  • Juliana Shrestha
    Juliana Shrestha Friday, 24 June 2016

    Such an inspiring story needed to be heard, thank you for sharing! :)

  • Guest
    Helmets Nepal Thursday, 07 July 2016

    Rising from the Rubbles truly said a inspiring personality indeed.
    Congratulation and Best wishes,
    helmetsnepal.com

  • Guest
    Nancy cool Friday, 23 December 2016

    Cool! he is the iron man. I have seen him other then anyone know the door for struggle and pup out from the window for success.

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Guest Wednesday, 18 July 2018