A conversation from DrupalCon Asia DrupalCon Mumbai 2016 with members of Acquia's Pune, India office: Prassad Shirgaonkar, Prassad Gogate, Prafful Nagwani, and Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire in which we touch on Drupal and community in India, the history of the DrupalCon Prenote, Drupal's multilingual strengths, the Drupal Campus Ambassador Program in India, and more!
jam: We are at the Contribution Sprint day of DrupalCon Asia in Mumbai, wrapping up a great few days for me. Prafful Nagwani, how was your DrupalCon?
Prafful Nagwani: This is my third DrupalCon and this was fantastic. Even more so because this is happening in India, in our own backyard, it has been really, really great the way it’s been organized. The sessions, everyone coming in, meeting each other and stuff, it’s been fantastic.
jam: So I would like to point out ... really a huge thank you to the Drupal Association and everyone involved in the organization because it was incredibly smooth and I’ve been to cons in Europe and America that were nowhere near as well-organized so: fantastic. Thank you Drupal Association.
Prafful Nagwani: Thank you.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes.
jam: How was your DrupalCon?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: It was a dream come true for me. I first did a DrupalCon in London in--I think it was 2011 or 12--and I’ve seen you doing the Prenote. I had met Jacob [Singh] and Dries with whom I work now. From that time, I wanted to do a Prenote with you and I wanted to have that done in India and it happened.
jam: Wow, that’s cool! So we did a Prenote in London called ... so there’s a Dickens’ story called A Christmas Carol and we did a parody of A Christmas Carol and we had the Ghost of DrupalCon Past and the Ghost of DrupalCon Present and the Ghost of DrupalCon Future and it was hilarious and we got chx, the contributor C-H-X to be the Ghost of DrupalCon Past and he was hilarious ... and the whole thing actually ...Prenote I’m so glad you were there! We never talked about this. So Prasad and I organized the Prenote which is a DrupalCon tradition now where it’s an opening introduction sort of a welcome to DrupalCon before Dries’ Driesnote. Prasad and I, as well as Adam Juran and Campbell Vertesi and Parth Gohil and Ashwini Kumar; we wrote it as a team together. We were very concerned frankly about making sure it would be funny in India, right? So Prasad and the Indian team hooked us up with great jokes and concepts and I think we rode the line really well of ... frankly, I don’t know everything that’s going to be offensive in India, right?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Absolutely, absolutely.
jam: So we were really concerned.We wanted to be funny maybe even edgy, right, but not upset people. So how did you feel when we did tongue twisters with an India accent?
Prasad Gogate: Absolutely that was amazing. I think everybody enjoyed that and people probably were not expecting that. So it was really a surprise for them which was obviously a good surprise. Overall, I think DrupalCon in India has been an awesome experience here now. I think it is a dream come true for the entire India community because – and most important is I think the India community has started getting recognized and it’s growing. That’s why – I think that is more important.
jam: So we didn’t quite managed to do this yet. Please introduce yourself to everyone.
Prasad Gogate: I am Prasad Gogate. I work from Pune for Acquia.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: I’m Prasad Shirgaonkar. I work for Acquia from Pune from my home.
jam: So you’re Prasad zero, right?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes.
jam: You’re Prasad one?
Prasad Gogate: Yes.
Prafful Nagwani: Hi. I am Prafful Nagwani and I work for Acquia from Pune office. I have been in Drupal since - eight years now since Drupal 6. Yes.
jam: How did you discover Drupal?
Prafful Nagwani: It happened – I got a job and they said that you need to work on something called PHP. I never worked on PHP until then. So I said, “Okay. Let’s try it out.” Since then, I have been with Drupal. I never worked – before that I was totally working on Microsoft Technologies. I never worked on any of the other open source things. I knew about Joomla. I had read about Drupal, but that’s how my experience started and since then I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.
jam: So eight years. How long have you been doing Drupal, Prasad?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Ten years, since Drupal 4.7.
jam: I installed Drupal 4.6 but I didn’t really do anything with it.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: I did my first site. Actually, I discovered Drupal because I wanted to do my poetry website in Mahrati and back in 2005, 2006, Drupal was the only CMS which supported non-English characters.
jam: Wait, wait. The only CMS?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes. So I had downloaded a couple of others and they didn’t support Unicode characters really well. So Drupal was the only one which supported Unicode ever since its birth actually.
jam: Right. This is a great segue-way into: Hey, Drupal 8 has been released and the multilingual internationalization support is unbelievable! If anybody hasn’t tried this yet, to get a fully, fully, fully translated site in Drupal 7, you couldn’t because there are certain things, variables and certain things that you couldn't touch ... but you could come the very, very closest by installing somewhere between 21 and 27 modules, right?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes.
jam: Hands up who knows how many modules you have to install into Drupal 8 to make it fully multilingual? Every single thing translatable, how many modules do I have to install?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: [faint] Nothing apart from core ...
jam: No. Give me a number. How many modules?
Prafful Nagwani: Three.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Four.
jam: I thought you guys work with Drupal. The correct answer is zero modules. So because core has?
Prasad Gogate: Multilingual.
jam: Right. Four modules that you turn on ... so amazing. So to do that site today, right, would be even easier. So Prasad, how long have you been doing Drupal?
Prasad Gogate: Since four years now, four plus years. So I was introduced when I started working for a company it was like first project for me and Drupal. I never came across it. So from that stage, I learned and then four years I have been working.
jam: What’s your favorite thing about Drupal?
Prasad Gogate: Building sites faster.
jam: Okay. What technologies did you work in before?
Prasad Gogate: It was Arc.js and Microsoft.
jam: Okay. Do you have a favorite Drupal module?
Prafful Nagwani: That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one. I think I like Views and Panels. I would go for those.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Views, all the way Views and just Views: every sub-system, all the ecosystem around Views.
jam: Right. Another plug for Drupal 8, Views was the key differentiator for us since Drupal 5 that really sets up apart from other CMSs as well as our multilingual support apparently. Now, it’s in core, too, which means we can actually abstract it out, make other interfaces, another tools rely on it. That’s pretty cool.
This is the Acquia Pune office. We had an Acquia India sort of a gathering as part of DrupalCon the other day. How many people work for Acquia India now?
Prasad Gogate: Around more than 25.
jam: So three, four in Pune?
Prasad Gogate: Four in Pune.
jam: How many in Delhi?
Prasad Gogate: The rest, everyone is Delhi.
jam: So when is the Pune office going to overtake Delhi and become the true center of Acquia India?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: As far as leadership is concerned, that is the true center right now. Thought leadership is concerned, that is but number-wise who cares about quantity, when quality is there? ;-)
jam: So one thing I’ve noticed about the Indian community is that India is such a huge, huge, huge, huge place. I’ve met really wonderful local community leaders from all different parts of the country and there’s not a national organization per se, but it feels to me like the communication between the different groups is actually pretty strong. What’s up in Drupal today in India?
Prasad Gogate: In terms of work? You mean Acquia India or overall ... ?
jam: Drupal in India.
Prasad Gogate: I think we have been working in two various sectors. Mostly I think more of the SI and big companies are also getting involved and lot of commerce and contributions are happening. So I think people are becoming more and more knowledgeable, I would say. More and more awareness is increasing which is obviously a good thing and growth definitely is the word, I would say.
Prasad Gogate: Yes.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: I think about eight years ago we had very small pockets in Pune, in Delhi and possibly in Ahmedabad ... and in IIT Mumbai obviously.
jam: Ahmedabad was the first user group I think in India.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes. That was the first user group.
Prafful Nagwani: First Drupal Camp in India was Ahmedabad in 2008.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: 2009 was in Pune.
Prafful Nagwani: Pune. That 300 people attended the 2009 and I think we had someone from US visiting and talking there.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes. It was Berry ...
Prafful Nagwani: Addison Berry.
jam: You said Barry and I was about to say Barry Jaspan but no, and that’s when she was travelling around on the Knight Foundation grant.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes. We had a code sprint actually in 2009 at that time in January, I remember. That was my first community interaction in Pune where I met Prafful and a lot of - Dipen. We have been ever since doing Drupal camps. Prafful has been – Prafful and Dipen had been like instrumental in setting up community. Prafful drives community like – it’s his own like homely household duty and he gets everyone together. He gets like – yes, he literally, many of the times he shouts at people if they are not doing work.
Prafful Nagwani: There are a lot of community leaders in India. I think the good part with India that’s happening is everyone shares things with each other. So if there is a camp that’s happening in Pune, I’m definitely--I have seen this and we have done this--Delhi comes to help and Bangalore comes to help and we share things. We share resources: "Okay. This is how we did the budget. This is how we did the sponsor. This is the users. This is my user group. Go ahead. Mail them." So I don’t have to start from scratch. Anyone in India wanting to do a Drupal camp, they have a head start. There are people who help out.
jam: I see.
Prasad Gogate: I think that is the community spirit which is actually shown that everybody wants the camp to be successful no matter where it is.
jam: I’ve heard about a lot of that happening and for example Parth Gohil, he has an actual job to just help as many people as possible. Someone came up to me yesterday at the DrupalCon and told me ... he told me a Veda in Sanskrit and he said open source is essential. It’s absolutely the best possible fit for Indian culture because giving and sharing are our core values as a nation and the Veda he read me was something like, "Give a man food and he’ll be satiated for a few hours but give him knowledge," right, and of course it was put much more elegantly but essentially, "knowledge will help you fill your life forever." I’m definitely going to use that in slides with the proper Sanskrit on it forever because it was so moving. Anyway, I’m having an absolutely splendid time in India just being so impressed with the Con and with the community, the number of young people. Frankly, can you talk a little bit about the gender balance in the developer community in India? I’ve seen a lot of women in terms of percentage much, much more than I see in a lot of communities around the world.
Prafful Nagwani: Yes. I think good thing happening over here is that the community overall has been pretty much welcoming everyone into the community and ready to help. As it was said by Danese in her keynote like people here have open minds. Nobody is above someone or below someone. We are all at equal level and that is what is driving people to get more into getting started with community. So for an example, we started doing meet-ups regularly in Pune and over a period of six months we have about 400 attendees, aggregated over six months. Lot of these, I think a lot of these were women. Yes. They really feel a part of it because it’s the community that drives things together, right?
jam: In the west, in open source and it’s a known problem, we have a diversity problem, very, very often. Here, I don’t see that in terms of religion and gender and age. I’ve seen a real – I’ve seen people who are definitely in their 60s at DrupalCon and definitely seen people in their early 20s or younger. I’m very impressed by that. The places that I’ve seen that before are places like Bulgaria. So post-communist countries who have a really strong engineering tradition, a really strong educational tradition over decades. So anyway, well done India because it’s great. It’s very inspiring.
What’s next for Drupal in India?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: We strongly believe that there should be a nationwide meet-up every year if not DrupalCon every year in India.
jam: So I know a guy who would like to be invited if you’re doing anything interesting I can – I’ll introduce you.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Yes, yes. Please, please do.
jam: So Acquia Pune, thank you guys so, so, so much for taking the time to talk with me. I really can’t wait to see you again soon. Anything, any last words, anything you want to promote, push, say?
Prasad Gogate: Yes. I mean thanks to you for this and definitely, we would expect that you come to Pune once but one thing that probably I want to mention it over here is one of the important things in the Drupal community that recently is happening is more and more educational organizations have started taking interest and I think that is the root. I mean if we start giving education for Drupal from that stage, I think we’ll build a definitely a very good community.
jam: I’m glad you brought that up because I had forgotten, one of the very impressive things that I’ve seen here in India is huge community effort to bring Drupal into high schools and into universities and this is another challenge that I’ve – the efforts that I’ve been involved in, it’s been very, very difficult for us. India is now producing young software engineers who know Drupal and who like Drupal and it’s really, really exciting that you are solving the pipeline problem and everyone else out there, you need to come and see what the Indians are doing because it’s just, just right. Catch them at 15, 16. Get them excited about the web and we can have them. Prasad, shameless plug?
Prasad Shirgaonkar: No. It’s exactly the same thing I was going to say. The universities and colleges are so important and we need to have Drupal over there. So we are – actually we are in talks with IIT. They have open education resources project where they have a software project, software education translated to like 15 Indian languages and we are planning to provide a Drupal content to them. So that way, Drupal will reach to the most - remotest corner of India in their own language.
jam: Please let me know when that is happening. I’d love to help promote that.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Absolutely.
Prafful Nagwani: Again, the focus is on the education systems. So India community recently started the DCAP program, the Drupal Campus Ambassador Program which is in pilot phase. I think what we need to immediately do and we are trying to do is get students connected to people and they know where to go. They are not left somewhere looking around, okay, what to do next. That is where we lose them.
jam: Take them by the hand and bring them to the goal.
Prafful Nagwani: Show them the way. Show them. If they take Drupal as a career, definitely a good choice for them but we need to tell them, yes, Drupal has a career option. It’s not that only Microsoft or other technologies have that.
jam: Listen, we run 2% of the web, 5% of sites with identifiable CMS and it’s only going to get bigger. You’ve got a job here. ... Prafful.
Prafful Nagwani: Thank you so much.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Thank you so much.
Prasad Gogate: Thank you so much.
jam: Zero, one. Thank you guys for taking the time to talk with me. It’s been really, really great to spend time together. I can’t wait to see you next time. Thanks, guys.
Prasad Shirgaonkar: Thanks.
Prafful Nagwani: Thanks.
Prasad Gogate: Thank you. Bye.