Two is a company
When others went after size and rapid growth, Miranj chose to be small and steady.
Miranj has mostly been a two-member team since it started, nearly eight years ago. It is a web design and development agency, specialising in content heavy websites. It claims to build radically simple and future proof websites. They have built websites for filmmakers, startups, corporates and non-profits.
(Disclosure: The writer had hired Miranj for projects of Shack Co. in 2013 and 2014.)
Both studied in Delhi Public School till 2005. During school, they were part of the computer club. They did projects together. After school Souvik went to Chandigarh to study information technology. And, Prateek went to Australia to study computer science. While they were in college, they had picked up web design assignments. After graduating Souvik worked for Infosys, and Prateek joined a startup in Chennai.
In 2011 both quit their jobs to start Miranj. They chose Delhi for better infrastructure. In the beginning, they hired an office space in Kalkaji and worked there for three years. Later they worked from co-working spaces. Web development as a service was growing fast. They could have picked up multiple projects and grown. They didn’t.
I asked why didn’t they want to grow like others?
Souvik said, “We want to grow bigger to be able to tackle bigger challenges, rather than growing for the sake of it.
Prateek said, “Growing big hasn’t been a goal for us, in and of itself. I do regret missing opportunities because we’re either too small a team or, more likely, pre-occupied with a project. We are trying to fix that, but hiring has been pretty difficult for us so far.”
Miranj is a web design and development firm like 37 Signals. Developing a successful web product like Basecamp should have been easy for them. 37 Signals had built Basecamp. They could have also raised money from investors.
I asked why did they not develop a product or seek funding?
Souvik replied, “Typically VCs don’t fund service business so I don’t think of that as a viable option. Building an app is not as much a technical challenge as it is a business challenge. On the flip side, we keep getting new, interesting and meaningful strategic problems to solve as a part of our service offering.”
Prateek reasoned, “VC money isn’t a milestone we’re chasing. In the future, if we become really passionate about solving a problem that could benefit from external funding, we might seek it. But right now, funding does not seem to be the answer to our problems.”
Souvik and Prateek avoid building websites, which stay for shorter periods of time. A typical campaign’s website is only live for shorter periods (3–6months). They also do not build mobile applications. They prefer working for non-profits. Even with these constraints, they have done interesting projects.
Rethink Aadhar was a campaign website regarding Aadhar. Save Our Privacy is also a campaign website, regarding data privacy. Development Impact and You is an online resource website for development practitioners. Guiding Tech is a media website, covering technology. India Bioscience is a website for a non-profit, covering bioscience.
I asked what is their pet peeve about the industry?
Souvik replied, “Most people jump to the solution thinking they know what’s right, without understanding and exploring the breadth of problems well.”
Prateek added, “People do not think long term. They want things for now.”
Miranj does not work with every client, who contacts them. They recruit their clients after they fill up an online form describing audience, outcomes, budget and timelines. Souvik and Prateek value clarity. Both have also devised a simple way of charging for their work. They do not charge as per hourly basis or a lump sum amount, as most services firm do. They charge as per man week. It means one person working for 40 hours, on a project, per week. This removes the ambiguity from planning and payments.
I asked them if they had to leave a project because of their unique style of working?
Souvik said, “There have been a few of those in the last 8 years. The most recent one was because we felt there was a lack of respect for personal space and in communication.”
Prateek said, “In a recent project the client did not show mutual respect. We left it. It was bigger than the usual projects we do.”
Souvik and Prateek express their love for design, arts and influences in things they do, other than work. They launched Base Station, a boutique co-working place in 2015. It showcases wall art, gourmet coffee, artwork, and indoor plants. They had also crafted websites to pay homage to Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela. Since 2018, Miranj has been organising Delhi chapter of World Information Architecture Day. Souvik and Prateek have also given talks at design and technology conferences.
(Disclosure: The writer was a volunteer at WIAD,19.)
I asked about their influences, their favourite books and music?
Souvik shared, “In work, I am influenced by meaningful talks such as Map is Not The Territory by Ethan Marcotte, Time by Jeremy Keith and Shape of Design by Frank Chimero, and there are many more. There’s also the timeless work and principles laid down by Tim Bernes Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web. Few of the old favourite bands are U2, Coldplay and Indian Ocean, but there are many other favourites. I am not much of a book reader other than an occasional self-help book such as 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the likes.”
• Mutemath, AR Rahman, Advaita, Vishal Bharadwaj, White Stripes
I asked them if they would ever retire, and would do something else.
Souvik said, “Haven’t really thought about it. I really enjoy our domain of work, and we keep prioritising projects that interest us.”
Prateek added, “I really enjoy building websites and I don’t see myself stepping away from that anytime soon. But if I did have the luxury to, I would spend more time outdoors, getting my hands dirty, preferably up in the mountains.”
I also asked about their favourite food. They had started ‘Meals Under 100’. It is an online resource for meals below INR 100 in Delhi-NCR.
Souvik said, “Anything dead, tender and well-done.”
Prateek said, “I like my garma garam samosa on a cold rainy day.”
Know more about Miranj:
- Talk: Architecting a Content Website with Souvik Das Gupta
- Bellycentric: Meals Under100