My vision has always been, if you can do it abroad, why not here in Nepal. Yes, you can stay back in your own home and yet enjoy success as you would abroad. It’s hard, but not too hard. You just have to believe in what you do and give your 110% to it. – Chandra Maharzan
Maharzan is the founder of Nhuja Concepts, a tiny company focusing on implementation of small but great web ideas. He has also partnered with Graph Paper Press since 2010 where he makes Photography themes for WordPress (WP) and is one of the top WordPress theme authors in the market.
His first theme simpleX has been downloaded more than 160,000 times and his success includes mention in The Top 7 Amazing WordPress theme designers by Web Hosting Search back in 2009. One of his other free themes, Cleanr, was used for Mozilla’s official blog for sometime and is now used in its calendar project. Lately, his theme Gridspace has been climbing up the charts at WordPress.com, a blogging website by Automattic, creators of WordPress.
Maharzan lives in Kathmandu and designs from his home office, and spends much of his time with his family and pursues his lifelong passions music, guitar, and photography.
Why did you choose Computer Engineering as your degree?
Initially, I wanted to pursue a career in Architecture. But, by the time I appeared for Engineering’s entrance exam, my interest had shifted to computers. Back then, computing was the talk of the town. I had a perception that computers could do many things, including designing that I was so much interested in. So, I chose Computer Engineering. I didn’t know what it actually offered.
Tell us how you spent your time during college.
I expected that I would get to take computer related courses, but to my disappointment, there were no courses on computers in the first year. Instead, Physics and Chemistry were offered, which I always wanted to get away from since high school. As soon as I saw the course syllabus, I knew there was conflict of interest.
What did you do after finishing your college?
My friend, Ujwal Thapa, who too had a background in web designing, had just returned from USA. We started a company named Digital Max Solutions (DMS). Probably after 2 years of its establishment, outsourcing boomed. We basically focused on becoming the best web designing company, not only in Nepal but also in the whole South Asian region because we knew everyone who was doing outsourcing, mainly in India at that time, was mostly doing programming or more of backend stuff.
Tell us when and why you started WordPress?
While I was working at DMS, we had to develop web sites and often customize them as well since every website is different. We had to work from the ground level to customize the websites. It was a repetitive and tedious process. We tried many software to overcome this process but to no satisfaction. Later, in 2005, we heard about a blogging software called WordPress and decided to give it a try. We experimented with Exoticbuddha. During the process, we realized that WordPress was easy to use and though it had limited functions then, it had all the functions that we needed.
So, did you start using WordPress in 2005?
Not really. Though we started experimenting it, I only ever looked at it slightly. In 2006, we started getting several WordPress projects but these were all basic updates. Mostly changing existing content and slight theme / plugin modifications.
After I left DMS in 2008, I was unemployed (laughs). So, to utilize my time, I wanted to experiment making a WordPress theme. I made a custom theme called “SimpleX” and uploaded it in WordPress.org. To my surprise, it got really popular. It encouraged me to make another theme, Cleanr, which got attention from Mozilla (and still is) and was even listed in top 15 downloads at WordPress.org for sometime. SimpleX has been downloaded more than 1,60,000 times now. Some of my themes that I designed later were listed as Top 100 best themes over at Smashing Magazine in 2010, one of the best tech blogs out there. It was unbelievable!
Had you expected such response for your themes?
Not at all! It was beyond my expectations. I expected that it would be downloaded a few times and get some good reviews. As I said earlier, I was just experimenting.
What do you think was the major factor behind your success?
I think it was my design history. I had worked 24/7 for 6 years at DMS and 4 years during College on design. So, I had a strong designing experience. People often underestimate work experience; they make an effort and want immediate results. Usually, it doesn’t happen right away. It takes time and experience to achieve success. I believe it was my experience that led me to success.
How did the success of your theme “SimpleX” help you move your WordPress career ahead?
SimpleX was downloaded more than 1,00,000 times in a year. That helped me get a good user base. I started a theme shop called WPshoppe as well to distribute minimalist WordPress themes. It went really well. More than that, the success of the theme established me as a theme developer in the WordPress community. Shortly after this, I got an offer to work for Graph Paper Press who was creating a revolution for Photographers, basically converting all Flash based websites to WordPress. People didn’t think it was possible at all. This was in 2008. Since then, I never had to turn back. I just love creating unique, minimalist and beautiful themes.
WordPress powers 16% of the top 1 million websites in the world. How is its situation in Nepal?
Unfortunately, WordPress is not powering many websites in Nepal. We (WordPress Community in Nepal) are unable to convince big companies and the Government to use WordPress firstly due to bureaucracy and secondly because most IT companies who have been contracted try to sell custom solutions for more money. There is a misconception that WordPress is an open source and thus it is not secure. This is not true. We all know how secure the current government websites are. WordPress is very secure. Since WordPress is an open source and is in continuous development by thousands of people, it is always up to date and secure. Popular sites like Forbes, CNN, Sony, TechCrunch and ebay and even many government sites abroad are powered by WordPress. It will take time to spread the word. I think it has just been about 2 years that WordPress is getting popular here in Nepal.
What are the advantages of WordPress?
The major advantage of WordPress is that it is simple and easy to use. Moreover, it offers multiple users and can be optimized on search engines. There are already many plugins that support WordPress. So one does not have to write code to add common functions in their sites. WordPress has an enthusiastic and supportive community. So, whenever there are any problems with a site, they are answered quickly by the WordPress community.
What kinds of careers are there in WordPress?
There are various careers in WordPress. If someone is interested in designing, he/she could design and develop a WordPress theme. I saw lately that many people have made over USD 200,000 from just one theme. One has even made over million dollars by selling one theme. I think, we cannot even imagine how crazy it can be. You can just do anything you want. If someone is interested in programming, he/she could develop plugins. One could be a WordPress Ambulance and fix small bugs, or work as a consultant too. Even blogging about WordPress is a good career. Someone with advance programming skills can contribute to WordPress core and also work for Automattic, the creators of WordPress.
How do you see WordPress careers in Nepal as well as abroad?
Around 16% of the websites are powered by WordPress and more than 55 millions people in the world use WordPress. In Nepal, there are more than 15 companies that work on WordPress. So, there are definitely careers in WordPress. And since this is a digital age, location is not a problem anymore. You can choose to work in one of the best companies in the world from your own home. You just need one good skill. And I strongly believe, you can make your own career from whatever you do, not just WordPress.
What are the resources that you recommend to start WordPress?
Codex is the best source to learn WordPress. It is open source like Wiki so you could also add contents. I still use it. The WordPress section in Smashing Magazine also has good tutorials to learn WordPress. Nettuts+ also has good WordPress tutorials but has not been updated recently.
What advice would you like to give students who want to develop a career in WordPress?
Students have to be determined about what they want to do with life. If students are interested in web development, using WordPress will save a lot of time and energy. Developing themes and plugins can be a good way to make a living out of WordPress.
The best time to start WordPress is during college. At this time, students do not need to earn, they don’t need to financially support children and family and there’s no work pressure. If students properly utilize 3 or 4 years of their college time, they could become pretty good by the end of degree. I always say take these years as internship of your career. If you see the history all successful companies have evolved from a college project. Take Google, Microsoft, Apple or even Facebook as an example. So, I would strongly suggest students to make proper use of their time during college.
The second best time to start WordPress is now!
Tell us about WordPress community and how students could be a part of it?
We have a vibrant community of WordPress designers, developers and enthusiasts. One could go to Facebook WordPress group and join or visit WordPress Nepal official site.. If anyone has any questions or confusions, one could post them there. We frequently organize WordPress meetups. One could participate; it’s free. WordPress Meetup is a good platform to learn about WordPress and build network with people from the WordPress community.
WordPress Nepal is organizing first WordPress Camp in Nepal on November 10, 2012. Please tell us about it.
WordCamp is a whole day conference that focuses on everything WordPress has to offer. It is a community-organized event that is put together by WordPress users here in Nepal. Everyone from casual users to core developers can participate, share their knowledge and build a network. When I had participated in the WordCamp in San Francisco, I learnt quite many new things from other experienced WordPress users. Since many WordPress experts will be speaking, I believe this will be one very useful session to all WordPress enthusiasts.
We are organizing WordCamp for the first time in Nepal and will be held on November 10, 2012 at Yala Maya Kendra, Pulchowk. Through WordCamp, we are trying to bring WordPress users and developers in Nepal together, and at the same time, promote this community to the global audience.
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