Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Gmail Story of the ‘Arbit Choudhury’ Trio !!

Hemant vaguely remembers the 26th of June 2004 when he got an invite to create a Gmail ID from a batch mate at NITIE – a management school in Mumbai, India. He got so fascinated by Gmail that he soon invited Shubham and Nikhil – his closest pals – on 26th of August 2004. Those days of 2004 and these days of 2007; the trio haven’t looked back or anywhere else for email.

The refreshingly simple and innovative and clutter-free interface giving keyboard shortcuts (for key board freaks like us) swept all three of us off our feet and it was almost love at first sight. :-) The interface, the speed, the search capability, the labels, everything was truly extra-ordinary; besides the unimaginable 1GB of mailbox space it was giving those days – come to think of it; today it stands at about 6 GB (and we’ve got so habituated to the space that one of us has 45% of the 6GB consumed).

Gmail, which redefined web based email services, slowly become our nerve center. We moved all our contacts to it and made Gmail our single point of contact for all practical purposes. We did still have friends on hotmail and yahoo and other services, but they were also being infected by the Gmail-virus and gradually ‘converting’.

Together the 3 of us have shared the joy of working on Arbit Choudhury – The worlds first MBA comic character. We created Arbit Choudhury when we lived in the same campus, but post our MBA, we went on to join demanding jobs which took us to different parts of the world.

Gmail helped us stay in touch and seamlessly coordinate all our work and allied activities. A majority of our online communication, brainstorming and discussions shifted to Gmail, besides instant messengers. And when Gmail integrated a chat with mail, we gave up other messengers and migrated “full time” to Gmail. Amongst the three of us, conversations have been exchanged across 3 Continents (Asia, Europe and North America); 8 countries (India, Switzerland, UAE, UK, USA, Mauritius, Malaysia & Thailand) and 20 cities (Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Bilaspur, Baroda, Bhopal, Geneva, Lucerne, Zurich, London, Norwich, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Dubai, Baltimore, Jersey City, Bangkok, Pattaya) over the last 3 years.

Arbit Choudhury comic strips are released every 15 days and all communication on this has been happening through Gmail over the last 3 years. Each comic idea is evaluated by 3 of us first and a panel formed out of 20-25 friends before it enters our ‘idea bank’.

Thereafter Shubham creates the pencil sketch, scans it and sends it by Gmail; and then refines the sketch based on feedback. Once the pencil sketch is finalized, Hemant colors it using an imaging tool and the final ‘comic’ again goes through a feedback routing on Gmail. Finally, the mail-text accompanying the comic also goes through a similar loop of discussions on Gmail, before the comic gets released to our mailing list.

Till date, over 100 comic strips (and emails) have been discussed, finalized and quality checks done through Gmail. In fact, in all our GMail boxes the labels around ‘Arbit’ are by far the heaviest.

Besides Gmail; allied services of Google are also used for ‘Arbit activities’; discussing Arbit plans on GChat, scheduling Arbit activities (like website backups) on Google Calender, simultaneously working on shared documents on Google Documents (previously Writely) etc.
GMail has frankly been the life blood of Arbit e-volution over the last 3 years. Today it is also playing a similar role while we are dreaming of our own start-up. It is the nerve centre of all out ideas, brainstorming and discussions. For us, Gmail, along with the allied services, proved to an ultimate collaborative tool to work on.

The extent of our dependence on GMail and it's related services was best summed up by Hemant, when he blogged about it in his own inimitable style, stating that our daily routines begin with "Google before Gargle". Also, it become apparent when Nikhil commented once that if someone wants to know us, he/she should read through our Gmail.

We believe that today, GMail has virtually reached the pedestal of the best e-mail service in the world. It has done so not by simply meeting customer expectations, but by giving them something they never imagined in their wildest dreams. And by doing this, it has left all competition playing a hopeless catch-up game. With all the wonderful innovations Google has brought so far, it has also raised the bar for itself in the future. Google users will continue to expect such extra-ordinary innovations in the future too. And we have no doubt they will succeed.

Come to think of it, we even discussed about participating in the Gmail story contest and discussed all about it over Gmail from 3 different cities across 2 countries. :-)

-- The “Arbit Choudhury” Trio

Here is our story on Google's GMail Stories website.

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