This story is my recollection of the events leading up to the creation of DJ Unicode, a student organization that trains other students in programming, software development, and building free and open-source software. I co-founded this venture back in 2017 alongside friends from my undergraduate program and the program has been thriving (if I do say so myself), with over 250+ students trained so far (considering our batch size is 120 students each year, this is a significant fraction of the cohort over the past few years). Our members have achieved quite a bit since then, with international internships and hackathon wins, Ivy league college admits, funding for Masters degrees, research publications at top venues, job offers at FAANG (or should I say MANGA) companies, and more. But the really interesting takeaway is we’ve successfully transitioned out the management committee and co-founders to an advisory role (pretty loosely used, since we barely offer advice once or twice a year when needed), and activities are wholly managed by a new team of incoming final-year students (you might call them BE students or senior undergrads). Every mentor at Unicode is a volunteer–they don’t really get paid to do their jobs (although teams are free to take up contract projects to generate their own revenue; and many now do). The team rotates each year and yet we’ve managed to develop a culture that promotes teamwork, leadership, giving back to the community, and peer-teaching and learning. It’s really fun to have been part of this story from the start, and eventually founding Unicode Research to advance the same for conducting and publishing impactful research. But that’s a story for another day.


We’ve not shared the origin story before this to my recollection but I figured it was a nice tidbit to send out close to an important date in Unicode’s history, September 18th.

Before there was Unicode, two of our friends ran a separate IT Solutions company focused on Android development called The Pixel Factory while Rudresh, Avais and I ran a small web dev shop called CCDevs or Cutting Chai Developers, named after our shared love of cutting chai. At a certain point in CCDevs’ history we were doing quite well with a bunch of clients under our belt, building websites in India, China, Dubai, and elsewhere. We reached an inflection point when we got a pretty big offer at the time, roughly 2L to build a site for a client who actually took us out to Cafe Coffee Day for a business conversation and offered to cover food. It was so funny that neither of us actually ate any food out of either nervousness, overwhelming suspicion (we had just nearly been screwed over by our last client resulting in a time challenge battle to recover the hosting that we had not been paid back for, by guessing the password his new web developer would set up — a thriller for another time), or just surprise that someone might offer three undergrads expensive free food.

We asked for time to mull over the offer as we left that conversation with mixed feelings. At face value, this was a fantastic and very viable path forward for CCDevs, but surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, if you knew us) as we walked out and looked at each other there was a lot more to explore that we hadn’t gotten around to doing.