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The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series: Chandoo

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I have been doing a lot of writing and speaking about the side hustle these days, and I got a brainstorm to profile people who successfully transitioned from corporate employee to thriving entrepreneur by using this tactic while still employed.

I am naming this series The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series. I will run a profile every couple of weeks. Hope you like it!

First up in our group of awesome and inspiring side hustlers is Purna Chandra Rao Duggirala, better known as Chandoo. He is based in India.

profile-pic

What was your former day job?

Chandoo: I was a business analyst with a leading IT / Software company in the world. It was one of the largest companies in the world with 100,000+ employees. I had quite an exciting job really. I used to travel, meet great people, work on awesome projects. My last assignment was in Sweden & Denmark. I have helped a leading insurance company there setup their claim processing system.

What was your side hustle?

Chandoo: My side hustle was (now it is my only job) writing about productive & awesome ways to use Microsoft Excel in simple language. Initially I used to only write. After 2 years of blogging, I started monetizing my site through some ads. Later, during 2009, I launched a few products and in 2010 added an online training program to my offerings. Together, all these help me live a comfortable life while I pursue my passions of teaching, writing & connecting.

When did you start working on it?

Chandoo: During 2007, while I was in US, I started to write about topics I am passionate about (Microsoft Excel, Data Visualization, Data Analytics) on my personal blog – http://chandoo.org/wp/ During February 2008, one of my articles was picked up by Lifehacker (this one – http://chandoo.org/wp/2008/03/13/want-to-be-an-excel-conditional-formatting-rock-star-read-this/ ) and I received a flurry of visitors. This encouraged me to write more and connect with a wider audience of office goers, students and professionals looking for help on MS Excel in simple & plain language. I have kept on writing since then and blogged 350+ articles, how-tos and tutorials on Microsoft Excel.

Did you tell your employer you were working on a side project? Why or why not?

Chandoo: I informed a few of my bosses about my side hustle. Some of them knew it anyway as it was the first thing they would find when they Google me (or go to my LinkedIn profile). In fact, my last boss loved that I can do awesome stuff in Excel. We have used it several ways to impress our customers and speed up things in project I was working in.

That said, I did not inform any one in HR or something like that. Basically, ours is a very big company and I didn’t know what is the right approach or who is the right person to inform these kinds of things. But, when the income from site started to grow, I knew I had to quit. Otherwise, it would have compromised my ability to give full attention to my day job.

How did you know when it was time to quit your day job?

Chandoo: Two interesting things happened during September 2009 (exactly one year ago) that made me change my mind. As I said, I had quite an exciting job and I wasn’t planning to leave it for the next few years. Then on 24th September, 2009, I became a dad. Jo (my wife) gave birth to two beautiful twins (a boy and a girl). I stayed with Jo and kids for just 3 weeks after delivery before returning to my work in Denmark. I could not get spend more time with my family due to project commitments and this was hurting me bad.

Then, around the same time, I launched a new product on my site which became a hit. I was generating enough money every month to support our family without a job.

It was then I knew that I could quit my job and pursue my dreams full time. But I stayed with my job until March 2010 before coming back to India and quitting it eventually. We have moved to a small town since then and kept our expenses ridiculously low.

What scared you about that decision?

Chandoo: Mainly financial burdens. I had a mortgage and student loan. We cleared the student loan in 2008 by saving some money from my work assignment in US. Then, during 2009, I pre-paid the majority of our mortgage by using our savings. We still have 12 months of installments to pay (as of today), but we are sure we can get by with ease.

Second thing, although minor, was, “How do I explain to my family and others about what I am doing?” It is quite uncommon in my circles to see an web-based-business-owner. But Jo and I had been discussing the option of “going full-time on the blog” since 2009. So, when I decide to escape the cubicle nation, we had ready made answers for everyone in the family. We explained what I am going to do to my brother, our in-laws and some of the close relatives. For the rest of them, I just say “I am working from home…”. It was too much hassle answering all the poking questions on, “oh, isn’t make money on internet really fraud?”…

How did it turn out?

Chandoo: Very well. My business is profitable since day 1 and has been growing tremendously. We had the best month ever in August 2010 and September sure looks like it will be even better. I know you did not ask about financials, but here is a snapshot:

  • I have recently crossed 1000 customer milestone
  • Revenues generated in last 12 months: $70,000 +
  • Income break-up: 65% from product sales | 35% from advertising & affiliate sales

What are you doing now?

Chandoo: I am still working on the same business. I have been receiving exciting offers to collaborate and work on new products with others. But as of now, I am focused on growing this business and making my customers awesome.

What advice would you give for others who are working on a side hustle now that you have a bit of distance?

Chandoo: Not that I have any earth shattering wisdom to share. But these are the things I would suggest to others in the similar path:

  • Put your community, customers first. Always ask yourself, “how can I make my members awesome in something?”
  • Keep your costs low. This means, you can run your start-up, side hustle for a looooong run before giving up.
  • Don’t be afraid or ashamed to sell what you build.
  • Have fun.

How can people find you, or hire you?

Visit my website http://chandoo.org/wp/ if you want to become awesome in Microsoft Excel.

EfCN readers can use the coupon code letsescape to get 20% discount when they buy any of the products listed in our shop – http://chandoo.org/wp/shop/

Also, if you want to follow my start-up journey, checkout Startup Desi – http://startupdesi.com/

Thank you Chandoo for your very open and inspiring interview! I know you will encourage a lot of cube dwellers to keep chugging away at their side hustles. I hope you get some new fans from my blog, and sell some useful products to take care of those twin cute babies.

-Pam

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21 Responses to “The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series: Chandoo”

  1. Avadhut says:

    Hi Chandoo,

    Thanks for motivating words and advice. Yes you shouldn’t be ashamed selling your products.

  2. [...] with Boston Consulting Group. At that time, his name was John Stephens, and he was an Excel cowboy (Chandoo would be [...]

  3. [...] started the series with his Excel business. Followed by IT consultant-turned web developer Willie [...]

  4. Usama says:

    Very inspirational interview. Thanks for sharing. Who knew Microsoft Excel sheet had gold hidden under it but chandoo found it.

  5. [...] corporate jobs and worked on their side business until they were able to quit and do it full-time. Chandoo was the first person profiled, for parlaying his love for Excel into a full-time, thriving [...]

  6. [...] I have been doing a lot of writing and speaking about the side hustle these days, and I got a brainstorm to profile people who successfully transitioned from corporate employee to thriving entrepreneur by using this tactic while still employed.I am naming this series The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series. I will run a [...] Original post [...]

  7. Chandoo rocks! This is probably one of the most life-changing situation we all want to be in – a business that we own without the overhead of the traditional business and yet profitable.

    @Chandoo, are you willing to do a blueprint of this success? Please share how you actually do it – from the transition to being a business owner.

    Thanks.

  8. Felix Leong says:

    Thanks Pam for starting this interview series! Am pleasantly surprised it kicked off with someone from Asia.

    Thanks Chandoo for sharing your experience, I find your experience relatable and inspiring :)

  9. Nancee McPherson says:

    Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  10. Pam – first, thanks so much for this series of interviews. I had no idea that what I’m doing has a name – The Side Hustle. I love it. It’s descriptive. It’s witty. And it’s my life.
    Chandoo- A big congratulations on your move to the world of self-employment. I am inspired by your story and all it took to get where you are.
    I wonder, after reading Pam’s 9.13 post, “Where does your job sit on the loathing scale?”, did you ever find yourself anywhere on a loathing scale? You mention that you loved your job, but that you realized (after launching that one successful product) you no longer needed the job and could focus full-time on your blog. I am off the charts on that loathing scale, so my sense of immediacy consumes me, some days. Did you ever have those types of days? What fueled your drive?
    Best of luck to you, Chandoo. And thanks to both you and Pam for showing those of us who are “hustling on the side,” that with patience and determination, it really can pay off.
    Leah

    • Chandoo says:

      did you ever find yourself anywhere on a loathing scale?

      Well, we all have such days, especially if you have worked more than a few years in a same company. In general, I loved my job and the kind of challenges and opportunities it gave me. I moved on mainly because, I did not want my job to take all my time away from my family plus I wanted to give genuine attention to my passions for a while. I have been on the side hustle for almost 2 years before and I thought my side hustle deserved more than just being on the side. I explain it in detail here: http://chandoo.org/wp/2010/04/26/phd-startup-story/

  11. What a great series idea! I love hearing about how people made this type of transition! Great interview here—I love Chandoo’s emphasis that you need to put your community/customer first.

  12. Pam and Chandoo,

    I loved the interview. Chandoo thanks for your willingness to be open about so much especially your finances. This interview is great b/c it goes beyond the sound bites we so often hear. Pam showed the steps you took to go from your side hustle to your own business. And you talked about how you really liked your job.

    Pam thanks for opening another window of possibility.

  13. Joan Wilson says:

    I am a stay at home mom working for Arise, a virtual call center located in FL. I have started to recruit people all over the country to work under my corporation. One little hiccup… I know nothing about Excel and would love to be able to track some of my stuff with it.

    A bit about what I am doing (if that helps with the Excel info): Working from home is great. I work the hours I want and make some decent money. All I have to do is log into my PC and take calls (all inbound), then after my calls I manage my growing business, looking at my agents stats.

    Thanks for “listening”! ——– Joan

  14. James Robertson says:

    Pam,

    Love the idea for the new series! Very inspiring to read Chandoo story of how he took his talent & passion for Excel and slowly turn it into a business, and now it support his family. Maybe I enjoyed the story so much because I too am a huge Excel fan!!

    Can’t wait to read the next post on The Side Hustle and Flow Interview Series!

    @jamesmrobertson

  15. Leisa LaDell says:

    Thank you Pam and Chandoo – Thank you so much for this interview and series. It really inspires me to hear the stories from people that this can be done. Also, it helps me to set realist expectations and goals. Otherwise, I am prone to think it should be happening faster, and if not, that I’m doing something wrong or don’t have what it takes.

    I am looking forward to more of the Side Hustle series.

    Cheers, Leisa

  16. Chandoo says:

    Hello Pam…

    thank you so much for featuring me. Its a honor to share my experiences with your community.

    PS: the coupon code letsescape will expire by October 1st. You know what to do…

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