2022 will be remembered as the year when we finally came out of the pandemic. The pandemic forced me on a journey of introspection like never before. I asked existential questions, I binged on social media and streaming platforms, I read some wonderful books, I discovered the value of good health, and good mental health. I discovered that people around us are all the same and yet very different. I wanted to be independent, noticed, powerful and above all liked and respected. 2022 was the year when I realised what it feels to co-exist with 8 billion people on the planet, most of us connected to each other via social media. With every disturbance having a ripple effect, like pebbles falling in a lake, some petering out quietly, some tearing across the system. The resulting chaos creating disturbance not only outside, but in in the mind as well.
2022 was also the year when I discovered the writing of Thoreau, and finally I decided, with more conviction, to not give in to the normal pressures of things around me. It led me on a journey to question more, to dig deeper and I came out with surprising answers. Most of the stresses and problems were mostly in my head and the world outside is a lot simpler than I feared it to be. I realised that my problems seem to come because I expect too much from others and keep trying to live up to others’ expectations without questioning.
At Frappe, after a considerable debate within the team, we adopted the policy of letting people pick their own pay, rather than some central committee deciding for everyone. Clearly it was one of the best things I have pushed as a leader. Letting people pick their own pay moved the moral burden of justifying it to everyone. It was a relief for me, but not everyone was ready for the sudden responsibility thrust on them. This freedom came at a price. Not everyone acted responsibly in my opinion, but then the wheels of justice did catch up with many of them.
This clearly set the path of what kind of company we wanted to become and decided who will thrive in Frappe. We want to be a company where everyone takes charge. It was amazing to see a couple of our engineers go on longer breaks and take control of their own well being. Being a remote company, offsites is where we get to know each other better and we had two lovely offsites at Lonavala. The ERPNext conference in Mumbai was very well attended with over 300 participants, which gave us a chance to catch up with our customers and partners.
This year we finally split the monolith (ERPNext) and released at least 7 new products. This unlocked another level of productivity and ownership in the engineering team. This year is also when “Frappe” became a bigger entity for us than “ERPNext”. We continued to invest in “user experience” and in creating a new platform for products led by Faris collaborating with Sandeep from Timeless on top of our Frappe Cloud platform.
Even though my contributions to the Framework and ERPNext had greatly reduced in the last three years, this is the year when I decided to mentally step down as an active contributor. After almost 17 years of working on this product, it felt like a relief to finally let it go, and I was really happy that it was in the good hands of folks like Ankush who are much better at making sure it becomes a world-class Framework.
On the business side, we finally decided to go all-in with partners and move our implementation team to customer success. Running such a complex business was becoming hard for us and our partners were already doing a great job at implementing ERPNext. What we needed was to provide assurance to the customers (who needed it) and let the partners handle the complexities of implementation. In spite of all our efforts, we have failed to reach product-market-fit that will give us 2X — 3X kind of growth.
Senior leadership continued to be a problem in the first half. We had to let go of a couple of our senior leaders in finance and sales and my own lack of confidence made me resign as the CEO early in the year. Much like Elon Musk, we did not immediately find a replacement, but Michelle stepped up to own the operations and put in her best effort. Within months it was clear that she was a much better manager and did a far better job at measuring outcomes. She was ably supported by Saqib who built a fantastic data analytics tool (Insights) in such a short time. It was really inspiring to see 25 year olds take on so much ownership and leadership. This reaffirmed my faith that the next generation of leadership will come from the youth.
This year was also when FOSS United finally took wings. The IndiaFOSS event showed us that there was a need for organising and the constant discussions on the Telegram group were more addictive than Twitter or Hacker News. Also got on to multiple debates with Kailash which were all an incredible learning experience. FOSS United is such a young organisation right now but is showing a lot of promise. Also got a chance to dabble with tech policy and learnt a lot about it as well.
Things continued to move forward at Learner’s Collective (LC) as well. A few of the kids who left to join regular school, joined back. Children continue to astonish us and the debates with both children and parents are so much fun as well. As Rajitha told me, “there is never a bad day at LC”. The children are having great fun and are also learning. Both the 12 yo and the 8 yo are strong readers and have built great vocabulary and are learning new skills. The 12 yo continues to excel playing the musical keyboard and finds beauty in classical music and the 8 yo has picked up a knack for coding among other things. Maybe they don’t do so well on the traditional curriculum, but their skills are rapidly improving while they go about having fun.
Needless to say 2022 was a landmark year in many respects, both for Frappe and for me personally. Even though everything hasn’t been figured out, we are going to a place that is more honest. As Thoreau writes in Walden “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”, I felt I got closer to the truth than ever. The trip to Sadhana Forest was also transformational, I was finally convinced of alternative approaches to living. The year ended with a surprise encounter with a young lady who had travelled for nearly a year without money, living on the kindness of strangers, and a lot of things fell into place for me. We all know that money is highly overrated, but sometimes it takes a long time for the lessons to really seep into our consciousness. I am not sure what the coming year is going to bring, but I have learnt not to have any expectations. Whatever happens, happens.
All I am going to try is to live simply, truthfully and do my bit. Happy 2023!