Much before Reboot and the Blue Screen of Death, before the Alchemy discussion on our family dinner table and the wild dreamy bet that turned out to be Avicena, before blogging and before DesiBackToDesh, in a land far far away (then marked as Geocities in Jedi lore) there was once a venture named Cookaracha Guides.
Cookaracha Guides was supposed to pay and cover my Columbia MBA tuition, money that I had borrowed from my immediate family. The Guides were going to be the beacon of advice for all wannabe applicants to Ivy Leagues business schools. It would lead candidates on a path that resulted in two years of academic bliss (read: party) followed by six figure packages, forty thousand dollar sign on bonuses and a life laden with luxuries, 2,000 dollar suits, Rolex watches and the absence of any real hard work. And since I had just completed my pilgrimage on the same road, I was as good and likely a guide as any. So in early February, in the year 1999, safely settled in the unreal world cocoon courtesy Columbia Business School, Fawzia and yours truly put together the Cookaracha Guides. Netscape was still hot despite its tragic marriage with AOL in November past and Microsoft was still universally regarded as the undead representative of Darth Vader. I wrote the content, Fawzia did the pages and our Columbia Student account provided the bandwidth. Geocities was a free trial by fire environment where we could put up the page, hook up the advertising and see if the model we had built would actually fly.
By the time we reached April 1999 a number of things happened. The most significant was the fact that I was not the only geek in business school who had come up with this brilliant idea. There were many others and while we managed to hang on to page one of results on Alta Vista for a little while, it was obvious that every day there was a new, better, smarter, sharper contender with similar content. The second was the arrival of Donald Sexton and International Marketing on the scene, the class, the course work and the professor who inspired Avicena, the business plan that grew into a business that became a book. The third was the realization after writing and posting a hundred odd pages that while we could figure out and tweak the content creation process ourselves to really do this properly we needed professional help.
In another month, it was time to grow up and move on. Fawzia, Amin and Ammi took the train to Morgan Town so that Fawzia could recover as well as help the family get ready for Mehnaz’s (Nawal’s daughter) arrival. I dug deep into the Continuous Time Finance text book and made a heroic effort to not fail the course. The summer term started and Ken and I sneaked into Jedidi‘s Product Development Course and somewhere in between the excitement and the travel and the trek to school and back the Guides became Concepts.com. Ken sent out his historic email unveiling the newest edition of the Guides to our first focus group on 14th July 1999 marking the transition. But the old site never died, it carried on living in its own forgotten corner on the web, attracting traffic till the day Yahoo shutdown Geocities in 2009.
In 2005, doing something that I am sure I wasn’t supposed to be doing (ssshhhh…), I stumbled on the old pages of Cookaracha Guides. It wasn’t foresight, just an emotional attachment to our days in New York, of Amin playing with our laptops and Fawzia working on Netscape Navigator Gold; fond remembrance of the idea that fathered Avicena and Reboot that made me pick up the old content and dump it in a out of reach folder on the Alchemy Domain. Even in 2005 the pages and the lines were dated. The internet was “Net”, the style and spellings could use an edit, the theme was basic, the color as Sarwar Bhai put it, was Vomit Brown.
Since I was already looking back, with some help I managed to collect a number of earlier articles that I had written as a student and Faculty at FAST ICS and were published in the Karachi FAST student magazine Online. If the content in 1999 was dated, the articles as early as 1992 were a walk down a completely different world. The only common theme linking the two experiences was the pseudonym.
While this personal project for putting together the correct historical record for what I had really been up to in my prior life was going on, in my other life with Alchemy in April 2005 we sold our first Alchemy Risk Manager license to MCB and Alchemy with a few false starts just took off. The forgotten out of reach folder was left alone to simmer by itself.
This morning at 6 am, just before Taha woke up, before sunrise, before the schedule and the task list caught hold of my day, I was again up to no good deep within the folders of the Alchemy domain, when I rediscovered an old forgotten folder, left to simmer for five odd years. And though the pages are colored Vomit Brown, and the spellings could use a little help, the references and the style at times is childish when looked through the eyes of a forty year old, the words are all mine.
I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into my life twenty years ago as much as I did. Without further ado, I present The Cookaracha Guides.