Atul giving opening remarks at KCD Hyderabad.
Me giving opening remarks at KCD Hyderabad.

Organising The First KCD Hyderabad – My Amazing Experience

Being a food and travel blogger, I often attend a lot of food meet-ups where I get to experience different dishes and meet new people as well. But did you know there are a lot of tech events too? Yes, if you asked me a couple of years ago, I would have stared at you like a wall. But today, things are different. 

Looking at the cloud native landscape, there are a lot of local, regional, national and international conferences and meet-ups that are organised. Locally, we have CNCF Hyderabad meet-ups that I organise monthly, regionally there are bigger conferences like Kubernetes Community Days (KCDs) that happen at the city level KCD Bengaluru, KCD Chennai, KCD Hyderabad etc., nationally there are KubeDay events (the last one in India was in Bengaluru last year) and international ones are KubeCon. Fortunately, I got to attend KubeCon Chicago and KubeCon Paris

Over the last couple of years that I’ve been in the cloud native space, I’ve attended and spoken at a lot of meet-ups and conferences be it KubeCon or KCDs. But I was never on the organising side of things. However, over the last 6 months or so I have been busy with a couple of other folks to organise Hyderabad’s First KCD event.

Atul giving opening remarks at KCD Hyderabad.

We concluded that on June 22nd, so you can get a glimpse of what happened by browsing through the #KCDHyderabad hashtag. 

In this blog post, I’ll talk about my experience of organising the first KCD Hyderabad, things that I learnt, processes and mistakes that I made. 

Preparing for KCD Hyderabad

Every year, we can host only 3 KCDs in India, so the first one was in Kochi followed by Pune and finally ending the year with KCD Hyderabad. I was a speaker at KCD Kerala and KCD Pune and one of the organisers for KCD Hyderabad.

It all started way back in May 2023 when some of our community members reached out asking if we would ever have a KCD Hyderabad and Hyderabad becoming one of the tech hubs in the country, we thought we must plan and have one. So a GitHub issue was raised in May 2023 and what followed was weekly calls with other interested organisers to prepare, plan and execute.

Finalising the Date

June 22, was the date that was reserved for KCD Hyderabad. Internally we spent a week or so to figure out the perfect date considering the holidays, schools, festivals etc. to ensure we reach the maximum people.

Further, the next question was whether we wanted to do it as a multiple-day conference with multiple rooms or a single-day event. Since this was the first time we were doing it, we tried to keep it to one day only.

Venue

Another big ticket item is the venue. Most other KCDs in India took place at star hotels and convention centres. Being part of the F&B industry, I had connections at Novotel HICC, Le Meridien’s and other similar hotels. However, even with the connections and discounts, the amount that was quoted was way too much. So we decided to not go for such properties and instead look for smaller venues that weren’t too costly but also could accommodate a decent crowd. 

T-Hub - venue for KCD Hyderabad

Eventually after scouting for places, we settled for T-Hub opposite Ikea. It’s among the largest incubators in the world and is home to a lot of start-ups. They have multiple spaces that they rent out for events. I had attended meet-ups at T-Hub in the past, so was aware of the space. We eventually decided to go with the two rooms in T-Hub that would accommodate 400-430 people.  With this, we were now clear on the number of people we could allow.

Sponsors

Further, we had to look for sponsors who would sponsor the conference. This is a totally new experience for me. We were reaching out to folks on LinkedIn, Twitter, Email and all other mediums to reach out to folks who might be interested in sponsoring the event.

Luckily we found quite a few folks who were interested in sponsoring the event. By the time we were close to the event day, we had to stop taking sponsorships – not because we didn’t need the money but because we couldn’t fulfil the requirements due to logistical constraints.

Speakers and Agenda

The most important parts of a tech conference are the speakers and the agenda. People attend conferences to learn and network and that meant we had to carefully choose the speakers and experts that were going to attend KCD Hyderabad.

We opened the Call For Proposals (CFPs) a few months before the event and to our surprise, we had 180 topics that were submitted by over 100 unique speakers. To give you a context, for a single-day event, considering 20 mins for each talk and multiple breaks, we can at max accommodate 10-12 talks. Further, we also had Mr. Jayesh Ranjan, IAS who was the chief guest for the event.

Jayesh Ranjan, IAS - Chief Guest at KCD Hyderabad

With 180 talks, it was a herculean task to review all of them. So I reached out to a few experts in the community to help us review the CPFs and they also took a week to finalise the top talks. With the talks finalised, we had to publish the agenda and inform all the speakers.

But guess what? Not all selected speakers respond or can join the event, so we need to have backup speakers as well. Quite a task this was. 

Swags

Another crucial part of any conference is swags and food. Swags are things that the attendees get when they attend a conference. Since KCD Hyderabad like others was a paid event, we had to give them something. So we spent a few weeks figuring out what we could give them. 

KCD Hyderabad Swags

Eventually, we settled for a customised T-shirt, an umbrella, a tote bag and laptop stickers. To add to this, we additionally gave a Logitech K480 keyboard to all our speakers and a Portronics Freedom Wireless Charger to all the volunteers. Finalising the items was easy, but customising them was a task. I remember visiting local vendors to check the quality of T-shirts, bags and everything else. 

Food

Food is another critical thing. Since we were expecting around 400 people with a lot of people coming from outside of Hyderabad, I was adamant about having a good Biryani for lunch. Further, being the Maharaj, I had to ensure we gave the attendees a taste of Hyderabad. Again, I hunted for eateries and caterers who could give me that experience without burning a hole in my pocket. 

I spent a couple of weekends, just visiting restaurants and caterers to finalise them. Eventually, we stuck with Deccan Kitchen, a popular restaurant and caterer in Hyderabad and I guess we did a good job when it came to food. People loved the food and Biryani especially, so I was relieved. 

So these were some of the major elements that we had to look at while organising the first KCD in Hyderabad. Over the last 6 months or so, we split our responsibilities to focus on things that we’re good at and started working towards it. Hundreds of Google meets and calls, in-person meets and eventually, KCD Hyderabad was a success! With over 400 people in attendance from across the globe, it was quite an event.  You can get a glimpse of what happened by browsing through the #KCDHyderabad hashtag. 

But as they say, there’s learning in everything. Organising an event of a scale of KCD isn’t easy. There are so many things and people involved that you need to ensure that everything is well-planned and executed smoothly. Here are my 5 key learnings after organizing KCD Hyderabad.

5 Key Learnings

Planning and preparation are crucial

I learned that thorough planning is essential. We started preparing months in advance, from choosing the date to finding the right venue. We had to consider holidays, school schedules, and festivals to maximize attendance. Every detail, from deciding on a single-day event to selecting the venue, required careful thought and discussion among organizers.

Further, things don’t work as planned. From spending the entire night at the venue to ensure the event setup was done, to only realising that even on the day of the event we were still not complete. So, always be prepared for eventualities, they will come from nowhere. 

Budget management is a balancing act

Managing the budget was challenging. We had to make smart choices to keep costs down without compromising on quality. For example, instead of expensive hotels, we chose T-Hub, which was more affordable but still accommodated our needs. We also had to be creative with sponsorships, reaching out through various channels to secure funding while being careful not to over-commit.

Content curation is both exciting and challenging

Selecting speakers and creating the agenda was one of the most crucial and difficult tasks. We received 180 talk proposals for only 10-12 available slots. It took a team of experts to review and select the best ones.

I learned that it’s important to have backup speakers too, as not all selected speakers can always make it. Further, with most sponsors wanting a slot to speak, it’s difficult to maintain the balance of community vs sponsored talks.

Attention to attendee experience pays off

I realized how important it is to focus on the attendee experience. This included carefully choosing swag items like customized T-shirts, umbrellas, and laptop stickers. We also put a lot of effort into selecting good food, especially ensuring we had great biryani to showcase Hyderabad’s cuisine.

The positive feedback on these aspects was really rewarding. Sure there were a few niggles where some people told the queues were too long and things like that, but overall people were quite satisfied.

Teamwork and delegation are key

Organizing an event of this scale taught me the importance of teamwork and delegation. Over six months, we divided responsibilities based on our strengths. It involved countless meetings, calls, and in-person discussions. I learned that success depends on everyone working together and focusing on their specific tasks.

We also looked out for volunteers who could help. A handful of them did turn up eventually and took care of a lot of things on D-day. I felt, we could have leveraged their support a little earlier in the preparation cycle as well. 

When Is The Next KCD Hyderabad?

Reflecting on our successful first KCD Hyderabad, we’ve learned valuable lessons about thorough planning, budget management, content curation, attendee experience, and teamwork. These insights will be crucial for future organizers. 

As for the next KCD Hyderabad, while I’d love to announce a date, it’s not that simple. With only 3 KCDs allowed annually in India, we rotate between cities to reach different communities. Having said that, I’m optimistic about its return given the fantastic response. 

In the meantime, stay connected with the CNCF Hyderabad community and watch for KCDs in other Indian cities. Thank you to everyone who made our inaugural event special. When KCD Hyderabad returns, we’ll apply these learnings to make it even better. 

That’s it for this blog post. I hope you found this helpful to plan an event like this one in your city. Feel free to reach out to me for any assistance. Drop your thoughts in the comments below, tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj, DM on Atulmaharaj on Instagram, or Get In Touch.

About Atulmaharaj

A seasoned blogger and a content marketer for close to a decade now. I write about Food, Technology, Lifestyle, Travel, and Finance related posts. Blogging brings me joy and the best part is I get to read and e-meet so many amazing bloggers! PS: I'm also the founder for Socialmaharaj.com :) Favorite Quote: "Traveling is like reading a book, one who hasn't traveled, hasn't turned a page.

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