Neighbourhood apps: The ‘Quora’ for local queries
PRASHANT PITTI, founder, NearGroup
NEW DELHI: Eight years in Indirapuram has made Rajiv Kaura, 47, an expert on the area. He can tell you who is a good doctor, where to get a new maid and which shops are better.
And for the past few months he has been giving such advice to hundreds of people in his neighbourhood, not directly, but on his smartphone, through a neighbourhood network app. NearGroup, Omni, NearCircles are some options.
“Most of the questions come from people who are new to the place”, Kaura says, “The issues range from advice on higher education to civic amenities.”
Shilpa Abhilash, a ward councillor of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) gets more complaints through the smartphone than manually. “It is easy because we don’t have to rely on officials,” she says.
“Most of us are unaware of who lives in our neighbourhood and in times of need, we travel distances,” says Prashant Pitti, founder of NearGroup, which has about 20,000 users in the NCR region.
Pitti ,who is a marathon runner, got the idea of the app from his troubles in finding a running mate. The former HSBC executive in the US had Nextdoor, a US-based app launched in 2011 and now a unicorn, to model his idea upon.
Jackson Fernadez, co-founder of Omni, says, “Lot of valuable information lies in the localities. It has now become more like a local Quora.” Launched in November 2015, the application has about 10,000 downloads, mainly from Bangalore. “Indians generally value a neighbour’s recommendations a lot. There is a very high trust factor.”
Some of these apps work similar to dating app Tinder to find people in the user’s locality. Others use the user’s choice of locality and puts her/him in a group registered from the same place.
For Suresh Mylavarapu, the difficulty to connect with the new neighbourhoods overseas, made him develop Nearcircles. Launched in August 2015 the app has more than 10,000 users globally. “It is mostly for discussion on local issues,” he says.
Mylavarapu says the objective is to see these platforms help build offline communities.
However, Ashish Jindal of CodeYeti solutions, which developed such an application in 2014 thinks they are extremely difficult to manage. “Most users stalk people, mainly women. Many female users started complaining,” he says. Unable to raise funding and solve these complaints, he stopped further development.
Fernadez of Omni agrees that when more people join it is a challenge to manage the discussions. The app has a report-abuse option.
NearGroup does multiple verifications including that of the Facebook account to eliminate fake profiles, allows anybody to block anybody, and doesn’t allow people to change their locality for at least for three months. Nearcircles also allows community managers in each area to watch over the activities on the group.
Source: Hindustan Times dated 15 March, 2016 Page 18