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Social networking on the rise

Sapna Agarwal  |  Mumbai 

Close to a dozen social networking sites focused on India " yaari.com, minglebox.com, reddiffconxions.com, zhoom.com and humsubka.com to name a few " have sprung up over the last three to four months.
India is also witnessing the advent of niche networking sites targeted at the Indian users like saffronart.com for those interested in Bollywood and Indipop music, techtribes.com for IT corporates, professionals and engineering students and even a business networking site siliconindia.com
A JuxtConsult India online 2006 survey reveals that Orkut which unleashed the potential of social networking in India is among the top ten most recalled online brands among internet users. Concurs Subho Ray, President, Internet and Mobile Association of India: "The active internet user base comprises 23 million of which 9-10 per cent are active on social networking, that is 2-2.5 million users currently, but it is set to grow with the internet users base growing exponentially."
One of the first kids on the block, Fropper.com commonly perceived as dating site was launched in a new avatar in September with features like photo sharing and troops, to start group activities and is also set to introduce a mobile interface and blogs by the end of the year. Navin Mittal, business head, fropper.com, a People Group company insists, "Fropper is a social networking site for making friends, dating and joining forums."
The potential of the sector can be gauged from the fact that Minglebox.com, a start-up is optimist of generating revenues in six to seven months of operations. "Our target is to have a user base of one lakh people by end of January 2007 and by March " that is in six to seven months of operations " to start generating revenues from advertisements," says Kavita Iyer, CEO, minglebox.com
However, upcoming Indian social networking sites are all based on similar lines of providing maximum features to their users be it blogging, photosharing, messaging, forming groups and others. Wanting to differentiate from a plain vanilla flavoured social networking site, Rohit Agarwal, CEO, techTribe.com says, "TechTribe isn't just about social, but it is India's Innovation Platform, where professionals in Software and Services connect with like minded people to form small innovative teams with the goal of creating something new." In 3 weeks since its launch, the site is seeing 10-15,000 visitors a day and has already registered over 130 tribes.
Critiquing the upcoming sites for lack of innovation, Ashish Kumar, CEO, Tekriti Software points out to the success of flikr.com, uTube.com, Facebook.com that have a clear defined focus. "The sites need to focus on ease-of use and greater interaction and offline connectivity with the user base," says Kumar who has experience in the areas of social networking.
So will the new portals survive as one out of every two online users having an orkut account? Drawing a parallel by comparing Gmail's late entry on the email and chat scene, Rajes Burnwal, editor, Alootechie.com, a portal focused on the Indian internet industry attempts an answer, "The newer technologies will have the potential to replace if they focus on greater user interaction and a simple interface."

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First Published: Tue, October 17 2006. 00:00 IST
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