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Mail Today: "Networking of a different kind" features babajob

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Want to hire a maid or driver? Log on to the slew of new networking sites that serve special needs

LETS say you are looking for a driver for your family. One way to go about it is to go to a placement agency but then you may not be convinced about his antecedents despite the agencys guarantee. Enter BabaJob. com, where you create a posting, and add a few people you know on the site.

Now, assuming that one of your friends knows a driver, whos actually his trusted guards brother, you may consider hiring him. In the whole process, your friend and the driver will earn an incentive from the website too.

Welcome to the world of niche social networking sites, where you can share common interests and passions with your friends and relatives without being intimidated by the plethora of complex features and applications that sites like Orkut and Facebook offer.

Topics range from music to Bollywood, jobs to computer games.

Take Uhooroo. com for instance.

Started by two lovers of Indian classical music but with a techie background, Vinay A. Mahadik ( 29) and Bharath Madhusudan ( 26), the networking site allows musicians to improve themselves with ratings, comments and stats from its members and get discovered by the Indian music community. “ We dont constrain ourselves to becoming a networking only site. But we do see several benefits of niche networks,” says Vinay, who grew up in Mumbai but is now based in San Francisco bay area.

Ankush Wadhwa ( 29), co- founder of BPOVoice. com, agrees. “ With high- branding budgets and strong financial backup, likes of Orkut and Facebook would remain the leaders of the pack for some more time to come in terms of numbers.

However, chances are that the future will belong to micro networks

with intense end- user engagement,” he says.

So what do these niche networking sites have to offer? BabaJob. com provides a social networking job site for hiring cooks, maids, drivers, office helpers, and so on, in several cities including Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

“ Most people find jobs through people they know – namely their extended social network – and most employers – particularly when hiring employees that work in the home - would like to hire a person who someone they trust can vouch for. Babajob. com is an attempt to digitise this process to efficiently get the word out and provide an incentive for the folks in between an employer and employee,” says the 32- yearold American CEO of BabaJob. com, Sean Blagsvedt, who spent eight years at Microsoft before founding the site last year.

Sean started with an investment of Rs 1 crore. Although the returns have been quite nominal so far, he feels the future is quite bright in the informal job sector. The site registers about 25,000 unique visitors a month.

However, not everyone is focusing on the monetary aspect right now.

Vinay of Uhooroo. com, for example, says: “ We are on a bootstrap budget, and we have kept our operational costs trivially low. We are focused on achieving scale, innovative features and strategies at this point,” he says. V INAY IS an amateur student of Indian Hindustani classical singing.

After a failed audition with a local Indian pop/ rock band, he wanted to know what his weaknesses ( and strengths) were and how he could improve. Thus was born Uhooroo. com. However, his partner, Bharath, though not a musician himself, comes from a lineage of Carnatic maestros – his great- grandfather was a court musician in the Mysore palace.

Similar is the background of BPOVoice. com. It was founded by Amit Saxena ( 27) and Ankush ( 29) in November 2007. Both have their professional roots in the BPO sector.

When they analysed Google and some Yahoo groups and even Orkut communities, they realised that most of them, apart from reuniting the related folks, were either full of spam messages or some mindless activity. “ That is where we saw the need to make use of our collective intelligence,” says Ankush.

While BPOVoice. com provides a platform for outsourcing professionals who can share their views, ask their queries and get to meet people from same industry with different profiles, there are several other niche sites catering to select audiences.

Criticat. com, for example, allows you to anonymously ask the current employees of the company that you are planning to join. Then theres Chakpak. com for users who eat, drink and breathe Bollywood.

Nunook. com lets you to connect with new or old friends while playing your favourite strategy or board game.

With a sudden boom in the niche social networking segment, will they survive in the long run? Ankush feels only intense end- user engagement would be the key to success. “ People have had enough of scraps, friend requests or testimonials. In the times to come, only micro networks would be more successful,” he adds.

Nov 10, 2008
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