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Find a friend next door

Shweta Sharma, April 5, 2016, DHNS 22:20 IST
Most of us rely on applications like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Skype and Viber to connect with people we know.

With the aid of such apps, we stay connected with even those living in different cities or abroad, but many of us do not know our neighbours. So when Suresh Mylavarapu, who often shifts apartments at the end of yearly contracts, found it challenging to make new acquaintances easily in every new neighbourhood he moved to, he met his friends to discuss an easy way to connect with residents in the neighbourhood and solve it technically.

“Unfortunately most (70 per cent) of our connections on these apps are from a different city or country, with few exceptions. Hence we end up with many virtual connections. A properly thought out neighbourhood app can connect us with people who are living in the same colony or township. These apps help us create online connections that we can bring to offline world easily. Size of a metro city is so large; traffic equally bad that people would be better to find new connections in the area one is living compared to 20 km away,” says Mylavarapu, who went on to conceptualise Nearcircles, a social platform for neighbourhoods and communities to connect.

Easy to comprehend and use, such apps let people seek local advice and meet like-minded nearby people. It also allows users to stay connected with neighbourhood discussions and join interest groups in their neighbourhood.

Agrees Prashant Pitti, who co-founded NearGroup in November 2015 along with Ankit Rao when he could not find a running buddy in his neighbourhood who matched his timings and schedule.

“People can just give a miscall at 99904804809990480480 to download the app”, he says. On the credibility of the information on the app, which is available in 1,800 localities across NCR region, Pitti says, “NearGroup curates all the content, and only approves genuine and non-spam content.”

Explaining the relevance of such applications, Jackson Fernandez, co-founder of Omni, another neighbourhood networking app launched in November 2015, says such platforms will be a critical component of our lives going forward.

“While social apps have transformed the way we interact with our friends and stay in touch, the wave of neighbourhood apps are going to solve some of the problems that are closer home and more tangible to us thus filling a void that appears to be growing as we get more connected to the virtual world and disconnected from our surrounding,” he tells Metrolife, adding that such apps come handy at various occasions, be it an emergency, a crime scene or a civic issue.

He continues, “Say you want someone to walk your dog, just broadcast it on Omni, currently used by more than 90 neighbourhoods across India, and someone from your neighbourhood could opt to lend you a helping hand. In times of medical emergencies or in potential dangerous situations people can reach out to others in their vicinity for help. It can also be the platform to stay connected with key local agencies and personnel, like local municipal corporators, law enforcement agencies, local activists and influencers.

However, like most ventures, these too come across their share of challenges on a daily basis. Elucidating on the same, Mylavarapu says, “Ensuring that the discussions are primarily neighbourhood focused and not off the topic. They should be useful to every resident who has joined that particular neighbourhood and not applicable to just a small section of the audience.”

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