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Neighbourhood connect

Make friends in your locality, with www.areapal.com



MICRO THINKING Kaviraj (left) and Srikkanth

Sure enough, you have ‘familiar strangers’ in your life. The septuagenarian who gets to the bus stop at 8 a.m. every weekday; the teenager with a mohawk hairstyle and tattoos on his forearms who walks a German Shepherd near your house; the girl who walks with a limp…

These people evoke curiosity — but their lives are likely to remain a mystery. Kaviraj, an alumnus of Sathyabama, has created a tool that promises to shatter the cloud of mystery surrounding such ‘familiar strangers’. His free networking site www.areapal.com connects people from the same locality. Kaviraj says all the established social networking sites stop at the city level; “they don’t go as micro as we do”. Kaviraj decided to create such a local resource for making friends, when he was in Velachery and was looking for friends to spend time with.

Kaviraj built the site with Jyothi (who handles technical end of the operations). Srikkanth, an MBA student at IFMR, takes cares of the marketing.

Students upbeat

Had it not been for the enthusiastic participation of college students, areapal would not have gone beyond Chennai. With over 150 students volunteering time and resources, it provides local connectivity for people in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Trichy, Coimbatore, Salem, Tuticorin and Madurai. “Our operation pertaining to Chennai is full-fledged. With every other city, there are loose ends to be tied,” says Kaviraj.

The website’s basic structure underwent many changes before it got crystallised to its present form, because the team has been receptive to user feedback.

“At first, a user was not allowed to change his locality profile for 30 days. We have now brought it down to five days. We have checks to find out if someone is changing his locality profile without genuine reasons,” says Kaviraj.

“In each city, there are over a dozen moderators who scrutinise the personal information provided by the user,” says Srikkanth. For someone to become a member, he has to get an invitation from someone who already is. Security provisions include options such as a girl making her profile accessible only to other girls or students in her college.

In many respects, areapal is like other social networking sites. ‘Weblebrity’, about voting someone as the celebrity of a locality, is an example. There is scope for indulging your silly side too. Dashboard provides space to download music and videos. Members can form issue, personality or any other subject-specific groups called ‘Kuzhus’ (Tamil for groups). In Bangalore, it is known by the local word for groups.

“Areapal combines fun with usefulness. Using this website, Arvind (who stays at Kilpauk and works for Paypal, Sholinganallur) tracked down many people who live in his area and commute to Old Mahabalipuram Road. He created a car pool.”

PRINCE FREDERICK

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