I shifted on the bed and then woke up. It was wee hours in the morning. The mobile clock showed 3-41. I tried figuring if there was anything that stole my sleep. And then I got it.
An elongated streak of light fell on the bed that came from the room at the far end of the corridor. There seemed a faint sound of mumbling, wafting from the direction of the room.
I decided to explore.
It was my first night at sister’s place in the city after a long time. There was some urgent matter to be discussed with her that went on beyond the hours when she insisted that I stayed back for the night.
A couple of hours’ sleep was good enough for me as the first spell. But now the sleep was fast disappearing from my eyes. I was concerned.
Was there some emergency? Perhaps my sister didn’t want to call me. Balancing my direction in the semi-darkness I tiptoed ahead. A step or two, and I stopped in my track.
Could I hear soft giggles of my niece! I strained my ears and waited. The giggling sound came again, ever so muted.
A great relief. I felt assured there was no cause for alarm.
I turned back to return and then turned back again. I longed to find out what kept my teenager niece awake for so long, curiosity getting better of me.
I pushed the door and entered the room. There they were – my niece and nephew – glued to their computers, ears plugged with tiny things that brought songs from the dumb sets, so engrossed as though they were just some parts of the computers.
Fingers flying off on the keyboards, they did not so much as lift their heads to notice my entry. My niece was sitting nearer, and I stole a quick glance of her screen.
She was ‘orkutting’, a term I borrowed from the net long back at the populous height of Orkut Buyukkokten’s social media wonder that he created in the off-hours while working for Google.
The funny thing is that in India even though the Internet penetration is still less than 4% of the population (US: 70% penetration), the country ranks third among Orkut-users. Read my story, India loves Orkut.
What this means is that India’s youngsters like my late-teen niece and early-20 nephew have taken to social media sites like fish in the water. In fact it is more or less the same in other countries as well.
No surprise then that social media sites are debuting on the net with great zeal each passing day. And why not? If a Facebook can command $240 million for just 1.6% stake – making it a $15 billion company – with no visible substance yet in the bottomline, there is no reason why others too can’t break in with blazing trails.
Facebook’s strength is its phenomenal user-base, which is likely to top 60 million by the year-end. It started in Harvard College, and later spread geographically all over the globe. The site is now cashing on the popularity through initiatives like Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Beacon, etc.
An almost similar social media site is CitiPals, which has recently launched its arm in Kolkata. Saikat Bose, one of the partners at CitiPals, says, “CitiPals.com is building a platform that processes and filters information specifically for you, to deliver recommendations that you can trust.”
According to Saikat, CitiPals is a cross among Facebook, Yelp, and Flixster. I checked Yelp, which is the place to speak aloud about ‘what’s great – and not so great – in your area (in US)’ and Flixster, that allows sharing movie ratings with friends.
Both Yelp and Flixster enjoy very good popularity, as evidenced primarily from the respective Alexa rankings and PageRank.
So if CitiPals can blend the essence of the 3 above social websites, the result can be exciting. As I can understand, the Indian market barring a few pockets is not yet ripe to handsomely reward social websites like CitiPals.
This means CitiPals needs to hang around with whatever wafer-thin revenues that come in, till the moment arrives to go for a kill. The reason is simple.
As Saikat says the potential is huge but still in the making. Given time, the monetization models being planned have ‘money’ written all over them.
To take a peek, they are JustDial for local calls (a la Skype maybe), lead generation for travel and shopping, online ticket booking for movies, and of course the all-weather worthies like ringtones, wallpapers, and more.
CitiPals promises to be ‘the destination’ in the not-so-distant future. While we await its transition from adolescence to adulthood, here is the CitiPals’ slogan:
CitiPals connects you with your friends to help with everyday choices.
Well, a demurring one you’d say, but let that not befool you. I’m sure the surface hides a lot of glitter beneath, which only time will reveal.