Social networking has become ho-hum says who? If one were to go by the discussion at the recently concluded India Brand Summit, as of September this year, there were close to twenty social networking sites humming with activity with new ones still popping up and getting funded. MySpace and other such sites from the West would not really entice the Indian population until and unless they take into consideration the disparate cultural and other local factors that exist in Indian market. Orkut, once a popular destination is slowly losing its charm owing to the increasing negative publicity that it is receiving in Indian media of late.
Point being, Indian social networking sites are making a high pitch hum as they race forward to capture this market and cash on the ever increasing online population in India. HumSubka.com is one such new social networking website on the block with a refreshing look and loads of features all set to attract people.
Hum with us as we learn more about this site that promises to deliver an enticing (my) space online for all of us.
1. HumSubka.com as we understand is a social networking site. But for the benefit of our readers could you please elaborate a bit more?
HumSubka.com is a social networking website that connects Indians across all continents. It's a virtual world within itself. The centerpiece is the Personalized-Home-Page - a member's virtual 'Personality-Reflection'. A registered user creates a Personal Web Page or "mini-home", on the site and sends invitation to other people to join him/her online. New members repeat the process, hence, increasing the number of people in the circle. On the Personalized-Home-Page, users fill out their Profile Information, share their Photo Gallery, maintain Blogs, create Forums & Groups, and even Chat with friends that are online.
2. Could you please share with us the motivation and the story behind HumSubka.com. How did you arrive at the name "HumSubka"?
"HumSubka" in Hindi (India's National Language) means - "For All of Us". We believe there is a need for a feature loaded social networking portal that offers an India specific experience and help Indians make better choices when it comes to Social activities. Our aim is to bring Indian community closer to their culture, traditions & civilization.
3. Of late, we're noticing quite a few upcoming social networking sites from India, all of which seem to be doing the same thing. How different is HumSubka.com's strategy from other similar sites? What is it that sets you apart? Are you targeting a niche market/group?
What makes HumSubka.com a very unique business is that it is completely focused on Indian market - and by that I mean the Indian market in India and abroad. It promotes Indian culture, Indian products and networking among Indians. Even though the US market has (arguably) been saturated, there is very little competition in the Indian market.
Further more, HumSubka not only develops friends' networks but also serves its potential users by providing opportunities to use HumSubka as an online Hard Drive, for talented musicians - a promotional platform, for corporates/business - a competitive and promotional environment, and provide equal opportunities to both Buyers & Sellers through its 'Classified' section. All these sections collectively formulate this website as a robust contender amongst the upcoming social networking websites in India.
Our target segment is the Indian community of age 18 - 35 Years dispersed across the world. However, the other communities across the world also have the privileges to know and understand the nature, behavior and attitude of Indian society, and we welcome their presence as well on board.
4. Why wouldn't Orkut.com or MySpace.com work in India? How relevant is "social" networking in India?
Earlier Orkut was popular among IT professionals only. However, since the time it has been highlighted that Orkut is more predominantly being used for anti-social and anti-national stuff and is going to be banned in India, surprisingly enough, a huge traffic resulting from the increasing bad elements is even more active on Orkut which we do not consider as "Good Quality Traffic".
On the other hand websites like MySpace do not promote Indian culture and Indian products. We do not consider MySpace.com or other such sites to be a threat in the Indian market as they are designed for and are concentrating exclusively on the US market.
In this modern era of getting social, online Social Networking has become the only medium to get social and remain in touch with our nearest and dearest ones. I guess the general thought is that posting content online is the best way to express thoughts, exchange ideas and stay in touch.
Moreover, Indian social networking is hooked onto "Web 2.0" and one of the key aspect of Web 2.0 is "COMMUNITY". It's a new and improved version of Internet. Some of us call it as "an Intelligent Web" - as intelligence is after all contributed by the People; through user generated content like - Blogs, Forums, File Sharing, etc.
5. All of the social networking sites that we came across do not let us network by any other means. For example, being able to network and leverage the resources while offline, ability to network by integrating mobile users etc. We haven't seen anything to that effect in HumSubka.com either. Don't you think that would be of use?
Certainly yes! Making HumSubka accessible by Mobile phone users will be the next feature in our priority list.
Also, we have recently partnered with a US based company to offer mobile functionality. This will allow end users to: send and receive messages/comments posted to their online profiles, upload photo, video and text from their cell phones to their online profile or blog, receive photos and video from a website, receive and accept/reject friend invites as well as adding that friend to their online profile, receive birthday reminders, chat IM to mobile, chat mobile to mobile, receive private messages/winks bi-directional/anonymous flirts, vote in polls, send text alerts and much more.
6. When did HumSubka.com launch? How well is it being received? How large is your current user base? Any significant achievements?
Launched in the last week of May 2006, HumSubka.com is the new social networking website on the block with a refreshing look and loads of features to attract people. Still in its development stage, the site has already been bookmarked by thousands of users across the globe.
HumSubka's popularity graph is growing everyday and that's why it has turned out to be a point of focus for the media across the world and specially in India. A top Indian Brand Promotion Magazine, "The Brand Reporter" has also published an article on HumSubka.com in their latest Issue: Oct 16 - 31, 2006. Also, Business World, Business Standard and other top notch magazines have quoted HumSubka in their recent articles and stories.
7. Could you tell us more about yourself, your position & other key players/stake holders, if any? What were you all doing before starting this company & also your previous work experiences?
The core competence of our business is Web Design, Development, Promotion and Hosting with almost our entire clientele base in US. HumSubka.com is our first in-house project developed exclusively for Indian community keeping in mind the vision that it would change the face of Internet usage in India. Being an in-house project, we are very independent and have the ability to amend the code as per our own necessity.
We have developed this project under the umbrella of LAN Services, LLC. Mr. Anil Jindal is the President and CEO of the company and is equipped with 9 years of hard core experience in the field of IT Solutions. He has played the key role behind the success of HumSubka.
And I am Avnish Saxena, an MBA and a Business Analyst by profession. I take care of HumSubka's Indian operations.
8. How large is the team behind HumSubka.com? Are you all based in India?
Our team is of Six. Five are based in India & one in US. HumSubka's development center is located in Delhi, India.
9. How is your startup being funded so far? Did you receive any other external funding? If not, do you plan on seeking external funding?
As of now, HumSubka is being promoted and privately funded by LAN Services, L.L.C.
In order to meet our long term goals, we certainly need funds from outside. We have set up a channel of communication with some Venture Capitalist Firms based in US. Very soon, I hope, HumSubka will be funded and supported by a big venture fund.
10. Few of our readers indicated interest in learning how to go about taking an idea from concept to inception. So, could you please share with us your experiences? For example, did you encounter any initial hiccups while pitching the idea? Could you please explain the process you followed that might help other future entrepreneurs planning to startup?
Right at the formation of an idea, a plan has to be put in place on how to take that idea from conception to inception and then how to bring it to market and position against a reasonable cost structure and with a high degree of confidence relative to mitigate supply chain risk.
11. What are the key technologies HumSubka.com is built upon and why did you opt for them?
HumSubka's code has been written on ASP.Net platform. There were four major reasons why we opted .NET platform - (i) Powerful database-driven functionality
(ii) Faster web applications
(iii) Memory leak and crash protection and
(iv) Multiple language support.
Very soon we are going to integrate Ajax technology to enhance the efficiency of the website. Our programming team, under the leadership of Mr. Manoj Tiwari, has done a magnificent and tremendous job and without which HumSubka could have not been a success.
12. Where do you plan to take HumSubka.com going forward?
We all are delighted to receive the over whelming response by the users as well as the media in a very short span of time.
Following are some more features in pipeline, which will certainly prove to be a big leap for HumSubka and will make this website matchless for others in near future:
- Integration of Ajax Technology
- Mobile Phone Compatibility
- SMS & MMS through Website
- Online Gaming
- User generated Quizzes
- A dedicated section for upcoming Models
- Video sharing, etc
13. What is your business/revenue model? How do you plan to monetize? Any exit strategy on mind?
We are focusing on ads through banners, jobs, and also a 'Best10' section, in which the website focuses on actual products and encourages members to subscribe to the site. Apart from this, the site also promotes amateur musicians and allows them to upload their albums. This, also, is a potential revenue stream - HumSubka will allow them to sell their albums at a certain percentage cost of the sale - quite similar to what eBay does.
HumSubka is also setting up a plan to generate revenue by running some contests through FM radio, TV, and other advertising media.
14. What are some of the challenges in the social networking business and how do you plan on tackling them?
As per a latest disclose at India Brand Summit, in India there are approximately 20 social networking sites that have started up recently. Most of them are trying to get a solution first and then search for a problem when in fact they should try to solve a problem and fill in the need. Cultural factors come into play as well.
If we tried to create a Yankee-Doodle-and-NASCAR site, it would be a big mistake. Our marching orders are to create a global site. India is so multi-cultural that if we can make it here with HumSubka, we would have a scalable model that could be embraced in Europe and elsewhere.
15. In your experience, what has been the most effective way to market a service? Also, what do you think would act as a catalyst to drive startups (especially in India) towards success?
Since the inception of HumSubka.com, we have been relying on "Word-of-Mouth" only as it is the World's Best-Known Marketing Secret.
Network Marketing, Referral Marketing, User Loyalty and Stickiness, and One-to-one Marketing and other effective tools are what we are focusing on to market our website.
Since startups cannot afford to spend too much of money in advertising and promotion, inexpensive efforts such as blogging and discussion forums can be useful. However, in my opinion, the best approach is to get as many returning users as possible.
16. What is your take on increasing number of startups in India?
Survival of the fittest. This is the Mantra which I believe in. I am glad to see the number of startups happening in India. We welcome this challenging and competitive environment which is good for everyone.
However, most of the websites are either paid or focusing on a unique feature. For Example - one's focus is on Blogs & Photos, another is focusing Mobile users, one is the paid site, and one focuses Lifestyle.
As far as HumSubka.com goes, it is an amalgamation of all the features. It provides a common platform to the diversified Indian society across the world to upload and share their contents. HumSubka catches the attention of all the needy communities who have been running from pillar to post to find an appropriate medium for posting and sharing contents. For example: Users can use HumSubka as an online Hard Drive, for struggling upcoming musicians - a promotional platform, for corporate - a competitive and promotional environment, and provide equal opportunities to both Buyers & Sellers through its 'Classified' section.
17. Do you have any personal advice/suggestions for current/future entrepreneurs?
In my opinion, any business launched with a good vision, mission and strong business model does survive. Since, Customer is the King; wherever they find a user friendly and feature loaded site, that website writes the history.
18. On a personal front, who is your role model? Also, which websites do you read often?
I pick my Father as my Role Model. He has been playing such a big role in my life. For me, he is a PERFECT role model as he is everything a role model should be, a self-made person, an achiever, go-getter, motivator, loving, caring, serious, nice to be around and smart & young.
19. How did being an entrepreneur affect your lifestyle? Do you get enough time for yourself/family?
I would like to say that I've been learning so much in the past few weeks. Ever since I started "Being My Boss", I've been searching high and low for new businesses and the brilliant minds behind those businesses. So, for every time you kicked yourself to pursue you whims - don't lose faith.
My Business Management degree taught me "Time Management" and that is why, I have been able to maintain a good balance between personal and professional lives.
20. Our final question, one thing that you love the most?
I love watching my daughter's smile the most.
21. What is the question you would like to answer and still nobody asked you? Also, feel free to add any other information that you'd want us to feature.
HumSubka provides business community a full web page, cost free, to display and market their products and services with unlimited pictures and features description.
Above all, the advertising companies can now develop the audio & video clips about their products and post the same under their respective public profile page to promote a particular brand without any charges. This would certainly reduce the advertising cost and will boost the awareness amongst the web surfers for the brands available in the market.
HumSubka.com, a complete Social Networking website in itself, has initiated a revolution in the advertising world by providing a lucrative and cost effective medium for the small as well as medium business entrepreneurs.
That was Avnish Saxena, VP at hum subka Indian social network site.