Bangaloreans are learning to look beyond websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to network. Instead, like-minded people are interacting face-to-face to share interests, quirks and telephone numbers. From entrepreneurship to quizzing, or just leisurely chats over coffee — these groups are the new avenues for social networking in the city.
I walked into the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, campus, following the sound of guitars being strummed, and found myself at BarCamp Bangalore 6, Summer Edition. The atmosphere was that of a typical college festival, except that among those present at this weekend event, only few were college-goers.
Illustration by Jayachandran / Mint
People of all ages peered at programme schedules pasted on the walls; some crowded the registration desk; some simply caught up with people they hadn’t met since the last BarCamp; and some, such as IT professional Jayanth Sridhar played the guitar, sitting on a staircase.
I went up to the schedule charts to see the line-up for Day 1 of BarCamp. Topics ranged from ‘How to vote in Bangalore’ and ‘The great dating session’ to ‘How am I driving’ and ‘Why you should run’. In the course of two days, there were sessions related to every topic imaginable on life in Bangalore.
BarCamp is a concept that started in 2005 in California, US, and spread across the globe. So far, 31 cities across the world have hosted BarCamps and Bangalore has hosted six BarCamps since the the first in April 2006.
The agenda is simple: Anybody who wants to talk about anything can register and be part of the two-day “un-conference”. Register, talk about any issue that you think needs to be addressed and hear others do the same.
It’s a great place to meet people — better, by all means, than Facebook. “It creates a much needed forum for exchange of ideas,” says Laxman Srikant, an engineering student who has been a BarCamper for the past two years. He was here to interact with entrepreneurs. For Kushal Das, who is experimenting with his passion for photography, BarCamp is a place to meet fellow photographers and attend photography sessions. Visit Barcampbangalore.org
I was intrigued when invited to meet the city’s “quiz families”. Do they organize quiz competitions? Do they quiz each other? I drove to the venue with three regulars. The hosts of the day were Venkatesh Shenoy, a management consultant, and his wife Radhika, a home-maker. Their apartment was already packed by the time we arrived. It looked like a family get-together though no two families at this gathering were actually related, or at least they weren’t there because they were related.
After excited greetings, introductions, casual chatter and a treat of home-made snacks, the group of 40 or so was herded off to the apartment complex’s common hall for a quiz session. We were divided into four groups of 8-10 (I inconspicuously tucked myself into a group of eight). The quiz commenced and as Venkatesh shot off questions, we had suitably quizzical looks on our faces. Every group had a couple of bright sparks and the rest added comic relief by coming up with startlingly wrong answers. Five rounds down, it was mealtime. “Excessive mental activity can make you voraciously hungry,” somebody remarked. The hybrid group of professionals, housewives, students and senior citizens broke for a meal before resuming the contest.
Deepa Mohan, a freelance writer, and her husband Mohan K., who runs a company dealing in automobile parts, have been a part of the quiz family group since 1992. It all began in the 1980s when a few families got together to organize quizzes through snail mail and telephone. The size of the group has grown substantially of late, and the quiz families are now part of an e-group. “Frankly, it started as a reason for young couples to meet and not have conversations about mothers-in-law and jewellery,” says Deepa, who moderates the e-group. “Of course, we also enjoy quizzing.”
The group now has a good mix of old-timers and young families, some of whom have moved recently to Bangalore and are looking for ways to meet new people. Visit Quizfamilies@yahoogroup.com
Social networking groups in Bangalore have formed around all kinds of common interests. If you’re starting a new company or have a bunch of great business ideas and don’t know which one will work, StartUpSaturday (www.startupsaturday.in) is the forum for you. New entrepreneurs are invited here to meet, exchange ideas and find solutions to problems on their way to building successful companies. Kesava Reddy, vice-president of MyDuniya Networks Ltd (a two-year-old mobile services company) and one of the founders of the forum, says, “We met a number of aspiring entrepreneurs at BarCamp and figured that we could do with an exclusive group.”
StartUpSaturday meets on the second Saturday of every month. Besides discussions and presentations, the forum also provides a platform for new companies to demonstrate their products.
Young techies such as Reddy who are a part of StartUpSaturday also drop in occasionally at the OpenCoffee Club meetings that take place every other weekend. The OpenCoffee Club (www.opencoffeeclub.org) too is a meeting place for entrepreneurs, but in an informal setting. Members chat about start-up problems and try to help each other out with solutions and support.