Coming together

Alisha Shinde
Friday, 24 May 2019

In the past few years, Pune has seen a rise in digital community. With a plethora of such groups, it’s necessary to talk about how to survive, connect and grow. Here’s a report on one such panel discussion

Recently, FC Road Social held a panel discussion featuring some founders of digital community on various platforms. Sonia Konjeti (Founder, PULA), Aniruddha Patil (Founder, Pune Eat Outs), Nikhil Bhaskaran (Founder, iotiot.in) hosted the evening and also discussed the growing importance of community and community building in the city.

The event was a part of the initiative #SocialWorks which is a breakthrough to offer an all-new take on the co-working space concept — a third space where you could work and play. 

Community and Vision
“When it comes to building a community, one must have a concrete vision,” says  Bhaskaran, adding, “Even though a community is a group of people who have similar interests, people are only driven to join a group if they have a similar vision in place. If it’s a group of IOT, the members know that they all are there to learn more about Artificial Intelligence and the new technologies that mushroom in the industry.” 

However, the members will drift away if the core focus of the group is diverted to something else. “The vision of the community cannot change in the long run, itcan be slightly modified but never changed,” emphasizes Bhaskaran. 

Guidelines are a must
Talking about her experience in PULA, Konjeti says that she realised that there need to be rules and guidelines in place for the smooth functioning of the group. “In PULA, we basically are dealing with an emotional gender. Everyone has to be on their toes so that we do not say anything hurtful, to maintain decency and discipline in the group. There were certain guidelines that were put into effect which every member had to follow and adhere by,” says Konjeti. She believes that even if groups are informal, there needs to be strict policies so that everything falls in place and the relationship that members form with each other do not suffer. 

Monetisation of Communities
“When we first started the group, monetising it was never on the agenda. But as the back end team grew, and we started giving a platform for the women to grow their businesses, we needed funds to run the entire community,” says Konjeti. “There were many members who were willing to pay the nominal fee that was decided. This step, in a way, gave the members verification to sell their products. I did face some backlash, but over a period of time, members did realise that the money collected was being used for the development of the community and making it more strong.” 

On monetisation, Patil says that it was helpful measure for Pune Eat Outs. “The monetisation purpose was useful for both team as well as the members. Members get to use the cards that they have to avail offers at restaurants and the team uses them to organise events and grow the size of the community,” he adds. 

Online vs Offline
When Pune Eats Out held their first offline event years ago, only four turned up. Says Patil, “It’s not that people don’t want to meet or something, but online interactions are extremely convenient. We have fun events for all those interested to meet and see the faces behind the screens.” Konjeti had positive feedback for offline events. She says that such events of PULA have always been a hit. “It was actually suggested by the members and it worked,” she adds.  

Suggestions are always welcome
“I have always believed that for a community to grow, there needs to be a conversation that includes feedback and suggestion, every human being is different and every single one has a different perspective. So new ideas, suggestions and plan of action to run a community are always welcomed,” says Bhaskaran, to which Patil adds, “What is important is the feedback which helps a community grow and benefit everyone.” 

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