They found it difficult to find like-minded people within their social circle to be interested enough in what they liked. And even if they managed to find people, they could not sustain the interest for what they liked. And no, it was not something as easy or frivolous as going to the movies or liking a film star. It is more concrete and action oriented, like photography, drawing comic strips, playing board games (not as time-pass, but hardcore, to win), writing short stories, and dabbling into entrepreneurship. It required passion and perseverance. That’s when they decided to use the online social networking media to look for people with similar interests. And it paid off . This is pretty much the story of every social youth club that you can find online. Strangers get in touch with each other, constantly comment on activities online and go back and forth with feedback. And finally, decide to put a face to the name, and meet for coffee and a chat, may be throw in some activity related to the group. And once similar passions are discovered, the interaction changes the entire equation.
“When we met for the first time, none of us knew each other,” says Mihir Vora, member of Board Games Bash, a group which meets every month to play different board games. Well that was then. Between then and now, picnics have been organised, family-like gatherings have happened, and couples have hooked up too! “I always tell new comers that you don’t need to know anyone to play a board game,” says Vora, adding, “At the café where we usually meet up, I once convinced a stranger to try joining a game. He was hesitant at first, but joined all theame. He’s not even from India, but still writes in once in a while remembering that night as one of the most fun nights he ever had!”
The questions is, how to get the strangers from the online mode to the offline mode? “You have to be patient and persistent,” says Rishabh Chaturvedi who started a short story writer’s club back in 2008. Initially, he used to drag his friends to the meet ups, as a back up, in case no one else came. And that was exactly the case. It took a few months, but things got better. Now, the club meets every two weeks without fail, and also has a blog to post their stories, called Litizen. There have also been cases where the founder members are no longer active, due to a shift in location, but at the same time, there are instances where groups have members from all across, even as far as New Zealand. “Since our format is such that members can at least comment on the stories that we post online, we have members from all over, like New Delhi and New Zealand,” says Sonesh Prakash, a member of Litizen. In fact the Hackers and Founders Group has members from as far as the United States. “Our group basically meets to discuss entrepreneurial ventures, no matter what the idea,” says member Nirav Shah. The group has a strong online presence critiquing ideas and collecting information, and many ventures have seen light of day, like Shah’s own soft ware solutions company he set up a few months ago in Mumbai. “Geographically, the US may seem far away, but people there are extremely interested in investing here. That’s how I have several soft ware engineers from the US who provide not only important insights about the global market, but also a bit of seed money,” he informs.
There are other groups which do not believe is profit, but just passion. The Mumbai Weekend Shoot club is for amateur photographers who meet every Sunday to do a photo shoot at a location in Mumbai every Sunday. “The idea is to learn, hold workshops, and indulge in the kind of photography we like,” says active member and coordinator Mulchand Dedhia. He advises those who want to start a group about having a focussed idea. “You need to have a great idea, even selfish if you please, to do something reliable and sturdy. The power of the internet is very strong, if you’re looking for 10 people, you might probably get a hundred. But then, you want that number to grow, not decline,” he avers. Whether for profit or not, and even whether regular in meeting or not, it is these online platforms, that have enabled sales professionals and chartered accountants to turn into writers, marketers to turn in photographers and businessmen to hardcore board gamers. It is certain that the youngsters are certainly ready to explore avenues unheard of to pursue something close to their heart.
The group used to meet once every two weeks to critique each other’s work, for the exclusive purpose of bettering the writing. Now, they have a blog, where once every two weeks, stories have to be posted (yes it is a deadline) and read to discuss at the next meeting. “It is a great platform for closet writers, since the turnaround is pretty quick. It helps the passive be more active, since something really eggs you to write,” says Prakash. So you have fi nance professionals and engineers showing off their literary skills in all earnestness every other Saturday. “It started out of necessity to get a feedback on my writing,” says Chaturvedi, “which is now become an addiction.”
Board Games Bash
The group tries to meet up once every three weeks to play. From a small group of about 40 people, has now reached the strength of 850 people. In fact, now they even have a day associated with the group. So if it’s Wednesday, it’s game night! The meetings have now moved on to a whole new level with a more competitive streak into Under the Stars – a single game played by about 40 to 45 members moderated by Vora; and Strategy Board Game Night – where only those who are interested in strategy show up. “It’s almost no fun, and all fi ght!” laughs Vora, who now owns over 70 board games and provides his own collection at the meet ups. The most loved games are 30 Seconds, Quelf, Uno Attack, Uno Tippo, Articulate and Man Bites Dog. The group also circulates internally, detailed reviews of new board games right from opening the pack to how the game plays out the first three times.
Volume 1 Issue 2