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‘Friendly’ neighbourhood

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Pals just down the road.
Pals just down the road.

Paromita Pain

“The most interesting friend you’ve been searching for all over the Web may be just a street away. Areapal helps you find that pal,” chorus the enthusiastic Areapal team members as they explain what their recently launched site is all about.

The site, launched just a couple of weeks ago, already has 2,000 and more users from Chennai alone. Areapal ( http://www.areapal.com/login.php?dest=/) seeks to unite people living in the same locality. This is a concept they would like to call ‘Beyond networking’. Developed by friends and students from Anna University, the whole idea here is to connect with people closest to you — your classmates and neighbours.

“When we decided to set the site up, we didn’t have much money. We decided to go for Open Source technologies. We used LAMP (Linux, Apache , MySql, PHP). We found a few local BPOs having old unused computers, which had no RAM, N/C cards or hard drives. We approached them and got a couple of these old systems for a small amount. We reassembled these computers to work the service,” explains Kavi Raj.

They met the challenges of setting up a small Linux environment and a small space they could work from. “A kind person gave us some space in his office. We run Areapal from there. Now it runs from a rented Linux server. As more and more users log on and we open to more cities, we will need more powerful servers to pump enough bandwidth. Now we are looking out for some funding to make the service better,” says Kavi Raj.

The site still needs a lot of work, the team says. Many areas have to be added. Sometimes people complain that they can’t register or that sometimes the site is very slow.

“We are looking forward to establish a big community of people in various locations to take up Areapal and own it in their respective city and hence contribute to its growth there. We plan to split revenue with these volunteers from the revenue generated from those respective areas in future,” says Kavi Raj.

A wide pool of enthusiastic MBA students from institutes such a IFMR, Great lakes and LIBA is now helping them design a financial model to monetise the service and enable them to run Areapal smoothly. “We are also brain storming constantly to bring in features that will help students earn via Areapal,” says Kavi Raj.

paromita.pain@gmail.com

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 2, 2009)
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