Thursday, June 3, 2010

Up close & personal at the click of a mouse

Founders of Marathi social networking sites say it is difficult to maintain exclusive community-centric websites

With Marathi social networking sites evoking a sense of pride and honour towards the language, there are mixed reactions in the Marathi-speaking community regarding the use of these sites. While some sites are doing well pertaining to members and activity, some are shutting down due to decreasing memberships.

Ajay Gallewale, founder of the website, which boasts of over 29,000 members, is based in Boston, USA. "Maayboli started as a joke. My wife Bhavana wanted me to build a 'home'. Like any new immigrant to the US we didn't have money. So, I said I will build you a 'home page' instead," says Gallewale. He and his wife Bhavana started Maayboli on September 16, 1996 in Boston. What started as a personal site later went on to become a universal networking site for Marathis all over the world.

Maayboli has around 1,42,198 visits per month and it has grown without any advertising. "It spread through word of mouth," says Gallewale, who is passionate about writing and edited his college's magazine as a student of College of Engineering, Pune.

He adds, "There are a few non-Marathi people, some Indians and some non-Indians who are members of the site. They also order Marathi books from us."

Founder of a social networking site, who is known by the name Marathi Superstar, has a different tale to tell. "Many social networking sites such as Orkut and Facebook are cluttered with non-Marathi people spamming Marathi communities. So, I planned to start a site exclusively for the Marathis," he says. He started the website on the Jagatik Marathi Din on February 27 this year. "Many people helped me popularise the site and by making new logos and moderating it. We started off with around 1,789 members," he says.

Superstar adds it is obvious that there will be piracy, fake profiles on a social networking site. But people started blaming the owner even when the content was moderated. "That's why I am planning to sell off the site. Advertising is also expensive, if considered as a mean to revive the site," he says.

Darshan Kharshikar, a media professional, who is hooked on to a Marathi social networking site, says, "I had seen some three to four such sites, but they weren't so great content-wise. Then I came across a site which had good content and activity scope and got hooked to it." He adds that he joined the site to make friends with like-minded Marathi people. "I write blogs, share my trekking experiences with members and also discuss literature on forums. I have made quite a few friends and we have also gone trekking," says Kharshikar.

Priya Joshi, a student, is of the opinion that joining such Marathi sites isn't a good idea. She says, "We can interact with Marathi people on other sites as well. There is no need to create such exclusive sites and raise a bias. I have joined Marathi groups on Orkut and Facebook and interact with Marathis," she says.

The content and the people on the Marathi networking sites is what make them successful or otherwise. Gallewale says, "We feel successful when our members and partners achieve success through our site. One of the Maaybolikar, Nalini, made an appeal to Maaybolikars in Netherlands and with other members around the world they raised funds for school in the village Gondegaon in Ahmednagar."

No comments: