Exclusive Conversation: Team Treetins.com
The first ever, stranger friendly, networking site – treetins.com. Treetins has launched the website to take forward their philosophy of ‘Making Strangers Social’ to the virtual world. Treetins, an organization committed to building positive interactions between strangers has launched Treetins.com, an online platform which lets you bump into strangers purely based on what you express or how you converse rather than who you are or what you look like. The team includes the founder Prince Jacob Thomas and the co-founders Aditya Dhull,Mohit Narwal and Chandy Thomas.
What was the idea behind starting treetins.com?
Prince Jacob Thomas, the Founder had a very valid doubt in his mind. The World Wide Web which was supposed to connect people and information all over the world had restricted us with our connections. We either have family, friends or colleagues with whom we connect but there is no medium that connects us with complete strangers in a free and friendly manner.
He got the three of us intrigued about this very idea and the fact that meeting strangers or new people was not a common thing to do, in fact almost everybody would consider it creepy. So we did a quick test on the Marine Drive in Mumbai where we approached about 10 – 15 random people to gather their thoughts on this concept but also to figure out for ourselves how easy it was to connect with strangers
To our surprise, most people, though cautious were open to at least an initial conversation and loosened up later on. When we asked all of them if they would go out and meet strangers themselves, they all had apprehensions. Some said they were shy, some thought it was creepy and a few, feared being judged. In the whole process we realized that we ourselves were being judgmental in deciding whom to approach realizing that while it is a human tendency to form an opinion based on appearance/situation we should not forget that all it takes is a Hi and a polite smile to get a conversation started.
The reason why we wanted to build on this concept was because we realized that there is immense potential in meeting new people and connecting over a common interest. Somewhere we had all started off as strangers but are now living in a closed environment not realizing that meeting someone new could lead to immense possibilities. A life partner, a business partner, a group of hardcore batman movie fans, a new music band formed or a group of like minded people working for a cause, the Bombay Underground group being a perfect example.
How did you get your name?
The shared passion for a particular interest is usually what brings strangers together. The name Treetins is very simply an anagram of the word ‘interest’.
For now we are just focusing on the building the product and making it better for the users. Apart from this we are ensuring that the message of Making Strangers Social reaches out to as many people as possible through the various mediums i.e. Share Your Table, Hi Strangers and other ideas that we are coming up with. Our revenue model is a work in progress and will be ready by March when we look for funding.
What is your target group?
Everyone is a stranger to many and so we are looking at the 1.5 billion plus social media users all over the world as the market. This said we expect people in the age group of 18 – 24 yrs using the platform more.
How has been response so far for the concept?
We were initially skeptical with the idea of Making Strangers Social as it is new and we thought not many people may take to it but to our surprise the ‘Share Your Table’ initiative which was the first time our concept had gone out to the public was received really well by both restaurateurs and customers alike.
We have realized that though our concept is new it is very genuine and people love the idea so we will just have to continue to create mediums for people to imbibe this as a culture not just in India but globally.
On the website a lot of users have invited their friends and gradually the numbers are picking up. We are seeing lot of expressions being posted on the site and the average time spent on the site is close to 40 minutes. That means a lot of people are browsing through the content.
In a country like India where people do not easily mingle with strangers, what is your user acquisition strategy?
As mentioned earlier, we ourselves were skeptical knowing that it is a new concept and a little advanced for a country like ours but then that’s the case with anything that’s new. A new technology, a new game a new cuisine, as human beings we are cautious and slow in adapting to anything that’s new.
What we are focusing on hence is to provide mediums for people to be able to meet strangers easily and get acquainted to something like this. For now we will be spreading the idea through the ‘Share Your Table’ initiative which we are taking to other cities now such as Bangalore and Delhi.
We are also coming up with other initiatives such as the ‘Hi Strangers’ photography project which captures contrasting strangers posing together in a frame like they know each other.
Tell us about your three major challenges and how did you overcome them?
The fear of leaving our existing jobs. When we left our existing jobs and moved on to this our seniors were really helpful. They guided us through; even now they continue to call us and offer help. We had this fear but thankfully we have worked under very good people and they have been a big support.
Executing ideas and not just sitting on them, like we did with the Share Your Table, we were skeptical but only when we got out there and started talking to people did we realize that it was a great concept, people loved the idea of ‘Making Strangers Social’ by sharing a table.
To be able to sensitize people about the value of meeting strangers and interacting with them is the biggest challenge we are facing, thankfully after executing the Share Your Table initiative we know that it is a concept which has immense value and something that people seem to like so we just need to keep coming up with more initiatives to spread the word.
How do you see your website in a landscape where you have presence of such big social media players?
As Treetins we are more focused on the idea of ‘Making Strangers Social’. Hence our platform treetins.com lays complete focus on what you express on a topic of interest rather than who you are or what you look like. We wan’t people to be able to express freely and connect with like minded people based on their opinions rather than their identity.
This is what is unique to treetins.com, so while you can still meet strangers in various ways using other platforms, Treetins is stranger friendly as it sets a context for you to converse with someone but at the same time leaves the power with the user to chose who he wants to get connected with thus preventing you from being a creep or being judged as a stalker.
What are the markets that you cover and your strategy for them?
Well for our online site we have gone public globally. Anybody, anywhere in the world can connect with anybody on our platform based on expressions that they put up on treetins.com
In terms of offline initiatives we have taken the ‘Share Your Table’ initiative in full swing in Mumbai with more than 35 restaurants now actively participating. We will be taking this to other cities in the months to come. We will also be doing taking the ‘Hi Strangers’ photography project which was done in Mumbai to other cities as well.
What are your future plans?
For now we are focusing on improving the website as and when we can. We are also looking at spreading the word for now through our offline initiatives as mentioned previously.
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