While you were Facebooking, Mumbai start-up creates social network for strangers

Facebook(From left to right) Chandy, Thomas, Narwal and Dhull. (IE Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

If you are the sort of person who is put off by friend requests from strangers, then this story is probably not for you. Launched by a group of 20-somethings in Mumbai, Treetins is a social network for strangers. Put off already? Well, the four founders of the new site think there are many people out there in the real world, who would like to try their luck meeting and getting to know strangers. Their motto? "Making Strangers Social."

Treetins, an anagram for interest, is a social networking site that connects people by using their common interests. One can begin by liking someone's photographs, and then "bump" into that person, but without knowing who is on the other side. If that person then wants to carry the conversation forward, the bump is accepted, thus revealing the identities of both parties. On Treetins, all conversations are between two individuals only, there is no chance for a third person chipping in.

Founder Prince Jacob Thomas says that while there are more people using social media today than before, most of the conversations are restricted to family, friends and colleagues. "The number of strangers we could connect with, and thus collaborate with, are immense," says Thomas, who has worked with Ogilvy and Creativeland Asia, and now handles the product and overall strategy of the new company.

When Thomas had his brainwave last April, he bounced the idea off his friends, Aditya Dhul, Mohit Narwal and Chandy Thomas. It was not an easy idea to sell, but after brainstorming they felt that people were mostly reluctant to meet strangers "either because of the fear of being judged or they find it creepy". The foursome took their theory offline and tested it at Marine Drive in Mumbai, by trying to meet random strangers. "We realised that we, too, were judging people before we approached anyone," says Prince. "But then we also realised that we four started out as strangers before we became friends. You never know what it could lead to; the opportunities of collaborating with people are immense."

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