The next time you see someone leave behind a book at a bus stop, don't run after them. Read it and leave it in a public place for someone else to pick up. That's what members of a website for book lovers across 100 Indian cities are doing. Welcome to the world of purposeful social networking, where eco-conscious netizens have monthly meetings to find green solutions, and employers are turning to Facebook to hire
Remember being 21 and facing your first existential crisis over not knowing what work you were 'meant to do'? If UK-based Internet entrepreneur Lucian Tarnowski has his way, 21 year-olds in India today won't have to face that. All they need to do is stay active on Facebook. Tarnowski's year-old website, Brave New Talent, has the potential to revolutionise the existing recruitment model, using Facebook to connect employers with potential candidates in college. Through this form of social recruiting, the 27 year-old hopes that youngsters will interact with companies and develop their skills accordingly, while employers will get to hire those who 'fit the bill', shifting their focus from marks to talent. The site is already very popular in Europe.
BookCrossing, a global network of book lovers, is a social networking
site that is fast gaining ground in India. Members leave their books in
public places with a note saying, 'This is a free book'. Pic/Rane Ashish
While Tarnowski is looking to start operations in India in the next six months, two other websites that use the power of social networking for a global social initiative have already found their feet in Mumbai. Green Drinks, a network of eco-conscious netizens across 793 cities started its Mumbai chapter in February. It has close to 60 members on its Facebook page, who meet in a pub every month-end to discuss ways in which green living can be propagated.
BookCrossing, a global network of book lovers is another social networking website that is fast gaining ground in India. The site's vision is simple -- if you love books, set them free. Members leave behind their books in public places -- from a train compartment to a park bench -- with a note saying 'This is a free book'. Well-entrenched in Europe, United States and the United Kingdom, the site has over 5,700 members spread across 100 cities in India.
Chryselle D'Silva Dias, a 37 year-old freelance writer, got hooked on to the website four years ago, while she was living in the United Kingdom. When she returned to Mumbai in 2008, she decided to leave a book in a local train. "The minute I stepped out, some ladies shouted out to me. They gave me the book, thinking I'd left it behind inadvertently," laughs Dias.
While Mumbai may not have London's 'bookcrossing' culture, the site has over 1,100 members from the city. New Delhi resident and BookCrossing member Manish Malik was thrilled to find two books he had "set free" in Toronto in 2008, make their way back to India a year later. The 30 year-old IT entrepreneur was able to track his books after registering them on the website.
Each book is given a unique registration code, which a user writes in the book so that the finder can enter it on the site after adopting a book. This way, the user keeps track of his book. "I love the way the site connects you to people through books. There's the thrill of not knowing where your book will end up," says Dias.
Librarywala.com creator Hiten Turakhia is keen to partner with BookCrossing, since the website shares his own start up's vision -- to promote the reading habit. Begun in 2007, Librarywala, one of India's largest online libraries, has 22,000 titles in English and five regional languages. "A tie up with BookCrossing will benefit members, since I may not have a book that a reader wants, but another might. It's quicker and beneficial to all involved."
It is this desire to connect people with a need, to people with a solution that drove UK-based green activist Edwin Datschefski to set up Green Drinks in 2001. "We don't have an agenda, nor is this a citizen's movement," says 27 year-old Rutuja Tendolkar, who set up the Mumbai chapter of Green Drinks in December 2010, with the help of Tomas De Latte, an expat from Belgium, and Anish Thakkar, the co-founder of not-for-profit organisation Greenlight Planet that creates low-cost light sources for villages.
"We bring people together over a beer. The rest is up to them," says Tendolkar. The group has met twice since February, and plans to meet again at Mumbai Times Cafe in Bandra, on April 26. On their Facebook page, members post links for others to read. But a monthly meeting ensures that such social networking isn't just talk.
"At the last meeting, there were entrepreneurs and investors; web designers and those looking to start a website. It was amazing how it all came together," says 31 year-old Sudershan Sudevan, creative head for a social media marketing company. Social networking has made such purposeful connections not only possible but, more significantly, productive, because of its scalability. There are more than 600 million active users on Facebook, of which 23 million are Indians.
"If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world. The scalability of the network allows employers to connect with potential employees in a way that hasn't been possible before," says Tarnowski, whose site has over 1,000 company profiles. In the coming months, he hopes to add top Indian companies like Accenture and Tata to that list.
Your guide to correct online behaviour
If social networking websites lend themselves to recruitment, it's essential to take care of what you post on Facebook. Control your privacy settings -- luckily, Facebook allows you to control who can see what, even if they're patchy about announcing this to you.
* Proper online behaviour doesn't just include avoiding embarrassing photographs and comments you'd rather not want to be associated with in the long run. LinkedIn, a professional networking site with over 100 million users worldwide, recently released a study that said who you are connected to online -- your friend list -- also makes a difference.
* The study also said you should post messages of your accomplishments. It'll help while getting promoted.
* Use the right words. Avoid words like 'dynamic', 'team player', and 'value add', since they appear empty to a potential employer. "Instead, note that you have eight to 10 years of experience or that you increased sales by a certain percentage," the study says.