While working on post researching vertical specialized social networking platforms, came across an email from founder of commonfloor.com . After visiting the site found the concept interesting but could not understand the business model.
Would like to thanks Sumit for replying back to my questions. Here it goes
Q1. Brief about Commonfloor.com
CommonFloor is a secure online portal for apartment communities, fostering greater community interaction and offering useful services to the residents.
Q2. Why start a portal, why not try the concept out on a community group of facebook or orkut where already adoption of interaction platform exist?
We tried with the thought of having an app on already existing popular social network but that simply did not work out. CommonFloor is less of the social platform and more of the local platform. With this I mean that people generally don’t want to mix their social circle with their local circle (people they are living with). Also community features are just one dimension of CommonFloor. It offers value to its users in other dimensions also like local information, useful services, administrative features, etc. And with that reason idea of launching CommonFloor as open social app gets ruled out.
Q3. Can you tell us something about the founders their background and what skills they bring to the project?
Lalit and I, both are passed out of IIT Roorkee (thank god not thrown out, courtesy friends). We joined Oracle as the part of campus selection and served there for 1 year as the part of Enterprise Manager Team. Lalit has been rightly called as the idea box since our college time and got a US Patent in his short stay with Oracle.
We both have relevant product development experience and had worked with a couple of startups during our graduation time.
Q4 What and Where is your target audience. How much user interest has site been able to entice till now. Which is the most used feature of the site?
Our user lives in apartment complex and generally married. They are both working professionals and housewives. Site is doing pretty good in about 30 apartment complexes in Bangalore. 160+ apartment complexes have signed up to use CommonFloor as their information management and community building platform. The people are discovering their neighbors most. Things like who is from your native place, who plays cricket, and finding companions to watch a football match together is also in the list. Residents are also using local services like accessing restaurant menus and ordering food online. Apartment Association is finding it useful to have single console management for all their needs and sending important notifications to residents, resulting in better participation in events and activities.
Q5. What is your primary business model behind the project. How do you plan to sustain the venture?
Primary business model is the local advertisement space. We have already tied up with a couple of brands. The execution of the plan will be happening in the next coming months.
Q6. Social Networking has changed how people interact around the world. With today’s youngsters checking their orkut and facebook updates every hour do you feel its pulling people away for feel and touch socializing.
I remember the social networking sites starting up with connecting you with your friends who are placed at some distance to you in space or time. So basically it’s a good idea to connect with your friends with whom there is no feel and touch socializing possible. I agree with it that it might pull people away from real socializing. I feel a need of local networking sites like CommonFloor where people are discovering avenues to meet in their locality, where real life socializing and collaboration is actually possible.
Q7. What are the main hurdles you face in scaling your business?
Meeting up with user expectations is one of the biggest challenges we faced. When we just started up, we had the habit of listening to our users and incorporating their inputs. But now the same become tough. Now the product is much more stable and has become mature and to put up a new feature, we require a number of our users to ask for it.
Other things include getting good people, equally motivated, to work with us. Also the marketing plans and expansion plans have to be re thought of.
Q8. Do you feel their scope in India for other vertical social networking platforms to emerge?
I do feel the need and scope of verticals, provided the vertical can’t be served by having an app on already existing social sites. It should preferably be solving some need rather than just catching up with like minded people. The focus should be inducing some activities in the network. It has to be built around an important part of the users lives.
What i personally found interesting is the way they are looking at social networking. Although their concepts are pretty strong trying to connect locals living in same apartment sharing information which to me earlier sound unusual as till date we have seen primary use of social networking portals to remain in touch with people distance apart.Though i remember couple of years go people living in same dorm in uni use to stay touch using DC++ Chat rooms and Bulletin Boards hosted for counter strike, this is pretty much similar concept and i recon if can combine more accessibility services like mobile notification of activities or addition of information on lets say menu cards of restaurants etc would help build stronger community.
Other than suggested use of Mobile as medium biggest problem i see in the business model is inability to attach transaction model other than advertising. Their are couple of VAS opportunities which they need to explore to make their business more sustainable.
Hope to see more local communities getting e-enabled using commonfloor.com