I spent a fun day at the Directi office today, judging the finalists in the Directi Case Study Competition 2010 on location based social networking services.
The brief to the business school students was to “explore creative uses of location based social networking and come up with a product offering that will lead to mass adoption within your launch market.”
I have been arguing that local-tweaks will be less successful in India than the other Asian markets because of the limited internet infrastructure, the lack of local language content and the aspiration to use global English language platforms. So, India’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube.
However, the team from NMIMS presented a compelling case for a local-tweak location based service focused on traffic alerts and cab bookings and won the first prize:
The team from ISB decided to focus on connecting sports fans in Mumbai with its location-based gaming platform and won the second prize:
In general, the winners scored high on three aspects:
1. For social web startups, less is more. In fact, I have argued that the next generation of global social networks will be built on single features.
2. For social web startups in India, strong local content and retail tie ups are the key to build a strong community.
3. Social web startups in India, like elsewhere, need to create a critical mass of evangelists in a small niche (perhaps a city), before expanding out.
I was also really impressed by Directi founder Bhavin and the rest of the Directi team. Based on my experience with how they conducted the contest today, they are really living up to their tagline of “Intelligent People. Uncommon Ideas.”
What do you think? What do social web startups in India need to do to differentiate themselves from big global platforms? Do share your insights in the comments below.