‘The Strangers’ social network   Leave a comment


While previous online clubs have focused on dating and marriage as the ultimate goals, two new clubs in Mumbai are changing the focus — it’s all about finding good friends, and romance is no longer the endgame

On her way to the first meet up organised by networking club Covalence in December, Anjali Mathew* was sceptical about the kind of crowd she would encounter. “I decided that if I get bored, I will make excuses and leave in half an hour,” she said. She also had her phone for entertainment. As it  turned out, Mathew had such a good time that she didn’t touch her phone for the next two hours.

Covalence’s founders, Neha Majithia and Riday Niranjan Thakur couldn’t be happier. “We had no expectations but even then were surprised. People were punctual, we didn’t need to use any ice-breakers, the bouncer wasn’t needed and people just didn’t want to leave,” says Majithia.

It was just what Covalence wanted — strangers coming together and letting  loose.
While Mumbai may be ahead of other cities in terms of nightlife and entertainment, its social scene isn’t conducive for singles or those interested in meeting new people. “The biggest hole in Mumbai’s social scene is that you cannot approach a person without appearing
sketchy. People have cliques and don’t usually break them,” says Thakur. Thus, one of the first things you read on the Covalence’s  website is the rule: you have to come alone for every event.

A select group

In Mathew’s case, it was just what the doctor ordered. Mathew, 27, moved to Mumbai three months ago and had about three to four really close friends. But she wanted to expand her circle. Covalence seemed like the best idea — it was different from the more formal and businesslike networking nights, the people had been screened beforehand and they were all in an age group she was comfortable
with, — 25 to 35 years. “People were polite, friendly and open, there was no sleaziness,” she says, “It was a safe environment.”

This sense of security is important to members of such clubs, especially for women. The first thing that attracted Neha T, a PR professional from Delhi, to Floh, India’s only national singles network, was that it came highly recommended from a trusted source. “That, combined with the fact that everyone who is a member is screened, ensures that you will meet people from a similar social settings and backgrounds,” she says.

Floh relies on referrals for new members,followed by a questionnaire and a chat with the person in question. The club currently has 500 members, who were picked from 8,000 applicants. Covalence, on the other hand, has a fun questionnaire  for people to fill in, which is followed up by a conversation over the phone or via email.

The most stringent background check, however, is done by the three-year-old singles’ club Footloose No More (FNM), which unlike the others is for people looking for life partners. They ask for basic information, followed by a screening call, copies of government issued documents and finally a personal screening at their events. “We are not a friendship circle, a networking club or a hobby group. You come to us when you’re done with the single life and want to get married,”says Abhishek Agnihotri, co-founder of FNM.

Bonding over interests

FNM’s meet-ups are held over brunches, at movie nights or even club nights. “It has to be informal. We want people to meet up the way they would in real life, not just put on a pretence,” says Agnihotri. The founders of FNM are living proof of the club’s success, with both finding partners and getting married within a year of starting the club.

“We’ve realised that people find it easier to bond if there common interests are involved. The connections made are much more relaxed,” says Siddharth Mangharam, the founder CEO of Floh, who met his wife at the dining table of a party where they both bonded over their love for blue cheese.

Over the past year, Floh’s events have included mixology sessions, vintage car rallies, cookouts and outdoor activities like go-karting and paintball. Their first event in Mumbai involved sailing, and an upcoming event will feature a dance class. “The interactions often continue beyond the events, and we encourage it,” says Mangharam citing the example of a bunch of Floh members who caught up for drinks two nights before New Year’s eve. Covalence, which opened in December, isn’t geared towards just singles, and has already received 450 registrations. The 56 people chosen for the first event turned up and later headed out for a spontaneous dinner together. “We’re not putting ourselves into any bucket. Our group is for anyone, single or married, who wants to hang out with a like-minded bunch of people,  no strings attached,” says Majithia.



Posted January 13, 2013 by avinash2060 in Uncategorized

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