We just launched StreetBuzz, an app that helps strangers get together around shared interests. I personally want to see it breaking down the little bubbles of our personal networks and getting absolute strangers across the world together, sharing ideas and opinions and helping each other out. I believe as people of the world, we need to get closer and more accessible to each other, and I hope StreetBuzz can help that cause in its unique small way.
We have a long journey ahead, but if I look back, I can see it all began so strangely: in a seedy pub and because of a personal tragedy.
Those were the days before the Internet. Fresh out of one of India’s top management schools, I had an intellectually satisfying job and a financially carefree lifestyle, but aesthetically I needed to find my cohorts. Perhaps because of my Calcutta roots, or maybe because of my mother’s genes, I loved music and soon enough I found myself frequenting a small, downbeat pub in Bangalore called Pecos. This was not a glam, slick place, the sort where you would expect the upwardly mobile to flock to. This place had frayed barstools, cheap watery beer on tap, bad lighting. But if there was anything like an underground music scene then at Bangalore, this was it. From the mid-’80s to early-2000’s, until the Internet swept into India and made music discovery easy like a Sundaymorning YouTube browse, this little non-descript joint was arguably THE place in India to discover exciting new music and rub shoulders (literally!) with an equally interesting motley crowd, from starving artists to eccentric millionaires, all there because of the music.
That mix of content discovery and community buzz was kind of magical, really. I don’t know if anyone has written branding stories about Pecos yet, but in my experience, I never found fiercer loyalists and higher customer engagement than what that seedy little pub on Church Street so effortlessly generated.
And in a real, visceral sense, it was that little pub that first showed me how extraordinary the coming together of a community around a common interest can be.
A little more than a decade later, my mom died. It was a difficult parting. She was seventeen long years a Parkinson’s patient, and especially her last five years were very difficult. But possibly, those last years were the hardest on my dad. Parkinson’s is an unforgiving descent and the slow transformation of a brilliant, active, independent woman to a paralyzed, speechless and helpless person was extremely challenging emotionally and in terms of caregiving for him, and for the rest of the family. Naturally, everyone we knew offered help. While their kindness was a blessing, unfortunately, no one in our immediate circle had any first-hand Parkinson’s experience. So I scoured the Net trying to look for online and offline support groups and sent the word out via my own network, but finding the right support community proved surprisingly tough.
That tragic and frustrating experience made me realize how disconnected most of us are from each other still. Despite all ‘social networking’, as a society, our collective wisdom and experiences are still confined to the bubble of who we personally know.
And so it came to pass, that from the combination of the positive force coming out of a small Bangalore pub and the painful realization that most of us are still largely isolated from each other, StreetBuzz was born. Here’s hoping that out of that positivity and pain a future is born, where the voice of the people is a buzz on the street that we all can hear clearer and join our own voices with, any time we want to.