Prerna Gupta, a 24-year old alumnus of Stanford University, recently quit her job at a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley to start Yaari.com – a new social networking site that claims to be ‘created by Indian youth, for Indian youth’. The founder hopes to attract one million users in the first year of its operation.
Yaari integrates the most popular features from other sites, like customisable profiles and media uploading. Besides this, it has also introduced some of its own unique applications, like Yaari Mobile, which allows social networking from anywhere using simple SMS technology.
“What makes Yaari unique is what we stand for – Indian youth. Social networking is about more than just technology. It’s ultimately about the people who are creating it and what image they convey. Yaari is about cool youth in India, having fun,” said Gupta explaining the USP of the site.
She further said that that her goal was to make Yaari a platform where Indian youth could express themselves freely. “We want our users to have input in what Yaari becomes, so we listen closely to what they want, and we give them exactly that,” Gupta added.
In keeping with this goal, Gupta maintains an active blog, where she will soon begin featuring prominent Indian bloggers. Yaari will also be hosting the official Mr & Ms India Online pageant this month. Contestants will get a chance to win modeling contracts and be featured in top Indian entertainment publications. Winners will be determined by popular vote, along with a panel of judges.
Gupta and co-founder Parag Chordia believe that the site offered a more exciting and rich user experience than the leading competitor, Orkut, which is cited to have over one million Indian users. They also feel that a site created specifically for Indians will have greater long-term appeal. She is confident about Yaari’s ability to win users from Orkut. “Orkut is good for one thing – scrapping. But eventually users get bored with that and that’s when Yaari shines,” she noted.
Another thing that is unique to Yaari when compared with other Indian social networks is that it is by invitation only. Gupta receives hundreds of invitation requests daily, but she feels strongly about preserving the integrity of the network by restricting access to the ‘right kind’ of Indian youth.
Yaari’s executive team currently comprises two persons – Gupta, who calls herself Chief Yaar, and CTO Parag Chordia, who holds a BS from Yale University and a PhD from Stanford.
Gupta and Chordia currently split their time between the US and India. They say Yaari headquarters are their ‘laptops and the Internet’, but they are planning to open an office in South Delhi this year and build their team. As of now, Yaari is self-funded.