About the Platform
Treetins is a Mumbai based company that builds ideas to promote positive interactions between strangers. We believe that human interactions, even if unexpected, always lead to something good. We simply want to do our bit to spread the culture of making strangers social.
Treetins.com is an online platform which serves as a medium for people to imbibe this very culture. It lets you bump into strangers purely based on what you express or how you converse rather than who you are or what you look like.
It is the first such platform which places the attention solely on your expression and not your identity. How it works is, anybody who joins Treetins begins anonymously; their identity is revealed only if their thoughts on a topic are on the same wavelength as the stranger with whom he/she is in conversation. This makes the whole experience less creepy and you never known who you could bump into!
We call ourselves the Treetins Bunch:
Aditya and I completed our Bachelors degree together from Madras Christian College in Chennai which is where we met. Post that, we moved to Bangalore where Aditya pursued his MBA from Christ University. This is where Prince, Mohit and Aditya got to know each other as they were studying the same course.
The four of us moved to Mumbai at various stages to pursue our respective careers, we got to know each other better over the years and finally Prince, who came up with the idea of starting up Treetins, decided to get all of us involved in it.
Prince Jacob Thomas: Founder (28 yrs), MBA in Marketing. Prince handles the product & the overall strategy of the company. A former advertising professional he has worked with Ogilvy & Creativeland Asia on brands like Audi, Asian paints, Bru etc.
He is the quiet and shy one of the lot but the thinker behind every critical move in the company. Sports and biking is what keeps him busy when he is not using his grey cells.
Aditya Dhull: Co–founder (26 yrs), MBA in Marketing
Outdoors and motorcycling excite him the most.
Mohit Narwal: Co-founder (25 yrs), MBA in Marketing. As Head of Sales and Strategic Alliances for Treetins, Mohit Narwal is instrumental in building associations with brands. Having worked with Dun & Bradstreet and One97 Communications he has handled the marketing initiatives for enterprise accounts like Godrej Industries, HSBC and ITC among others.
Fitness and food are two essentials of life that keep him on his toes.
Chandy Thomas: Co-founder (26 yrs), PG Diploma in PR and Corporate Communications. Leading the communications and media relations for Treetins, Chandy Thomas has worked with organisations such as NDTV and Perfect Relations in the past, thereby bringing in a good mix of journalistic communication and PR strategies for the team.
Music is what gives him a kick start every day.
Whom do we cater to?
Everyone is a stranger to many in the world and so we are looking at the 1.5 billion plus social media users all over the world as the market.
What do we offer to our consumers?
We are not here to make people’s lives simpler, we are simply making people’s lives richer.
Most people want to and are open to meeting new people and learning or exchanging ideas. Sadly, the existing mediums either lead to people being judged or are creepy and create a stalking like atmosphere.
Through treetins.com we are providing a secure and friendly means for people to connect with strangers. If people are curious enough to meet those outside their existing social circles then the possibilities are immense. A life partner, a business partner, a group of hardcore batman movie fans, a new music band formed or a group of like minded people working for a cause- the Bombay Underground group being a perfect example.
What motivated us to start up?
- Prince Jacob Thomas, the founder, had a valid doubt in his mind. The World Wide Web which was supposed to connect people and information all over the world had restricted us with our connections. We have family, friends or colleagues with whom we connect but there is no medium that connects us with complete strangers in a free and friendly manner.
- He got the three of us intrigued with this and also with the fact that meeting strangers or new people was not a common thing to do, in fact almost everybody would consider it rather creepy. So we did a quick test on the Marine Drive in Mumbai where we approached about 10 – 15 random people to gather their thoughts on this concept but also to figure out for ourselves how easy it was to connect with strangers.
- To our surprise, most people, though cautious were open to at least an initial conversation and loosened up later on. When we asked all of them if they would go out and meet strangers themselves, they all had apprehensions. Some said they were shy, some thought it was creepy and a few, feared being judged. During the whole process we realised that we ourselves were being judgmental in deciding whom to approach, again realising that while it is a human tendency to form an opinion based on appearance/ situation we should not forget that all it takes is a “Hi” and a polite smile to get a conversation started.
- The reason why we wanted to build on this concept was because we realised that there is immense potential in meeting new people and connecting over a common interest. Somewhere we had all started off as strangers but are now living in a closed environment not having realised before that meeting someone new could lead to immense possibilities- finding a life partner, a business partner, a group of hardcore batman movie fans,a new music band formed or a group of like minded people working for a cause, like the Bombay Underground, for example.
What’s in a name?
Very simply it’s an anagram of the word ‘interest’. So in one of those random brainstorming sessions we played around with the word ‘interest’ since the shared passion for a particular interest is usually what brings strangers together. We jumbled the letters and realised that the name Treetins had a nice ring to it and there it was.
How do we see Social Media?
From our own research and analysis of the general user behaviour on social networking sites we saw that most people seemed to be tired of the existing platforms and were looking for something new.
People were using a lot of sites in a very passive manner and even if they wanted to connect with strangers there was no right medium as it came across as creepy.We believe users should be able to make use of the net to its full potential not just in terms of sharing information but also doing so while connecting with a person from anywhere in the world. The excitement of connecting with a complete stranger over a shared interest and the potential of what could come out of it is immense.
Currently we are….
As a team we started off as just the four of us in August and have now taken on a couple of interns on board for moderation of content.
As a business, we only had an idea initially, which we translated into the website for people to use as a medium but the interesting bit was our realization of the importance which the concept of ‘Making Strangers Social’ had, in the real world.
This gave birth to our first offline initiative called ‘Share Your Table’ which we started in the month of October. Within a very short time span we have got about 40 restaurants in Mumbai that are actively participating, these include the likes of Woodside Inn, Suzette, Hard Rock Café and Indigo Deli, to name a few.
Our 2nd offline initiative called ‘Hi Strangers’ was inspired by the New York photographer Richard Renaldi’s project Touching Strangers. Here we went around the streets of Mumbai getting completely contrasting strangers to pose together like they knew each other. What turned out was not just some good clicks but some fun conversations between the strangers who posed for our camera. We are looking forward to exhibiting them in one of the restaurant’s or mall spaces of the city soon.
We have realised that though our concept is new it is very genuine and people love the idea so we will just have to continue to create such mediums for people to imbibe this as a culture, not just in India but also globally.
And finally,our website treetins.com which is like the parent medium of our philosophy of ‘Making Strangers Social’ was opened to the public. A lot of users have invited their friends and gradually the numbers are picking up.
The average time spent by per user is roughly 25 minutes and we have noticed that a lot of them are interested in the content that is being posted by other strangers.
Our biggest challenge was..
The worries of where you would have your next meal or how much would printing that one poster cost were regular things which I suppose every startup face. The biggest challenge for us though, was being able to execute ideas that we would plan. Despite having worked in agencies before you don’t realize the importance of execution versus continuous planning and modification of an idea.
Over the months we have realized that unless we go for the dive we will never know what’s in store and what needs improvement. When we had planned our first initiative of ‘Share Your Table’ we faced the same situation. But just one chat with the owner of the Alps restaurant did it for us- he loved our concept and we realized we only had to get better from there. That I guess was the biggest lesson learnt for us and till date if any one among the four tend to be in the planning zone, the other three are quick to make you realize that it’s time to take the dive.
We want to dominate the world by..
I guess we’d rather say that we want the world to imbibe this one idea, one culture of Making Strangers Social. Not every person out there is a rapist or a terrorist and so we need to stop being fearful, shy or judgmental and start expressing, start conversing and bumping into as many people as we could cause you never know the ideas or stories or thoughts that you could hear and be fascinated by. Like our Manifesto says, if the hardest part is getting started, start with a ‘Hi’.
In terms of our business, for now we want the idea of Making Strangers Social to spread as a culture to as many people as possible. What we are focusing on hence is to provide mediums for people to be able to meet strangers easily and get acquainted with something like this. The ‘Share Your Table’ initiative and the ‘Hi Strangers’ photography project will slowly start spreading to other cities as we have already been getting requests from people to do so. We are working on ideas to come up with other mediums simultaneously.
We’re making moolah by…
We have all pooled in our own money along with some help from friends, family and mentors. Our revenue model is still in its planning stages and so I can only divulge that we may be looking at a ‘freemium’ model.
We should be ready with our revenue model by March which is till when we can sustain ourselves, post which we will approach interested investors for funding.
Our What The **** Moment
There have been two actually. One was when we started getting calls and mails from restaurateurs and customers from other cities asking us to start our Share Your Table activity there. We really didn’t expect the idea to be taken so well and were pleasantly surprised by the requests.
Our second one was when we got a call from this random person who said that he would really be interested to work with Treetins as he thought it was a ‘cool’ place to work at. Though funny, we were overwhelmed to have heard that from a stranger.
Industry as we foresee
91 million users of social media according to latest reports is a staggering figure. People, brands and media houses have definitely realized the usefulness and need of social media, however there is a lot left to learn in terms of focused online marketing initiatives and effective online communication.
Another important aspect to look at is the integration of on ground activity with the online world. When we executed the ‘Share Your Table’ initiative with restaurants we realized the importance of integrated offline and online marketing and communications. We want to continue doing this at Treetins and with treetins.com as well in the long run.
Lastly, Are you hiring?
We are always open to young, talented people who could give us a helping hand, so yes we wouldn’t mind a few resumes coming in.