Society

Question of answers

Archana Gopinath and Nitin S.J., founders/administrators of WIT- Where in Trivandrum   | Photo Credit: Aswin V.N.

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Facebook group WIT-Where In Trivandrum has members helping each other find places, people and service providers in the city

Suddenly, out of the blue, carpenter R. Madhu found himself getting work from across Thiruvananthapuram. Until then his clientèle was restricted to people near his residence and he had no idea how he became famous all of a sudden. But unbeknownst to him, his name had popped up in a Facebook group, WIT-Where In Trivandrum, when a member of the group had suggested his name to help another member searching for a skilled carpenter in the city.

With hundreds of such enquiries on topics ranging from stage decorations to civil works and shopping suggestions and recommendations for doctors to realtors, WIT is bustling with questions and answers, starting from A to Z in the city.

Born out of Archana Gopinath’s desperation to find shops and services in the city without having to incessantly ask friends and relatives, it was meant to be a forum of her acquaintances.

“My parents were in the army and I have spent most of my life outside Kerala. When I finally decided to settle down here, I found it difficult to decide where to get the best products and services in the city. Within the group, all I needed to do was post a question and I would get answers within no time at all,” says Archana. She runs ‘The Reading Room’ library/bookshop, at Kowdiar, along with her husband, Nitin S.J.

In Archana’s words, “WIT is a place where strangers help strangers. They don’t have to do it and that is what makes it so special. These are people who just want to help. Members often post amusing queries with a personal touch. For instance, one person wanted to know where he could take his children to see elephants since the city zoo no longer houses jumbos,” she recalls with a chuckle.

At present, the members have gone beyond the usual questions regarding shops and services. Nowadays they come up with all sorts of queries, ranging from travel destinations to emergency solutions. Quite a few even search for buyers and sellers for a wide range of things, beginning with plots, houses, pets, furniture and what not.

City dwellers who are active members of the group are delighted to have such a platform. Homemaker Rajani Nair rejoices in having a space where she can find people with the same needs as her’s.

“It is a forum for bonding as far as I am concerned. I was so happy to find that there are people in the city interested in adopting puppies and taking care of pets. You make a connection with others who have similar interests and passion,” says Rajani.

Word-of-the-mouth publicity, says Nitin, is what drives businesses and services in Thiruvananthapuram and WIT offers a space for that.

From a small group of Archana’s and Nitin’s friends on Facebook, within six months, it has grown into a large forum of more than 9,000 members! On the flipside it has also become a place for many to push forward their business interests, free of cost. But the administers are keen to maintain the sanctity of the group by sticking to the reasons why it was formed in the first place. Archana says, “Advertisements are fine as long as it contains information regarding a new shop or a service. But if somebody is part of the group to only further their business interests by reposting the advertisements, we remove them and ask the member not to do it again.”

The increasing membership is making it difficult for Archana and Nitin to handle the activities of the group and also deal with requests for membership. Only those who have some sort of a connection to the city are accepted. Nitin adds that NRIs and others who occasionally visit the city are the ones who benefit the most from this group as they may not be up-to-date on the happenings.

Like any other forum, occasional rants and arguments do pop up. “We try our best not to interfere. But sometimes things do heat up and it might become personal. At that time, we usually step in and close the conversation thread. Members themselves often flag us about such threads if we don’t notice it,”explains Archana. With so much happening, the young couple are looking out for new administrators to share their duties.

In the meantime, many like Madhu are making the most of their unexpected bonanza. Where else in Thiruvananthapuram will this happen, asks Archana and Nitin.

Branching out

Archana and Nitin recently launched WAKE - Where at Kochi/Ernakulam, a Facebook group for queries regarding Kochi and it’s suburbs.

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Printable version | Dec 19, 2017 12:25:34 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/society/question-of-answers/article19676198.ece