The internet craze is back!

Looking at the newspapers in India these days, you would be forgiven if you felt a sense of deja-vu.  An internet gold rush, new models coming up every day, massive PE investments, fresh millionaires… did we just get transported back to Y2K?

Yes and no, it seems.  Yes – because the stories and the mood are the same.  No – because the underlying activity is a lot more real this time around.  Business models are built on revenue models.  There are now more than 80 mn internet users in the country.  Among the more attractive consumer segments (SEC A and B), internet penetration is near total.  A true web-generation has emerged.

How will is this panning out from a business perspective?  Well, travel has already moved online with a vengeance (perhaps repaying us for all those long hours we spent in queues trying to get tickets) – when’s the last time you didn’t buy a ticket off the net?  But that’s not the only segment.  Snapdeal claims to do 10,000 transactions a day (and are now in the market to raise 200 Cr).  Flipkart (valued around a 1000 Cr)  is rumoured to do revenues of 75 Cr.  If that sounds small –  compare that to the 200 Cr odd that Crosswords and Landmark make after dozens of years in the business.

The party’s just begun – and barring another recession, we’re certain to see mind-boggling levels of activity in this space.  And hopefully, we won’t be experiencing a sense of deja-vu in 2021!

Spam on Facebook: Social Engineering 101, but the girls are pretty!

There I was, lurking on Facebook with my cousins last weekend…and in came a friend request. This was no ordinary friend request. No Sir! This was an attractive looking woman (let’s call her N_U) who had gone to my high school the year after I graduated. My friends seemed to know her (5 common friends,  I’m told), and I vaguely remembered her name..maybe a friend’s younger sister? Not accepting the friend request was out of question…the evidence was too compelling! I accepted meekly, leaving a note to myself to ask her if she really knew me from school. Fat chance!

Something about N_U didn’t seem right. She seemed too perfect. None of my other school friends had gone to a photo studio to have model-quality photos taken for Facebook. Then, of course, there was the issue of her academic qualifications. She seemed to have taken 6 years from the time she had graduated from school until she finished college. That means she took six years to finish a 3 year degree? Amit and I both went to the same high school, and the school was known more for it’s high academic standards than for the enduring beauty of it’s students. This friend of mine also seemed to have been an air-hostess in Air Sahara until 2004, when she settled into marriage at Lucknow and seemed to have continued to visit the photo studio to have her photos taken alone. Her profile was created 3 weeks ago, and she already had 400+ friends, adding friends at the rate of 30 a day. Wow- she seems to have been more popular at school than I imagined, or remembered!

I couldn’t put my finger on the problem- were the photos fake, was the profile unreal, am I losing my memory, and why did my friends know her and I didn’t?

Watching N_U’s Facebook feed made things a lot more interesting! She was a fan of a weight loss Facebook site- “Inches Off”. She had interesting political views, and had been posting status messages about some recent political developments. Some of these status feeds were commented on by a friend called “Hassan”, who had also commented on one of her photos saying that she looks “very pretty” in one photo. Other posts were basically reposts of articles on Inches Off, the weight loss fan page. Curious indeed.

Follow the white rabbit. So, I follow the link to this friend of my friend. Hassan seemed to be the guy behind the “Inches Off” fan page, and seemed also to have worked in the Sahara India group. Fair enough- that’s where they got to know each other, I suppose. What struck me, however, was that this guy seemed to be what was known colloquially in high school as a “chick magnet”. He seemed to have many perfect women amongst his friends (see below). I guess one could do worse in life than being a sales guy for a weight loss product!

Each of these friends-of-friend-of-N_U seemed to have similar profiles as her! They all seemed to have gone to prominent schools in North India (Spring Dales, Apeejay, Modern School), and had taken 5-7 years to finish graduation, were fans of “Inches Off”, had opened their profiles recently, and had 400-2000 friends.

Looking at the girls’ profiles, and looping back to friend-of-N_U’s profile, I attained Realization.

On the internet, no one knows if you’re a dude pretending to be a chick.

Here it is…your Moment of Zen!