Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Magic of Many - India jumps on with crowdsourcing...

The magic of many...Crowdsourcing — letting others do it. CHENNAI: “Those in Mumbai, slums @ Geeta Nagar destroyed in rains, help with rice/atta/tea/pulses/clothes.” Recently a variant of this message kept echoing online in Twitter, the short messaging service. These messages would be tagged with #mumbairains, and anyone who wanted updates on how the city was coping with the annual monsoons — be it traffic jams, college attendance or office woes — could log in. And perhaps, wade through the water to Geeta Nagar with some hot tea. These messages were not being posted by one person, an organised group, the authorities or an institution; they came from the crowd — spread all over the world, united by a desire to help. Crowdsourcing involves taking a task and letting others do it, says Gaurav Mishra, founder and CEO, 20:20 Web Tech, a social media research and analytics firm. The crowd voluntarily took on the task of monitoring the rains. Interest was a major driver.
A company may want to know how to put pictures on potato chips. There would be many people in the world who would know how to go about it. The company could ask for contributions from all of them and choose the best one for use, says Mr. Mishra, explaining how crowdsourcing worked. As these people are amateurs, the company would not need to pay as much, and the person, whose motivation is to make that advertisement rather than commercial ends, is also satisfied. So a person living in Italy could give an idea to a person in India — something made possible by the Internet. Innocentive ( is a crowdsourcing site based on this idea. In India, crowdsourcing as businesses is just catching up. Lattice Purple, a Delhi-based firm, has created a platform ‘YouSuggest’ ( for companies to crowdsource ideas from customers. “The best of the ideas could be implemented for the product,” says Arvind Nigam, one of the founders of Lattice Purple. The platform is available for use through a SaaS (software as a service) model. “This is a democratic platform for ideas,” says Mr. Nigam. If the company does not implement an idea, there could be risk of a backlash. But companies could moderate discussions. Other tweaks may be needed for crowdsourcing to work in India. Myidea (, started by a private cellular service provider as a platform to crowdsource ideas on Indian politics, integrated SMS. “We kept in touch with the crowd using email, SMS and Web, because we’re not as “on the net” as people in the U.S. are,” says Mahesh Murthy, founder of Pinstorm, a digital advertising firm that managed Myidea. Crowdsourcing could take on other forms. For instance, Amazon Mechanical Turk ( calls itself a ‘marketplace for work.’ If you need to translate 10 pages in English into Telugu, you could advertise on this site. This task will be broken down and parcelled out to many people and then aggregated to provide you the translation. The photo site iStockphoto ( and the T-shirt site Threadless ( are some popular examples of sites using crowdsourcing.
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