Monday, December 14, 2009


Residents of a city enclave are discovering the joys of ‘trading’ skills or resources through an online barter system on a social networking site

Over the past few weeks, some Bangaloreans have stopped using money to buy and sell some resources. Instead, they use ‘online smiles’! Around 14-15 residents of Prestige Ozone, an enclave of 284 villas in Whitefield, have been learning skills, acquiring talents and getting goods from within their neighbourhood while earning and spending — not rupees — but online smiles. Along with 150 residents, they have registered on a social networking site
called, as part of the
site’s soft launch in Bangalore. In this moneyless process, the
neighbours have the added advantage of getting to know each other. So while one resident,
Joao Rocha, has collected 29
smiles earned from offering Portuguese cooking classes to other residents in his community, Raina Sahu has 32 smiles earned from designing and landscaping neighbours’ gardens.
Developed by a startup called, the aim of the software’s soft launch is to get neighbours to interact and meet through the sharing of information, products and services, says Cedric Mainguy, CEO,, a startup funded by French investor Frederic Jeantet, who happens to live and work in Bangalore. As people start posting, sharing and meeting neighbours, they appreciate the benefits of cooperation, and use the system regularly, he says.
Users register themselves on the site, see what they want, what their neighbours want, give a helping hand, meet a neighbour, and earn smiles. A user could be a resident who can spare his driver for a few hours or who has a domestic help who can take care of a neighbour’s children for a short time.
One smile represents a ‘thank you’ for a little help given. One hour of service is worth 10 smiles. Finally, it is the two persons exchanging the skills who decide mutually how many smiles the work is worth.
Joao, who teaches Portuguese cooking, wants to learn Indian cuisine in return. He says, “We all have skills which we never even think we can exchange because we have our jobs and enough money. This is not about money. It is about some resource, skill or service I can provide and have an expectation of something in return from people in my community.”
But why the ‘smiles’? Anyway, there is no money and the exchange can happen without the smiles too. “Some metric is needed to show that a person does not have too high credits or debits. The best part is that you feel good within your community,” he says, already thinking of offering guitar lessons next.
Another resident, Raina, says, “Taking and offering services is a good way of meeting people. Otherwise, we don’t get to meet each other. Some people give a lot, some don’t give at all. But always, there are some people who want what you have to give.” Besides, the barter idea, eliminating the use of currency, is catching up all over the globe, she says.
There is no minimum number of users but the model works well when the number of users increases. As user activity increases, a user’s purchasing power increases. Over time, there are more exchanges, more neighbours over time and a wider spectrum of activities.
Not limited to gated communities, the model works best for people within a fivekm radius. People are welcome to try out the software for free, says Cedric. He wants to step soon into the global market after the usability testing in Bangalore. In 2010, he wants to try the software in New York’s East Village neighbourhood. CTO Abhishek Parolkar says the model works in India as people like learning and sharing skills. Someone good at movie-editing software can share the skill with a neighbour for smiles. Or someone can share a recipe to earn smiles and acquire another skill.
So where does the money come from for It will be from advertisers wanting to target specific people from specific areas, Cedric says.


At Friday, December 18, 2009 at 2:09:00 PM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great project!
These projects will get momentum as we are all going away from competition and embrassing cooperation as a new way of life.


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