Saurabh Datar catches up with entrepreneur Samson Manickaraj, who says his website ‘Blauk’ is going to be a rage soon
Tell us about yourself
I’m basically from Chennai and finished my engineering from TNCOE, Coimbatore in 2001. I moved to San Diego, California to pursue my MS. After my graduation, I worked as an intern in the web department of a company. I got a lot of exposure there and worked on quite a lot of projects. In fact, it’s funny that I was next in line to the CEO, and was still an intern!
I then moved to Culvert City, near LA and worked as a trainee for about 10 months in a management firm.
How come entrepreneurship then?
I always wanted to do something. While working in the management firm, I launched a few websites. In fact, one of the sites I launched became quite popular. It was www.fewmillionjobs.com. It was basically a site that catered to create personalised job boards. It was different from all other job sites in the sense that it followed a different algorithm. If you were to use a normal job site, you would get around 50 jobs an hour, and with my site, you would get 150-200 an hour. It was doing pretty well and I made quite a lot of money. I sponsored my own H1 visa, and I think I’m the only person in the world to do so. But recession hit the world and I had to shut the site down.
So what is Blauk.com all about?
The site actually evolved from an incident that occurred in a café. There was a guy, who was being very loud and obnoxious, and everyone was visibly shaken by his behaviour, but no one had the guts to go and tell him, as he was a big guy. I wanted to, but he would have beaten the hell out of me. So I wanted to do something where everyone could express their opinions about others. That is how it started out.
Don’t we have Twitter, Facebook, Orkut for that?
Of course, yes. But what Blauk offers is simplicity. There are no profiles, photo uploads or anything. It’s like you’re messaging your opinion about something out onto a common platform. It’s our tendency to want to know what others think about us and Blauk offers that. This is social-networking in its purest form, where complete strangers are writing about you and not your friends.
I’ll give you an example. This incident happened in a mall where a girl noticed a guy was stalking her. She posted it on Blauk and two guys who read the post identified her and were ready to help her in case it got ugly. I got to know of this from the guys themselves, and it felt really great when they appreciated the concept.
How does Blauk work?
It’s really simple. You just register on Blauk and keep posting your thoughts. You’re given 64 characters for the person you’re posting about, 64 for the place, and 100 for the message you want to send out, and that’s it. If you want to reply to anyone’s post about you, you can send a message via Blauk. We’re in the process of adding a lot of features and we will gradually develop it according to user requirements.
We currently have 7,369 registered users, within 5 weeks of launch, and 67 percent of them are women. The site’s very popular among the college crowd.
Okay, so does this mean stalkers can use it to their advantage?
We are very strict about privacy issues. All users agree to a ‘Spirit of Blauk’ when they sign up, and if any infringement is found, we deactivate the account immediately.
What plans now?
We’ve got around 17 people working at Blauk. They’re all my associates in LA. There are quite a lot of things planned. But we’re just in the initial stages now, and I wouldn’t want to reveal any details, but I’m meeting many people and new business proposals are being looked at. I hope something will work out in the near future. There are also some other ventures about which I am unable to comment right now.