A group of young entrepreneurs from India started a revolutionary platform that is changing the culture of hanging out.
by Aisiri Amin
Started by three friends, Badrinarayanan Seetharaman, Qusai Kathawala and Ashwin Kulkarni, Gathr is based on the idea of creating a form of entertainment that one wants to be a part of rather than just consuming what is available. Conceptualised in May 2016, Gathr is an app which aims at bringing different people with similar interests together through interesting activities.
INKLINE talked to one of its founders, Badri, about the idea and the inspiration behind Gathr.
INKLINE: Tell us about Gathr. What is it all about?
Badri: Gathr is a platform for creative social experiences. Essentially, we invite anyone who has an idea to hang out in a unique and interesting way. We have done everything from cupcake-baking session to sleep concerts where you get together and try out something new.
It is based on the idea that entertainment is meant to be interesting. So, if someone wants to learn how to make dosas (Indian pancakes) and there are others who are interested in joining in then someone who has a place offers it to them and an idea comes to life. Gathr is built around the idea of creating not consuming.
I: What was the thought process behind starting Gathr?
B: Most of the entertainment that we are subjected to is very boring and predictable. There is not much to look forward to. So we wanted to create a social setting that we want to be a part of. Many people we came across were tired of going to bars and meeting the same kind of people. So, the idea came out of boredom but as we thought about it more, it got a definition.
The entire event industry is broken and it sort of controls what kind of entertainment we get to experience. Through Gathr we want to change that.
People have different layers to them. Every person is passionate about something, there is something that interests them. So we wanted to build a system to allow those interests to be shared in an easy manner where all the efforts involved are taken care by different people.
I: Gathr has gained popularity in just seven months. How has the journey been?
B: The journey has been amazing! We are seeing the validation of the meet. There are a lot of people who feel this way but they don’t know where to go. That’s a problem that we are addressing and it’s a good feeling. The basic thing is to find validation for what we are working on. We see that in how the people who participate connect with others, how their expectation of entertainment is met. That’s very fascinating.
Also, the enthusiasm in suggesting the ideas shows us that Gathr is really engaging people. And that is our foundation; to create a social setting that they want to be part of. We are seeing signs of it. Now we are trying to see how to take it from here, how to create more events around ‘hanging out.’
I:. What has been the most difficult part?
B: We struggle with conviction all the time. It’s really great to have Ashwin and Qusai around. They see the world very differently from how I see it and there is a lot to learn. But there is a gap between the vision we have for the world and how to get there. Knowing which experiments to run, being conscious about what you want to do, understanding what will work and what won’t, to think more creatively and to cultivate it like some kind of perceptive stability over a period of time – that’s the most difficult part.
I: Which part was surprisingly easy?
B: Coming up with the ideas! Initially, we used to wonder from where we would get the ideas. But that turned out be easy. If we think about the possibility of doing something a certain way and then suddenly there is a whole bunch of people on board. And things get started.
It has been amazing to work on something like Gathr. It has been flourishing on every level. From thinking about what we can do, to where we do it, how to do it – the connections have been great. The people participating in the events have been the motivation for all us.
I: How do you come up with unique ideas to engage people?
B: Ideas come from a lot of people and by combining different things in a creative way. I am a strong believer that a lot of ideas come out of mundane things, from everyday things. You just have to pay attention to why things are presented in a certain way and focus on the details. Sometimes the idea strikes you when you are bored or doing something else after which you need to make the associations and define it.
It’s much easier than you imagine. It’s important to give yourself the permission to play. And go crazy on what you want to try out. That’s something people should be open to but aren’t. You need to know it is okay to pick whatever activity you want. You need to give your mind the freedom to wander and be willing to look at things differently. It’s not difficult. Anyone can do it.
I: Gathr has been organising some interesting events. Be it Gathr Pops the Evil Eye, Silent Reading & Silent Dancing Party, Intimacy Hacks, Sleep Concert or the recent Under Shooting Stars: Stories, Strings and Outer Space.
All the events have been unique and have seen a good response from people. So, what goes into creating these events?
B: There are three aspects. One, there is an authentic connection between the facilitator and what the opportunity is. When we feel that this is something that we want to share with the world, something that the others should experience, we organise the event. The second thing is that idea is usually amateur-friendly, which means anyone interested can participate.
If it is not amateur-friendly then it takes a totally different take on the process. Third, there is some amount of investment. It’s about experiencing something together, moving towards a certain result as opposed to being a consumer of someone else’s product. So we check every idea based on these aspects.
I: For people who have creative ideas like yours to start something new, what advice would you give them?
B: You need to commit to it. You need to find out if you have enough conviction and know if it’s worth pursuing. Question your seriousness on every level. Am I interested in it? How far do I want to go? Also, it’s important to test it out. For anyone who has an idea, focus on testing it out as soon as possible. There will be problems that might come in the way. Often we know what the problem is but we don’t know how to go about it. You might have to try a hundred different ways but you get better with each.
Aisiri Amin is a journalist specialising in social justice, gender issues and culture. She has written for The Hindu and works as a freelance writer. Social wallflower and an idealist at the core, she lives on books, tea and hope (in that particular order).