For the people, by the people

For the people, by the people

Backed by Nadir Godrej, Local Circles is a platform for citizens to partner with the local government bodies and address hyper-local, community-based and national issues ranging from healthcare and education to women and child safety, and crime

Madhumita Prabhakar

One fine day, in a gated community in Noida, one of the apartments caught fire. It took close to 30 minutes for the neighbours to realise that there was trouble. Sachin Taparia, one among the neighbours, immediately dialled 101 to alert the fire rescue team. After a good 45 minutes of the localites initiating a rescue operation and evacuating the residents at the site of impact, the rescue team arrived just to be informed that the calamity had been dealt with.

“You can be connected to a thousand friends on social networks or even in different parts of a city. But when you are faced with a calamity such as this, only your neighbours can help you,” claims Taparia, the former co-founder and managing director of Aviall India (a subsidiary of The Boeing Company). This was the premise on which he founded Local Circles, a platform for citizens to come together and address key issues within their community.

Year one of operations went into understanding the various challenges faced by each community (of people in a particular locality) in Delhi. Then began the initiative to build local networks. Typically, one can become a member on Local Circles on an invite basis only, just to ensure that the individual is not a part of multiple communities at one time. “Soon, we realised that to address a lot of these issues, we need the support of the local government bodies,” recalls Taparia. Thus, they began partnering with the local municipal corporation and the local police station to address law and order, healthcare, education, crime and more such needs.

The second evolution for Local Circles happened in 2014, during the Lok Sabha elections. Soon after Arvind Kejriwal (from the Aam Aadmi Party) initiated a community in Local Circles, BJP followed suit and suggested a national mandate to understand and address the various issues faced by local communities across the country. In time, they did. Transform India with Modi, for instance, which has 1.9 lakh members, aims to address citizen grievances at a constituency level. Similarly, Swachh Bharat aggregates local communities to keep their area clean. “In fact, since then, several communities in association with the respective Ministry have been created. For example, there is one with the Ministry of Railways, one with the Ministry of Urban Development and more,” adds Taparia. After this evolution, he envisions national communities playing a direct role in designing the national policies. “The recent Indian Railways mandate, for example, was heavily drawn through suggestions from the local communities,” he indicates.

While Local Circles has 6 lakh members enrolled on its platform across key metros (1.5 lakh in New Delhi alone and 50,000 each in other cities), he notes that not all causes have been rolled out across all communities. For instance, the local gardening and law and order community is active only in New Delhi. But, going forward, the company’s focus will be on rolling out communities for key issues across all cities. “The way I see it, the platform will evolve to address hyper-local, community-based and national issues,” he says. In terms of monetisation, while the large communities will bank on sponsorships, the smaller, hyper local communities will focus more on accessing information at a very granular level. “Imagine this. If Starbucks wants to open an outlet in Greater Kailash, they can run a poll in that particular community on Local Circles and take a call based on the response,” says Taparia.

Does he see the entire country being engaged on this platform in future? “A billion is ambitious. But, I see at least 30 million people engaging among their communities on Local Circles in two to three years,” he cites. While the company was seed funded by Nadir Godrej, it recently raised another round of angel funding from a few investors (names undisclosed). “Impact comes before monetisation. So, for now, we just wait and watch,” says Taparia, on a parting note.

Local Circles local community Nadir Godrej Social Entreprenuership