The Netsaar website is helping new PC users across the country navigate the digital world effectively and efficiently.
An elderly man in Indore uses a personal computer (PC) for the first time and beams at his computer screen in satisfaction – he’s just bought a gift for his granddaughter online. A homemaker in Ahmedabad breathes a sigh of relief because she has beaten the queue at the railway station by finally learning how to operate a PC and using it to book train tickets over the internet. In Chennai, a retired professor discovers the joys of social media and is busy reconnecting with school friends using her home computer.
As the digital revolution sweeps across India, ordinary people around the country are turning their attention towards a new, technology driven world. For thousands of people struggling to negotiate the unfamiliar terrain of instant messaging, net-banking and micro-blogging, Netsaar is a trusted source. It helps users navigate the virtual world and guides them to the best websites on the Internet, even offering tutorials on how to use them.
A WORLD OF LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES
Studies show that PC shipments in India totalled around 2.6 million units in 2015, a 10.6% increase when compared to 2014. More than 80% of youth in Tier 1 cities consider PCs a one-stop information source, an unsurprising fact, given that computers open the doors to the internet for most users in India.
“The link between PCs and the internet is only increasing with every passing day, and both have played a significant role in our lives,” said co-founder of Netsaar, Khanak Gupta.
The team members at Netsaar first learnt how to operate a computer during their school days. “Surfing the internet was one of our common interests,” remembered Gupta. “Our exposure and experience to PCs helped us realise that there is a great divide between what can be achieved using these devices and what these devices are actually used for. Netsaar aims to bridge that gap.”
The online portal is essentially teaching the masses how to make the most of a PC.
“Whether it is reading the news, learning a different language or booking tickets, most people tend to do these tasks using conventional methods. They are likely to hire a travel agent to book tickets, a teacher to learn a foreign language and buy a newspaper to read the news. We want to educate and empower people and let them know that a single PC can help them do a multitude of tasks, all from the comfort of home,” said Gupta.
India is home to over 300 million internet users and this number continues to grow every day. But for a large chunk of the population, using the internet is an intimidating experience. “These days, mostly everyone, regardless of their socio-economic status, has direct or indirect access to the internet. But not all of these people have the knowledge to help them navigate this virtual world,” said Gupta.
Netsaar was created in 2014 and is now run by Gupta, Ginni Khemani and Monish Khemai. It can be best described as a distilled online directory of websites for Indian audiences.
The Netsaar website filters the wealth of content and information available online, to provide users with a list of ten most relevant and popular websites each in about 65 categories.
The Netsaar team uses online tools to determine the websites most used by Indian users, as well as websites that are popular globally. The team then studies the needs and wants of the Indian audience and formulates a list of websites, placing them in different categories and subcategories.
“Our team checks every website that we list, personally,” said Gupta. “Websites are only listed if they meet some of our basic criteria. For instance, websites need to be user friendly and should be easy to navigate. They should also have a strong market in India or, in the case of e-commerce websites, should ship to India. Websites that allow users to choose from a range of regional language options while navigating the site are also given preference. ”
Netsaar divides the websites it picks into over 60 categories, including travel, music, sports, shopping, parenting, literature and real estate.
“Our primary aim,” explained Gupta, “is to simplify the surfing experience and help users save money, time and energy.”
CHARTING A NEW ROUTE IN A NEW WORLD
Although Netsaar has greatly helped simplify the Indian user’s surfing experience, its latest initiative aims to take things a step further. The company wants users to not only consume but also create relevant content through this knowledge of the internet. Given the increasing number of PC users in India, the potential for change is immense, particularly in rural areas. From digital classrooms to e-governance initiatives, the possibilities are endless.
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“We came across research that said Indians use the internet largely for Facebook and Twitter. This means that other than social media, most Indians are still not making full use of the power of the internet,” said Gupta. “We believe this is solely because of a lack of awareness of what is available. ‘Netsaar Learns’ aims to change that.”
Conceptualised by Gupta, Netsaar Learns was launched in August 2016. This section of the website uses simple and engaging video tutorials to teach users to navigate different websites. It also offers tips and tricks to make a user’s surfing experience more efficient.
“While Netsaar is about telling users all the things they can do on the Internet, Netsaar Learns is about explaining to them how to go about it,” said Gupta.
So far, the Netsaar Learns section of the website has 10 videos on various topics, including a tutorial on booking tickets online, online shopping, and using Whatsapp on a PC.
“The videos really break things down for users and help them make the most of their internet experience,” said Gupta.
“We believe the videos will be useful to those who are still new to the internet as well as those who are fairly tech-savvy, since the latter can use the videos to learn about new facets of well-known websites and internet services,” explained Gupta.
THE WAY FORWARD
Although Netsaar Learns was launched recently, it has already garnered a loyal following – the videos are played more than 400 times a day. “Raipur, Sonipat, Hisar, Kota, Bhubaneshwar, Nagpur, Lucknow, Noida, Karnal…” Gupta listed. “We have people logging in from these Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities on a regular basis.”
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Vinesh Ochani, a 26-year-old user of Netsaar Learns, said, “The video tutorials are wonderful and are so easy to learn from. Users finally have an online resource they can rely on.”
Thirty-nine-year old business head, Amit Vig, agreed: “Netsaar is very dependable and answers all the questions that come to mind. It is based on the ‘user first’ approach and pushes you to browse through the site every now and then, in the belief that you will learn something new and interesting with every visit. ”
For the Netsaar team, the journey is only just beginning: “The Netsaar website is constantly upgraded and changed, with new and interesting features added on a regular basis. We are also looking at producing more tutorial videos. We have listed about 650 websites so far, 10 under each of our 65 categories, and we hope to create a tutorial video for every website listed,” said Gupta. “Our ultimate aim, however, is to help Indians make the most of the internet.”
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