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Pooja Bhatia

Head of Products - I Am Here Labs

“Communication and collaboration lead to community.”

Pooja Bhatia believes in the power of growth; personal, societal progress and the importance of helping those in need. This being her biggest goal, Pooja quit her 9-5 and started venturing into ways that she could fulfil her vision and this feeling is not new to Pooja, as she recalls that growing up, her family always saved up for charity, donations and those who needed help. “These values kept me grounded and a few of our projects made me realize that it was very simple to help people if we tried.”

One such project that aided her vision was to have people, looking to earn a side income, take simple surveys. This was successfully carried out by Pooja and her volunteers in one of the Mumbai slums wherein they were able to collect data from 125 households and the statistics could be useful to FMCG organizations and companies that usually had to pay more to conduct these surveys internally. The ability to extend help where it was needed is where Pooja found her calling.

Pooja says that she admires “the Western countries for having well-defined neighbourhoods and communities that make it easier for members in a town, village or a city to help their neighbours and people (of all statures) in progressing collectively.” This is what Pooja had in mind when she collaborated to develop a hyperlocal social network – IamHere – an app to discover, connect and engage in the neighbourhood for hobby, interest or profession.

“IamHere works in many ways,” says Pooja, “It is about getting to know your neighbour on a level where you build and grow together.” Pooja explains that “We created interest-based circles around individuals - for similar hobbies, social activities, or those looking to work together.” The dog parent to 2 canines that Pooja is, she found herself benefitting from the app when she moved cities. She states that she was able to “connect with people who shared love for pets and could coordinate play-dates for my dogs. It’s that simple to connect.”

The platform has a multifaceted approach and boosts the evolution of a society based on the responsibility of a person to help others while helping themselves grow. This structure has proven beneficial, economically and socially in many ways for all who are involved.

There have been many instances the platform has proved useful to the users. Pooja shares her experience about a Giving Carnival which was organized in Bengaluru as a week-long event in 2019 wherein trucks were arranged to go around the neighbourhood to collect donated items that proved useful to individuals, charities and NGOs who could use what was being given away. “Many homes and families stepped up to the task and donated so that they could feel like they made a difference to people’s lives,” Pooja recalls. “many events such as art contests with the theme of giving, musical events by the visually impaired and many such activities were organized for people to feel included and appreciated.”

The app has grown predominantly during the Pandemic owing to the digitization of the world. “Users with new hobbies, businesses and needs have reached out and connected with like-minded individuals. The amount of emotional support shared has been rewarding.”

The team at IamHere has been working to make the app and services accessible to all sections of a society and it aims to release the app in different languages for a multilingual country such as India.

Pooja encourages people to help the lesser fortunate because “we do not realise how privileged we are until we actually experience the plight of another. We must look out for each other, start making our neighbourhoods accessible and welcoming for others to feel that they belong there.” she concludes.

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