Anyone who sits down with Vikas Dwivedi, deputy general manager at VHM Productions, for a chat cannot help but notice that he gets busy with his smart phone every few seconds. The reason: he receives WhatsApp messages, sometimes 10 or more at a time, from his colleagues.
“Since mine is a cloth manufacturing unit, sometimes the sound of the machines is too high. It becomes very difficult for me to communicate with my colleagues. So, what we have done is started using WhatsApp to communicate with each other. I save on time and energy needed to walk up to each and every colleague to convey a message,” said Dwivedi sitting in his Thane office.
Around 13 employees of the manufacturing unit now post messages ranging from taking care of the production efficiency to reminding colleagues of shift duty.
While at VHM overcoming the high decible was just one aspect, with smart phones coming in handy, WhatsApp has broken many barriers that Sabeer Bhatia, the founder of Hotmail.com, did once with the messenger.
From informal office chat groups, real time connectivity, better outreach, virtual meeting point for friends and families to getting people on the same page all at one go, WhatsApp has crunched communication and connectivity in newer ways.
“Only a few days back, we had a programme where we wanted some quotes for the sound system. One message on the WhatsApp group did the trick. The one with the best quote was picked up and the work was done in a few minutes,” said Bharati Kakkad, a resident and member of the Union Park Residents Association (UPRA), Khar.
“The same work used to take unending calls, increasing the work load. Now, getting people on the same page makes for a better discussion format and you need to quote a person to another while it is there for all to see and react. Consensus-building has become easier,” said Kakkad.
“In our case, if one of us is close to the BMC ward office, we take up the issue of garbage or other issues,” said Shilpa Dharod of the Vakola ALM.
For those who have officials on their group, communication with public authorities is even easier with prompt action following.
Kavita Thakkar, an encroachment activist from Goregaon, has the police and BMC group on her WhatsApp and she vouches for their support lately.
“We take up issues related to encroachment in a big way and keep posting messages on the group for police and the BMC to act. Action is taken within hours. We are happy to include senior officials and they have stayed with the group,” said Thakkar.
Senior inspector Arun Jadhav of the Groregaon police station readily verifies Thakkar’s claim. “In fact, in some cases it is a better means to communicate. We have several other groups like the north region group, batchmate group and even media group where such information is passed.”
In fact, the recent protest of BMC engineers happened sooner as messages were sent on the group.
“We forwarded the message on one engineer’s group which was followed on others,” said Sainath Rajadhyaksha, general secretary of the BMC Engineers’ Union, which led a protest against suspension of some of their members. In no time, hundreds gathered at the canteen of the corporation and the suspension order was revoked. Getting people on the same page is something that has worked well.
Connecting with childhood friends
For finance professional Gurninder Aurora, growing up with her friends around home meant they would call out to each other whenever they felt like meeting up. However, over time, all of them changed residences or went away for study and work. Even those who were left back are so busy with their daily chores that they hardly have time to catch up. “Since we do not have the time to meet up after a tiring day at work, we created a WhatsApp group and often posted messages when we left from or for work,” said Aurora. The group has 12 members, all childhood friends.
This coordination helps the friends to catch up during their travel or at a common place near their office.
“It often happens that we travel back home around the same time but do not bother to call each other. With WhatsApp, all we need to do is post a message and those who are free can meet up,” said Swapneel Deshpande, an MBA student who is part of Aurora’s WhatsApp group.
Not only does the group help coordination among those who are in the city but also lets them stay connected with those who are away. “I have grown up with them but moved to another country to study and work. However, am updated with everything my friends are doing in Mumbai.
Sometimes I even take part in planning vacations just for the feeling that I am very much part of the gang,” said food scientist Murtaza Saifee, who now lives in Canada.
Parents use app to stay updated on kids
When a Class X student from St. Mary’s School, Mazgaon, forgot to carry money, which he needs to travel to his tuitions after school, he panicked because he would have to miss class for the day.
However, help was just a message away. His mother posted on the WhatsApp group of parents of his classmates and one of the parents who was around the school promptly volunteered to help him.
Similarly, for PR professional Sakina Rangwala, it becomes difficult to keep a track of all that her son does through the day at school. However, Rangwala has no reason to worry, thanks to the WhatsApp group.
St. Mary’s batch of 2014 is a group formed by over 25 parents of students of Class X. “We formed the group in the beginning of the academic year and we use it to stay updated about the happenings in the school,” said Rangwala. Started with just 11 members, more and more parents have asked to be added to the group over time. Parents use the group for spreading the word on school announcements, reminders for project submissions and coordinating school and tuition schedules. “We have the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) member so we get all school communication on the group. During the Ganesh festival, there was ambiguity about the holidays till late in the night. We were getting constant updates on what was being discussed and decided at the school,” she said.
While the St. Mary’s group does not have any teachers on board, there are a few others who include them. However, teachers do not seem very positive about being on a group with parents.
“It is fine if parents want to know deadlines for assignments or doubts about exams but parents want updates about what their child does every minute at school,” said a teacher from a South Mumbai school.