Scaling a community virtually

Building online communities for learning and networking in 2020 and beyond

Soundhariya Viswanathan / Reading Time: 3 mins

Today, we're in conversation with Sahiba Sethi, Founder and CEO of Hello Meets, an organisation that helps like-minded people meet up! Today we learn how Sahiba and her team have manoeuvred changes in the way we work due to Covid.

How have you and your team reacted and adapted to Covid & lockdowns?

We're still figuring this out. Our team shifted online prior to the lockdown, on March 4th. It began with noticing a lot of sanitisers at our coworking spaces, and that scared us. We then got to planning on how to make the switch, which involved hosting meetups online etc.

Online meetups have been better for learning, as there are fewer distractions.

Most speakers adjusted to it, as it gave the opportunity to expand their reach. Online meetups have been better for learning, as there are fewer distractions. However, it lacks networking opportunities.

How has your community reacted? Has your audience grown?

We received a great response, with people from other cities engaging in events. Many said we should have done this sooner. It was very natural to accept it, as there was no other alternative.

Overall, we saw attendees from various Indian and international cities, including Singapore and Toronto, though this was only 1-2% of the total. You need to change your approach to get foreign engagement; simply being online doesn't mean they turn up. They need to know about you through content and marketing efforts. While it's definitely improved because we have no limitations and restrictions, don't think if it's online, it will be naturally scalable.

Don't think if it's online, it will be naturally scalable.

How has the transition been for your team? What do you think stops people from this transition?

We're used to being partially remote, and a lot of our work is run by volunteers, which was always a remote effort done via apps. What stops people from going remote is a lack of trust. Running volunteers, I had to build confidence in what they do, even if it's just 95%. I'm not the type to keep checking on them 24/7. I've been inspired by good companies like Drift & Basecamp; this helps as I'm at an age where I still can be moulded.

What stops people from going remote is a lack of trust.

We mostly work through Slack & Whatsapp and get on calls only when necessary. When hiring, I ask them if they read and try to understand how much they invest in their learning. We have a writing test as well, which is important when working remote.

What do you think start-ups across the spectrums and entrepreneurs are doing right given the current situation?

Trust – You need to trust your employees will get their tasks done. No matter how. Even if they are at the beach.

Writing – Hire people who can write well.

Stay Connected – randomly send your employees gifts, to show them your appreciation.

Hire from anywhere – leverage the opportunity to hire people from other locations. I personally watch youngsters on Twitter and engage with them, to keep in mind in case we're hiring.

David Peril once tweeted that an important trait of a CEO is stalking on Twitter and finding talent from anywhere.

Things other companies have done that impressed you?

Giving employees gifts and small surprises, casually calling to connect and being friends with them. This has been something I've taken on.

Making each person on your team an influencer – I worked hard to teach many of our employees the importance of networking and learning through Twitter. With companies like Morning Groove and Drift, the people working there are also brands. People don't just know of the heads of these companies but also their marketeers.

How has Covid changed your business model for the future?

I don't know what we will be doing next. If you had asked us last year, the plan was to launch in European cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam. But with the pandemic, we haven't been able to replicate the offline model.

While we're not sure of what will happen, we'll continue to have online engagement, even when it's safe to have offline meets. We definitely hope to have more international participation.

A quick thought on No Code?

Every non-techie should learn it. It's a good thing and will help you in making your things independently. For hello meets, we pick up what's trending, and No Code has been doing well among participants.

Category: Remote work