Most of us have a list of things scribbled in some corner of our head or perhaps on a piece of paper. It could be anything — right from learning something new, or visiting a country, to writing a book and so on. Hinged on this basic human insight, young entrepreneur Smriti Modi thought of creating The Itch List (www.theitchlist.com). This one-of-a-kind social networking platform won the grand prize of `1 million at The Elevator Pitch, a competition organised for entrepreneurs by Courtyard by Marriott. The idea overturns the concept of “things to do before you die”. Smriti beat over 1,000 participants to win the competition and she had all of 60 seconds in an elevator to pitch her idea.
The idea was not born in a single magical moment, she says. “I think all of us have a list of things that we want to do in life, but we don’t act upon them because there is no urgency. And you always find a reason to procrastinate. I started observing this trait in myself and others around me, that got me thinking that there should be something that will push people to realise that these small things are not only important, but are important right now,” says the former advertising professional. Explaining how the concept works, she says, “You sign up and put an itch. You can choose from a list of 500 things, or you can put one of your own.
As soon as you enter it, you are told who are the others who share your itch or ‘scratched’ (fulfilled) it already. You can make your own ‘scratchbook’. Then, you have an option to go to the discussion forum. If you are hesitant to have a personal conversation with a stranger, you can follow other conversations. Through the forum, blogs and chats, we are trying to push you in various directions. And there is of course a deadline. So if procrastination is your problem, there is a deadline, if you don’t have company, there are people. If you don’t know where to start, there is a discussion forum for info, and for motivation there is a blog.”
On the day of the beta launch itself, the website had 500 members, something that Smriti never imagined.
“I was not expecting any more than 50, including 10 friends and 10 family members,” she grins. She had a lot of users writing back to her, proactively offering help. “I think they were also being kind, because they knew it’s a start-up. But, I could tell that the idea is close to them. And that’s good because I envisioned the initiative to be a close-knit community.
The personal element had to be there,” she says. She has plans of building an app and also to make a wall of fame for the top users, those who have been “regularly scratching their itches”, adding to which Smriti says, “You don’t need to have visited 13 countries to be on this wall. You could have walked out on the roads and danced in the rain, or done something spontaneous. Also, we are working on more incentive programmes, even helping with money if need be, as that’s a big hurdle in most cases.”
The variety of “itches” the users have been putting up are both entertaining and inspiring, she says. “I have people wanting to sleep in Ikea or have ice-cream for breakfast. Somebody just ‘scratched’ the itch to walk on fire, he put up a picture of it too. The same person also bought a homeless person a full meal, something he has always wanted to do. And inspired by him, a bunch of people went on to share the same itch. So the website also helps one discover and get ideas. When you put that itch out there, there are others helping you, and at some level that makes you feel accountable,” adds Smriti.