South Asian Diaspora Launch Social Network for Youth Called ApnaSpace Desi Network

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Riding the popularity wave of social networks among young people, a duo of web developers with South Asian roots have launched ApnaSpace Desi Network (http://www.apnaspace.com), a full featured web-based social network for 'Desi' - those of South Asian origin - youth from around the globe. The site hopes to bring together Desi youth of different origins both outside and inside South Asia, especially Pakistan and India.

The word 'Desi' is hardly ever used outside South Asian communities in the west. Still it is the universal colloquial identity of people of sub-continental descent. It refers to a sub-culture that exists everywhere South Asians do, from the streets of Sydney to Mid-Western American towns.

But, there is an ever increasing sense of South Asian youth losing this identity, with the new generation born and raised outside of their ancestral land and unaware of their fore-fathers rich cultural heritage. Although such fears are almost always overblown, there is a need to bring young Desis together to allow for better dialog and understanding of each other, especially since South Asia has so many sub-cultures within itself.

The advent of the internet has helped this process of dialog a lot, not only for the ones abroad but also for the divided populations of India and Pakistan. But most efforts have been half-baked, with very little emphasis on the quality of design and content. Using this opportunity, Haydur Agha, a college student of Pakistani origin from New York has launched the ApnaSpace Desi Network.

"ApnaSpace is not just a forum or chat room," says 23 year old Agha, "it's a free portal which allows members to truly express themselves with blogs, quizzes, polls, music videos, forums and more". Agha is an undergrad IT major at Fairleigh Dickinson University and has been developing both commercial and personal interest websites for the past 8 years.

"There isn't a shortage of Desi portals and forums." he said, adding that "almost all of them focus on one thing or the other, such as message boards or picture rating, but none do justice to even the basic service they are supposed to provide. Not that we are trying to become a Yahoo!, but we've focused on some of the core web activities of young people and packaged them into a very user-friendly interface". Asked where his site would fit in with other successful social networks like Orkut, MySpace, Muslim-oriented Naseeb, and even the lesser known RateDesi, Agha said there's always room for improvement and young Desi web-surfers are savvy enough to be members of more than one network. "It's like clubs in high-schools and colleges. Just because you are on a sports team doesn't mean you can't be a member of the chess club." He noted that cultural organization is great for self-discovery and awareness.

Agha hopes that the site will work as a tool to bring together South Asian youth. Already his friends and ApnaSpace members from around the globe are helping him improve the site. But for the most part, he's being helped in this endeavor by Rehan Younas, a Pakistani-American high school student also from New York. According to Younas the two are working day and night to improve the site. Their next plan of action is to contact Desi cultural organizations in colleges and universities across the U.S., U.K., Canada and even back home to promote the website. Added Younas, "Not only will ApnaSpace help the young make new Desi friends and learn more about their people, it will also foster a healthy sense of community where common socio-political goals are properly addressed."

ApnaSpace Desi Network is currently in beta while Agha works out the kinks and adds more features requested by members, like an apparel store that mostly sells t-shirts marketed towards Desis. Agha hopes to bring the site out of beta soon and expand into other areas as the site grows.

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Haydur Agha