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Last week, we launched a Loyola search engine here at loyolites.com. Users searching anything related to Loyola School, Trivandrum will now get more relevant search results. You will no longer have to wade through pages of Google results because, instead of searching the entire web for your keywords (search terms), the Loyola search engine will give you results from a specialised search of blogs and websites of Loyolites. It’s powered by Google and to start with, digs 55+ blogs and websites. Try it yourself.

The Loyola search engine is a product/service that improves our lives in a simple and small way. It is not the first of Loyola products, but it highlights the potential and likelihood of a new generation of products for Loyola old boys.

Generation 1 Products

The earliest Loyola alumni products were the newsletter and the directory, both launched by the Loyola Old Boys’ Association (LOBA) between 1990 and 1992, when P.A. Murukan (1984) was the secretary. Since then, the newsletter has invariably appeared twice a year. The revised editions of the directory have been less frequent. Bringing out a revised directory is a mammoth task, one that calls for a Pradeep Kumar (1974) to lead and accomplish. An online version (partially revised) appeared in July 2004, but is no longer available on the web.

Gen 1 products were initiated by the Association, and were used by LOBA members of various batches. These products emerged in an era when people looked up to the Fat Man to deliver the goods. If one or two Loyolites had an idea for the alumni community, they would approach Fat Man, and after deliberations among office-bearers, Fat Man would either accept (and implement) the idea or reject the idea. If the idea was rejected, Little Boys would go home, instead of implementing it on their own. Because even though LOBA members did not account for even 1/3rd of the students who studied at Loyola, the Association was synonymous with the Loyola alumni movement.

Generation 2 Products

Somewhere in the late 1990s, things changed. As the economy liberalised, people became confident of trying things out on their own; looking up to the state went out of fashion in India. In LOBA’s case, more than the social environment, it was probably technology that ushered in a new era. The internet made it possible for Little Boys to ignore the Fat Man.

1988 batch logoIn several batches, one or two Loyolites created e-groups. Little Boys did not bother to pitch the idea to Fat Man; they just set up the groups and started exchanging mails. As the internet became ubiquitous and more Loyolites joined the infotech industry, e-groups mushroomed and buzzed with activity. Some batches (like 1988, 1991, 1998 and 2001) set up their own websites.

These Gen 2 alumni products/services were initiated by one or two individuals, and were aimed at serving their own batch. An exception was the 1991 batch’s website, but that too was set up initially for the batch, and was only later extended to the entire Loyola alumni community. The ‘batchward’ sentiment of the era is also reflected in the rise of batch names. Boys of Seventy-Seven (BOSS – 1977), Ninety-One Batch LoyolitES (NOBLES -1991), Knights (1988) and Sabse Aage (2001) became prominent.

Generation 3 Products

And now we have Gen 3 — products initiated by a few individuals, but for the entire Loyola community (and possibly beyond). The Loyola search engine is an example, but not the first of this kind.

Loyola School Trivandrum community at OrkutThe earliest Gen 3 products were the communities of Loyolites at Orkut, which helped old boys get in touch with friends, including seniors and juniors. The Loyola School Trivandrum community, the biggest of them, was set up in 2004 by Christophe Manshoven (2001) and handed over to Deepak Madhusoodanan (1996). Note the inter-batch co-operation without mediation by LOBA. loyolites.com too sprang up in 2007 at the initiative of a few individuals of different batches, and serves all Loyolites; it was neither conceived nor implemented by LOBA.

The shift from Gen 2 to Gen 3 too has been driven by technology and how people use it. Today, tools for creating small products are available on our personal computer, and the expenses involved are negligible. Preparing an audio-video feature on Loyola no longer calls for signing a deal with a TV production company; if you or your friends are talented and tech-literate, it can be readied over a weekend. I think we’ll see more Gen 3 products coming from tech-savvy Loyolites who are in college: they have ideas, they are enterprising, and they embrace technology.

What product/service can you create?

Memorabilia and other alumni products

T-shirts, posters, coffee mugs or any of the merchandise typically produced for universities in the US and Europe? How about a Loyola alumni letterhead that old boys can use to write letters to teachers? Heard of the guy who created a “Cheer Loyola Sons” ringtone? Why not offer an MP3 collection called “Songs of Loyola” for download? Students of Loyola, why not publish the LENS on the internet? Why not sell a CD of the school magazines? Why not…

Contrary to beliefs, it does not take much time to create a product. It took me only one day to set up the Loyola search engine. It may have taken me 25 hours (spread across months) to set up the system for the monthly e-newsletter; it takes less than two hours a month to deliver the service.

Why would you create a Loyola product? For the sheer fun of it. There are bonuses in store too. If your product is offered free (like my blog or the e-newsletter), you’ll be happy when a Loyolite calls you from London to say that he enjoys using your product. If your product is sold at a price, you can earn a few bucks. In my experience, there’s a vast pool of Loyolites eager to consume Loyola products. There are buyers waiting for sellers.

In the past, people expected Fat Man to do things, and complained whenever Fat Man failed to. Today, Little Boys take the road less travelled, and oh boy, hasn’t that made a difference! So, think of a Loyola product and run with it.

I look forward to hosting a “Loyola Shop” at loyolites.com in 2008.

What’s your idea, mate?

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