Often experimental and deployed in small scale scenarios, the concept of ‘crowdsourcing’ has become more than a buzzword today; with stable business models emerging globally that are increasingly more productive than ever before. For the uninitiated, ‘crowdsourcing’ refers to taking help from a crowd externally to solve a problem, as opposed to the traditional idea of hiring fixed teams and individuals internally. Usually, a company makes an open call and sets a reward for the best solution to a particular problem or task they need assistance with.
Increasingly, the potentially un-restricted reach of the internet has been aiding this concept with more and more people turning to the vastness of the web to look for ways in which they can contribute, freelance, express themselves or simply gain some work experience. Thus, the contributors need not be identified or evaluated on any parameters during the early stages of a crowd-sourced project, and the company looks to benefit from the luxury of choice.
Types of Crowdsourcing
There are different types of crowdsourcing models, depending on what the business wants done. Brands looking to build relationships can take advantage of fan-sourcing, which seeks to benefit by connecting users with fans of the brand who are likely to be better endorsers. Another model is crowd-funding, which aims to raise money through crowds by letting an individual contribute a small amount. An excellent example of this is ‘Kickstarter’, a crowd funding portal that has seen great success with many user submitted projects.
And then of-course there are also the mass collaboration tools like Wikipedia, which are using the collective intelligence of people for creating resources that are consumed by the crowds. India too has caught up with this new phenomenon, with various projects launched in different domains.
Crowdsourcing in India
In India, we are seeing some interesting developments in crowdsourcing. A good example is the Facebook page for Delhi Traffic Police, which uses crowd-clicked photos as proof to prosecute offending vehicles. The initiative has proved a success and every other day there are at least 10-20 notices issued for traffic-rule violations based on public participation. Impressed with the results, the police of Mumbai and Pune have set up similar services to better monitor the city streets. Another example can be of Micromax, the Indian mobile handset manufacturer that turned to crowdsourcing to get ideas for a new logo and branding. They ran a successful contest and ultimately were able to lock on to a new design for their logo.
But if there are success stories, many other attempts have met with disappointment. When t-shirt makers Tantra and Chimp decided to crowdsource their design work, they expected surprisingly fresh results. But something quite different happened. As Ranjiv Ramchandani, owner of Tantra tells Business Today in this article, “About 80 per cent of our designs still come from them [regular artists]. We can’t rely on crowdsourcing because most of those designs are amateurish.” Other t-shirt makers like Chimp concur, remarking that most of time they get nondescript submissions done in a hurry or copied designs that aren’t original work.
What are we to learn from this? Two important things! First, that there needs to be more education and experimentation in India in terms working with diverse crowds, how to manage the workflow, encouraging original productive work and assigning appropriate rewards for participants. Second, businesses should not see crowdsourcing as a silver bullet because its not. More often than not, due to the scale of such operations, some companies have had to deal with problems of mediocrity, finally making them abandon the idea. The primary drawback of crowdsourcing is that because there’s no filter on the skill-level of a participant, the overall quality can fall below standard. And of course, sifting through hundreds or thousands of submissions is no joke.
Despite the challenges though, crowdsourcing as a concept appeals to many entrepreneurs and companies; especially start-ups and small companies that might not always have the necessary resources to hire new people or teams or agencies. Therefore despite its drawbacks, crowdsourcing will be around and we will surely see many interesting results in the years ahead.