In late February I heard about these two informally organized groups that completely changed my perspective on Hyderabad and entrepreneurship.
- Hash House Harriers: This “drinking club with a running problem” was started in Malaysia in the 1938 by a group of British soldiers and has since spread all over the world. The idea isn’t that simple but once you try it and get it, you may become addicted like I am. The group, open to anyone almost anywhere, meets at a different location at the same day and time each week (or month) to go on a run (or walk) that is set by a couple of “hares” who lay the trail using a powdered substance (usually flour in the U.S., cement powder here in Hyderabad). The trail is a series of clues that include sending you down wrong paths so you have to “on back,” retracing your steps to find the right path. It’s an amazing way to explore any city - particularly one where running outside is an alien endeavor; I often feel like we are a parade drawing people out of their homes to watch. Every group in the world customizes it to their liking - some try to catch the hares, some take beer breaks in the middle, etc. - but they all finish with beer at the end and members who have been initiated have nicknames, mostly NSFW. While I only did it once in DC, I joined H4 (Hyderabad + HHH) in February and haven’t missed a Sunday run with this fun group of quirky people from all different backgrounds.
- Couch Surfing: How does one afford to travel around the world when hotel rooms in some places are $100 a night or more? Well couch surfing found an amazing solution to the problem - allow people to offer up their couches at no cost. While there is no money exchanged (or any other favors actually) between the surfer and couch owner, there is a small fee to register on the site which goes towards maintenance of the site and employing a couple of full time employees of this nonprofit organization based in New Hampshire. What’s most fascinating to me, however, isn’t just the simple genius of the idea started in 1999, but it’s the community that has grown around it. Each year couch surfers meet for a kind of conference, hang out and talk about couch surfing. It’s amazing that there is such a strong common identity among a group of people united by the fact that they prefer to stay in a stranger’s home than pay for a hostel. Though perhaps it’s more than that as the slogan adopted in 2006 suggests: “Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.”