Phew, what a scorcher!

Happy Monday everyone, I’m back in Nagpur and it looks to be another scorcher today although not the 46.6 degrees we had at the weekend. If I was an ice-cream this is what I would look like ….


… but thankfully I’m not an ice-cream so I just look like a sweaty Brit.
If you don’t know the story I set up HousingNet in 1997 after doctors told me I could no longer be a scuba diving beach bum having had a second back operation. I’ve since had another but we’re all good now that I have a metal rod holding everything together.

I had come back to the UK from the States where a Texan friend Jim, who I met in Australia, and I were knocking out a fake Caesars Palace perfume set outside Caesars Palace in Vegas. We were living in the Treasure Island Casino at the time having left LA because of the earthquake. I’d been away since 1986 (joined the REME then went on a world tour when I realised I was a rubbish mechanic) and arrived back in London where my brother was the Manager of Calthorpe who had the repairs contract for Notting Hill Housing. They gave me a job and let me drive the van to pick up rubbish – it was brilliant as I was re-selling 25% of everything that was being thrown out – take note – recycling pays. So I had the Laminectomy in 95, took ages to recover and moved to New Zealand as I had picked up a residence permit along my travels, came back, moved to Liverpool and bought a computer to turn on, make a square in ‘Paint’, erase it and then turn it off again. I had an idea to start an after-hours call handling service as we, my brother and I, knew we could fix a lot of the jobs over the phone and started ‘Com1 UK’. Hang on, Chris and I, doing back to back 12 hour shifts on the phone, time for a re-think. Remember the Housing Association Year Book? I do. I learnt how to build a web page and put all Housing Association addresses online and called it HousingNet.

I came out to India in 1999 as I had ideas and no money. I ended up in Nagpur, met Ajay, rented a flat, started an office and here we all are today harvesting Housing data. I’m based in London but my office and nearly all my staff are here in Nagpur.

So what do we do? We have built our reputation on having very up-to-date data on Senior Managers working in Housing Associations and Local Authorities. We collect just about everything you put on the web that would be of interest to the wider community and the business users who are our main clients. At the beginning of this year we started collecting planning applications with a particular interest in ‘housing’ oddly enough. By the middle of June we will be more up to date than any other planning application resource in the UK – eat my shorts Barbour!

In January a client of ours told us that if we could supply tender data they would pay us lots more money for the licence so we started looking in to it. Initially I thought it was simple. OJEU supply the tenders, we take all the historical data for free and pick up the daily ones as they come out – easy money! How wrong I was. People, if you’re involved in tenders you have my admiration / sympathy. What a nightmare! We’re programmers here so we work with very large data sets and OJEU is like a story where the beginning sounds really exciting, the middle is always missing and the end is like watching the last episode of Undercover on repeat – it makes no sense.

So I’m here, in the Orange City, in the height of Summer, sorting it out. We’re collecting all Contract Registers, harvesting every tender from all Procurement Portals, all Local Authority and, where available, HA expenditure sheets, LA cabinet minutes, news stories relating to contracts and anything else we can get our hands on. So the question is, what do you want to know and most importantly would you pay for it?

Our clients include: Sovereign, ForVivia, Orchard, Capita, United Utilities, The Bank of Tokyo, Paragon, Viridian, Bracknell Forest, BDO, Mobysoft, Willmott Dixon, Aldwyck, CHIC, Kier, SSE, BSkyB, Argos, BMG, British Gas, Lovell, Northgate, Mountjoy, Campbell Tickell, Civica, Orbit, THFC, VINCI … I could go on but you get the idea.

I’m back in the UK on Saturday and after 19 years of hiding behind email I now actually go and visit people if they invite me. So drop me a line if you would like to know more about what we do and how we can help you.

Hope you all have a great week.


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