Barter system goes virtual: Swap unused goods for useful ones

  • Soma Das, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2015 11:12 IST

Long before people reached for their wallets and flashed plastic cards, the barter system was prevalent. And like old wine in a new bottle, it’s now undergoing a virtual makeover. New websites like and and a new app,, are offering platforms to help you barter a range of things – from clothes to books to gadgets, even skills.

Case in point is ClapShare, a mobile app that helps readers exchange books with others. The founder, Ashish Bhansali, terms it a ‘social sharing marketplace’ and explains that this app is envisioned as a solution to the excess printing of books, and to help readers find a use for books once read. When you barter, you get points which can be redeemed by swapping for more books.

Bartering also helps reduce clutter, as Vipul Paliwal, founder of (which lets you exchange film DVDs, stationery and other physical objects), points out: “The idea is to declutter and find new use for products that just lie unused, or are sold for a pittance.”

The sites work and look like online retail, except there’s no price to any of the items. You list what you are willing to exchange and either approach others or wait for them to reach you. While apps like ClapShare enable the exchange, sites like and, stress on a personal meeting with the donor/recipient to help you meet like-minded people, since an exchange involves likes and interests, without a price tag to it.

And even if we aren’t likely to start bartering everything and make financial transactions a thing of the past just yet, it won’t be surprising if it finds more than a few takers. | Launched: March, 2015

For bartering: Books, gadgets, clothes, movies, fitness items, services

Co-founder Gaurav Jain got the idea while he was in America. He realised that, unlike Americans, Indians are attached to their stuff and seldom throw it away. The idea of a barter website was born, where you could give away stuff you don’t need, in exchange for something you do.

Co-founder Vipul Paliwal observes that such sites help locate people to exchange with. “With the emergence of technology, barter has become more accessible,” he states.

On the site, you list items, select items of interest, and send an exchange request. You meet and inspect the items before exchanging. “We advise customers to exchange within the city,” adds Paliwal.

They currently operate in 12 cities. Most-wanted items include gadgets, software design services, books and fitness items.


Clapshare | Launched: April, 2015

For bartering: Books

Book-sharing platform ClapShare (available as an Android app) enables you to exchange old books and read new ones, which are picked up from/delivered to your doorstep. Co-founded by IITian Ashish Bhansali and six IIT Bombay alumni, it is based on a collaborative consumption model emphasising on lending and swapping.

Bhansali explains, “People may read a lot, but they don’t want to buy everything. Also, books, once read, just lie around. We act as middlemen allowing people to read and return. This is part of a movement to reduce the number of books printed every year, and look for alternative use of resources.”

As a promotional offer, the first book is issued free. Subsequently, there is a rental per book (less than 25% of its value), and a Rs 25 delivery fee. You earn points each time you share, which can be used to borrow more. “Those who exchange continue to own the books. In case of damage, we replace the book; you can ask for it back, too,” states Bhansali.

They plan to expand to toys, utility items and anything else lying underutilised.

Visit: ; Twitter: clapshare

*** | Launched: May, 2015

For bartering: Books, game DVDs, art, skills

The Delhi-based online marketplace has recently expanded to Mumbai. They allow you to exchange books, game DVDs, art collectibles and even services.

Founder Ambuj Singh stresses that meeting people is at the heart of the idea: “We are a networking website with barter at its core, and aim to facilitate exchanges within a locality. We are also planning barter houses where people can meet and exchange products.”

The bulk of their clientele comprise young professionals and students (especially among the IITs). They are planning offline swap events as well.

It’s not just products that change hands; if you have a certain skill, you can utilise that to get something in exchange as well. For instance, people have swapped a bicycle for a book, a treadmill for a photo shoot, and a lesson in coding in lieu of a lesson in graphic design.


The Swap Shop | For bartering: Clothes

Styling platform StyleCracker hosted The Swap Shop at Palladium Hotel, a trade-off where 100 shoppers switched items from their closet with items from the wardrobes of fashion influencers. It was a way to exchange impulse buys (that take up space and lie unused) for something you might like. This event was part of their pop-up, StyleCracker Borough, but they plan to host it as a stand-alone event towards the end of the year and integrate it with the website and mobile app.


Heritage Swap | For bartering: Clothes, stories, toys

This community event was organised by Andheri resident Mirabelle D’Cruz D’Cunha as a platform to share stories and exchange items. Advertised through social media, it was attended by students and working professionals. Gifts were kept in a circle; people picked ones they liked, met the person who gave it, and exchanged stories about it. Another session is on the cards later this month.

Call: 98700 08442

Len Den | For bartering: Artwork

Taking art out of the commercial gallery system is Len Den (ongoing, till July 16), an art exchange at Colaba’s Mumbai Art Room. Phase one saw 14 artists, including the likes of Gyan Panchal and Himanshu S, make artworks that were bartered with other artists (instead of being sold). Phase 2 is currently on where artists suggest five other artists to bring into the system. Drop by to browse through the artworks and witness the collaborative process firsthand.


Little FreeLibrary: For bartering: Books

Little Free Library is a global initiative which encourages people to take a book and return/bring another one. The ‘library’ is an unlocked 3ft book-shaped box (at the entrance of Tahiti, near Rajiv Gandhi College, Juhu-Versova Link Road and Ratna Iyer Park, Bandra), stocked with fiction and non-fiction works. The first one was started by actress Manasi Joshi Roy and her daughter Kiara in Juhu. So far, the ‘library’ is used by college students, children and even kids from the nearby slums.


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