Bharatstudent.com stole third place behind Orkut and Facebook with over 3 million users, according to comScore's recent list of India's top social networking sites.
The website under the parent company Northgate Technologies Ltd has, however, been swamped with controversy since its launch in March 2007.
"The site is a piece of junk. I don't know how they have such high rankings. It is very shady," said Karthik, adding that he has never seen any discussion happening there. Karthik S is an Account Director with Text100 and a popular blogger on social media usage and marketing rants (http://www.beastoftraal.com) and has done extensive research on bharatstudent.com.
Vice President of Northgate Technologies and the in-charge of bharatstudent.com, P. Srinivasu said that the website's concept revolved around education and the 'spices' were merely like the add-ons.
"We have almost three million users, most of whom are non-registered. Unlike Orkut and Facebook, users do not have to register on the site to use its features. One example of a popular feature is the release of university exam results on the site. These results drive a lot of traffic to the website," Srinivasu said, adding that the company currently had tie-ups with seventeen universities in Andhra Pradesh and were hoping to rope in universities from other states in the near future.
However, doubts are being raised about its authenticity as metro youth (major users of social networking sites) have rarely heard of this network.
"I think it's fake. I have not come across anyone who uses the site. It is possible that they are creating fake accounts," said Karthik.
MBA graduate, Hrisha Priyanka also echoed Karthik's words. "Bharatstudent.com is very boring. And I think most of the profiles are fake," she said. Hrisha had registered as a member of the website a year back.
Srinivasu, however, denied the existence of fake accounts and claimed that there was no reason to create them.
Another cause for adverse publicity of the website is their controversial marketing techniques.
The website runs on the marketing efforts of recruited campus ambassadors - young college students who are employed with the incentives of earning an extra buck with part time work.
According to various sources, spam marketing and pornographic links like jesical.notlong.com were posted on Orkut, that when copied on to a new browser opened into the BS (Bharatstudent.com) website.
One, however, isn't sure whether it is the site itself or only its ambassadors who use spam as a means of advertising.
"I have received marketing links on Orkut that when clicked opened a Bharatstudent.com page. Even on Indian torrent sites that have Tamil and Hindi movies, BS seems to open up," said Karthik.
Srinivasu admitted that the allegations were true but had stopped over a year back. "A lot of young people used to put links on sites like Orkut, but it has stopped now," he said.
"It is not illegal to advertise like this, but it is all so shady," summed up Karthik.