Features: When far a part

Does absence make the heart grow fonder? On this Valentine’s Day many students in long distance relationships will send gifts or wishes thousands of miles to show their affection for a “long-distance lover.”

But Valentine’s Day is not the only time to reach out to a far away love.

“When you are in a long-distance relationship, you always want to do something a little bit extra,” said senior Vishal Sitapara, creator of the Web site Longdistancerelationships.com.

Sitapara, who said he struggled with a long-distance relationship his sophomore year, created the site that gives advice and gift ideas to those who want to go the extra step in making their long distance relationship work.

He said in long-distance relationships the romance tends to die down a lot faster, and the site offers couples in similar situations some creative ideas and advice.

The site, which now gets an average of 100 hits a day, was completed in December and is now fully operational. In addition to offering advice and gift ideas to those in long distance relationships, the site offers travel information, online love games, a chat room, message boards and featured articles.

While the chat room is sometimes empty, as it was when The Hatchet logged on this week, the message boards and guest book are busier. Subjects vary from who lives the farthest from their significant other to post-Sept. 11 thoughts.

The site has gotten more than 8,000 hits since December and has 195 registered users, the majority of which are women between the ages of 17-24, according to Sitapara.

An information systems and finance major, Sitapara is working for a minor in computer science. He said he applied some of what he learned in his classes to the technical production of the site. As he learns more in school, Sitapara said, he will continue to improve the site.

Once he established Longdistancerelationships.com, Sitapara said he set up an executive board composed of friends and colleagues. Alim Adatia, a junior majoring in finance, handles sales and Divya Menon, a junior majoring in marketing and information systems, assists in the marketing and content of the site.

Sitapara works with retailers such as Barnesandnoble.com and Things Remembered, which supply the merchandise on the site. Sitapara said he then chooses products that would most appeal to site-goers and posts them on the site. The site receives an average 10 percent commission from sales.

Sitapara said he is picky about what he posts on the site and only chooses items that are “unique or of value.” Gifts include jewelry, flowers, candles, DVDs and personalized items.

In the past two months the site has sold more than $300 in merchandise for a profit of $30.

The site has launched a marketing campaign that will include flyers posted around campus and ads posted on major internet search engines, he said.

“The success of the site is dependent on advertising and by making the site more community base,” he said.

Although the site is updated regularly, further expansion of features depends on how successful the site gets. Sitpara said he does not want to overextend resources by adding features that will not be popular.
With a focus on personal creations and unique expressions of affection, Sitapara said the site is about keeping in touch and sending gifts.

“I see the site as more of a hobby than a business,” Sitpara said. “I still want to run it as a business, and eventually I would like to make it very profitable and successful.”

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