Exclusive Interview : Sahil Chalana , Founder of Coupon Aggregation portal Zoutons.com

Sahil Chalana

Sahil ChalanaWe spoke to Sahil Chalana, one of the Founders of Zoutons.com, an online Coupon Aggregation and deal Discovery portal. Sahil, a BITS Pilani Alumnus, is also the CEO of 3.14 Digital , a digital performance marketing firm founded by him in 2010. 3.14 Digital has a large client base including, Educomp Raffles, NIIT Imperia, Foodpanda India etc.

Q: So What is Zoutons.com all about and What is the Business Model?

Zoutons.com is an online Coupons and Deal Discovery Platform featuring coupons from more than 300 ecommerce portals including top stores like Flipkart, Jabong, Myntra, and Snapdeal etc

The Business Model is simple, we direct traffic onto the shopping portal websites where users apply the coupons they have discovered on our website. This way we generate transactions for these stores and pay us an affiliate commission for every transaction, which varies from 5-20% of the sale.

zoutonsApart from this, we are the only Couponing Portal to Feature Exclusive Bank Coupons. So if you are searching for HDFC Bank Coupons or the Citibank Card offers, we have the most updated list of card offers.

We also offer brand wise coupons which further reduces the effort of users in finding appropriately matched coupons to their shopping needs.

The portal is ergonomically designed for startup stores, providing them a genuine platform to enhance their consumer reach through coupons.

Q: Why Zoutons.com and how did it all start?

I am also the founder 3.14 Digital, a 30 people strong Digital Performance Marketing company having specializations in Lead Generation and Cost per Acquisition (CPA) models for Education, BFSI & ecommerce verticals.

At a point in the beginning of 2013, when our ecommerce revenue was really picking, Nishit, who is the other founder, came up with the idea of getting into a coupon Aggregation Platform for e-retailers.

Since internally many of us were Discount and Bargain Hunters, launching Zoutons was also in a way gratification for us as well as a step to diversify as a company. We launched Zoutons in July 2013.

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other couponing Portals?

We try to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in several ways.
First, we put of a lot of Focus on the coupon & deal Quality. At the end of the day, it’s all about giving your users the best experience which in our case the best coupons which they could use.
Second, we are the only site to focus on coupons and offers by Banks and brands. When the user goes to an e-commerce site, he might easily miss the fact that his bank is offering him a discount. On Zoutons, you can look for bank wise Coupons and not miss any.
Real Time coupon Syndication & feeds – We also do some real time coupon syndication. Lot of couponing websites do this manually. We are trying to automate this. Also, since 30% of traffic of ours is already mobile, there is a greater focus we are putting on getting the mobile piece right.

Q: What is your Current Team size and growth Plans?

The zoutons.com team consists of 6 people, ably assisted by the Affiliate team from 3.14 Digital. Most of the time is spent on training people on how to deliver the best of Coupon and Deals to our Users.

Right now we offer deals, discounts and coupons on around 300 Stores, 50 banks and 450 Brands. We have an aim to touch 700 Stores and 1500 brands by end March 2014. From a user point of we just crossed 100,000 users in December this year. We would like to touch a million users served by February.

Q: Tell us about your Technology Platform and upcoming features?

The Coupon Aggregation Platform is built on Open source LAMP. The Technology is in-house though the initial Design was outsourced.

From a Features point of view, our biggest priority is going Mobile. We are currently in the process of coming with an Android app and a much faster version of the current Mobile Website.

We are also building real time Coupon Syndication Engine that would add and update coupons just when they are created an ecommerce stores so that there is manual Lag. In future, we would like to have more personalization feature that shows coupons according to users’ past buying experience.

Q: Have you raised any Funding? What is it that you are looking for from the next round?

We have internally incubated Zoutons and have put in cash of around Rs 20 Lacs.  We are using that fund to build our technology and team.

The Angel round is enough to sustain us till March. Once we have crossed a milestone of serving a million visitors, we would like approach investors with the possibility of a next round.

Q: Who are the Founders and their background?

Zoutons.com was founded by me and Nishit Kumar. I am also the founder of 3.14 Digital, a top affiliate Marketing company and had graduated from BITS Pilani in 2010.

zouton-founders

Nishit Kumar who is the other founder of Zoutons and is currently leading the team, joined 3.14 Digital as an Associate in early 2013. He graduated from Lovely Professional University in 2012.

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Exclusive Interview: Puru Gupta & Sreejith Moolayil Founders of HealthyWorld.in, an eCommerce Health Solutions venture

Puru and Sreejith

This is an exclusive interview with the founders of eCommerce health solution start-up  HealthyWorld.in,  Puru Gupta , CEO & Co Founder and Sreejith Moolayil, COO & Co Founder

healthyworld.in

What is your site all about? What problem are you solving? What is the market size ?

Whenever you have an issue, you either speak to someone around, search online for solutions, or sometimes even talk to few experts. However, you are not sure if the information you get is credible and complete, and/or if the diagnosis is right in the first opinion, and more importantly, if the solutions will work for you or not. Once you have good clarity of the solutions, you are not sure where you would get them, and how. Finally, you also would need to know if those solutions have helped you or not by having the right measuring tool.

Currently, the providers of such services are fragmented and in some areas, incomplete. There is no one who not only helps you identify the problem, but makes you talk to people who have faced similar issues, confirms the solutions and diagnosis, and also, helps you in providing those solutions. On top of it, you manage the entire health management piece in the backend, along with regular proactive health management checks, which we call as Health AMC.

This is what Healthy World does – as your family’s Health Management partner, wherein we offer the following services –

  • Wellness communities to engage with other people suffering from similar issues
  • Accurate information around the issues you are facing
  • A tracker to ensure measurability of every action you take or every solution you adopt
  • Validation of solutions / recommendations as second opinion
  • Providing solutions as products and services with established credibility

This would entail not only aggregating the current products and services in the market, but also complementing with the current players who are working on some of the elements above. In summary, we own the entire health management for the customer and his/her family.

All this would be currently online, due to the simple objective of quicker acquisition and better accessibility.

So far, we have a run rate of INR 1.2 Cr turnover, and been in the business for over a year. The current online model is around a year old, with 3 locations and a 15-member team. We have around 35 Corporate partners and 200 Nutritionists & Dieticians on our panel – the entire list can be seen here – http://www.healthyworld.in/Articles.asp?ID=369

 

Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Sreejith and I wanted to work on consumer health, and due to personal tragedies at home, we were motivated to get diagnosis and preventive healthcare at the forefront of consumer mind spaces. With this social mission of making wellness mainstream, we started healthy world. We launched in Delhi and began with distribution with the intent of owning the entire supply chain of health products, but realized very soon that our strength was in building customer relationships. This led to launch of our E-commerce platform Healthyworld.in. We started searching for brands that were genuinely unique and had a key health benefit, and built a supply chain. Simultaneously, we also started the Corporate Wellness partnership with organizations, where we planned and executed activities that entailed higher employee engagement.

The need of local presence for corporate partners as well as building a supply chain for local vendors led us to launch Mumbai and Pune in July 2012

The road was bumpier than we imagined it to be – opening every location was like starting a new business altogether. More so, every channel we experimented with, had to have a fresh start and a different perspective. Due to a small team, even though each of us was multi-tasking, it did lead to a slower start as we were trying to do almost everything to everybody.  Over the past 6 months, however, due to our focus on disease management, and customer acquisition, we have seen good traction, both in consumer as well as corporate space. Our corporate partners, having seen our wellness programs, are more open to ideas, and partner with us in designing their wellness activities. This also gives us a good opportunity to acquire customers via that channel.

On the other hand, our panel of nutritionists / dieticians, where we have a win-win model, as we market their services, and provide solutions to their clients as well, also acts as a big customer acquisition channel for us.

 

Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

 

Puru Gupta

Puru GuptaA first-generation entrepreneur, Puru comes from a defense background and a corporate experience spanning across multinationals, including P&G, ITC, CSC & Cognizant. An alumni of FMS, Delhi (MBA, Marketing), and Pune University (BE, E&TC), he has a diverse experience across India and China, including consulting engagements with local companies from China and Africa, non-profit orgs, MNCs & govt. Rated as a top expert in marketing, he also helps brands in India entry and GTM strategies for India. Puru is based out of Mumbai.

Puru’s Linkedin profile

 

Sreejith Moolayil

Healthyworld-Sreejith-MoolayilA first-generation entrepreneur, Sreejith comes with a diverse experience of more than 12 years in HR and Law, having worked previously with Cognizant, Tata Motors and Delphi TVS. His last assignment was working as a Head HR – Cognizant, Pune. An Alumnus of Symbiosis IMS (MBA, HR) with Masters in Labour Law from Pune university and LLB from Mangalore, his focus areas are IT & Manufacturing. He is an expert in China, having headed China HR operations for Cognizant. Sreejith is based out of Pune.

Sreejith’s Linkedin Profile

 

 

How is your site so different when there are already ecommerce websites selling similar products?

We are different on two counts –

a)      We focus on health products, and each of the products that we onboard is ratified by a team of expert nutritionists and dieticians. If they would recommend these products to their clients, we onboard them. Having said that, we do have snacks and gourmet products that might not be 100% healthy, but are a much better alternative as compared to common junk food items we consume mostly

b)      We connect local vendors throughout the country – having the advantage of 3 offices, we are able to connect local suppliers nationally, in a short span of time, without having to invest in massive amounts of inventory. Hence, we are able to keep our working capital at a fairly reasonable level

 

What technology platform is your site built on? Is it in-house?

Currently, we are using third-party platform – Volusion. However, we are building an in-house platform that would take care of our AMC services as well. This should be ready in the next 4-6 months

 

What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Technology is our biggest play in the short-term, coupled with enhanced customer acquisition. We intend to have a base of 10 Million customers in the next 3 years, provided we hit our milestones on time. Also, currently, we are at 3 locations, and we intend to have our own setup in 5 other key metros in the next 3 years

 

Which locations is it available ?

Delhi, Mumbai and Pune – we have our own offices, whereas we ship throughout India
What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

We have strong network of Corporates and Dieticians / Nutritionists, that act as strong customer acquisition platforms for us. Apart from that, we partner with running groups (like Mumbai Running, Pune Running, Procam International) and co-promote health and fitness, by combining issues with health solutions. Currently, we are running our model on products in B2C space, and services in the B2B space (Corporate Wellness partnerships). However, we intend to integrate this with our tech platform in the next phase.

 

Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors ?

No – we are just about beginning to seek investments. Our initial feelers from known circles have been quite optimistic, but would wait till we see some more greens in the bank! J

 

What is the overall plan going forward?

Every reader who is reading this, To be your Family’s Health AMC!

If you have any feedback or comments do share it on the comments page.

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Exclusive Interview: Devendra Sarda CEO of Local Market place Apneareamein.com

Devendra Sarda 160We caught up with Devendra Sarda CEO of Apneareamein. A BE in Electronics and Power, graduated in 1994  from VRCE(NIT,Nagpur) having worked in various verticals  like  SAP HR, Marketing, Computer Education, Customer Care, Placement fields with Start Ups as well as with MNC’s like HCL, MPhasis both in India & Abroad.
During his stint in the corporate world he was recognized as a savvy leader with strengths in reengineering business process, defining continuous process improvement , presiding over lively brainstorming sessions, building consensus, recognizing and accelerating peer strengths and delegation of the right task to the right person and propensity to initiate positive changes.  Praised for prudently managing human resources and continually extinguishing fires.
he is a very friendly & easily approachable person with a caring attitude. He is equally active on social & professional networking sites like Facebook & Linkedin. He is a go-getter with a flexible and positive attitude and is proficient in Client Interactions & timely deliverables to customers.
His hobbies include organizing outings, get-togethers & hosting events in Hindi.

 

WD: What is Apneareamein.com all about? What problem are you solving?

Devendra Sarda: ApneAreaMein  stands  for creating a value for Society and Small Businesses.
It is to help individuals to effectively use technology and Web for information and effective communication hence saving time and fuel to source anything needed on day today basis.

Today there is no convenient and cost effective media, which can help small Shopkeepers to reach to   potential clients who stay in their neighbourhood.
Another important aspect was to connect the users of a Society through Intra Society Communication tool for improving the efficiency, connectivity and transparency in working.

In other words, I must say, we are trying to  bridge  the  gap for Middle Class People in India with low cost options, instead of using technology to help limited Upper and upper middle class users with high cost options.

 WD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Devendra Sarda : After working  across  various  verticals  in esteemed  companies likes Mphasis & HCL   I was unable to see the scope of utilizing my creativity and different  thought process , I was exploring  options which would  satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit and which can become a household name in times to come.
While I was working with Mphasis as SAP HR Consultant, while   wanting  to help my  spouse  to advertise for her Tuition classes  at home, I realized that there was  a dearth of  convenient and cost effective media, which  could  help us to reach  specific potential clients  who stay in neighbourhood.
A further deep dive into the issue revealed that,  it is the  need of even the users  to get solution/service providers where they can reach easily and without wasting time.
The concept and its scope excited me so much that and I quit my regular  Job at Mphasis   and immersed myself fully in this venture . It started with the   formation of  a Private Limited Company, as we wanted to do everything in the  best & most ethical way which would also be  legally strong.
With the kind blessings of  my father Sh.Radhey Shyam Sharda who kindly consented to be the  Managing Director  and myself Devendra Sharda  as Director we launched ETin MyArea.com where ET stood for Every Thing ..

As a next step I met a lot of Shopkeepers and users and collected the database of Shops. We launched it as a Combo Media(Web and Shared Pamphlet).I  used to get it designed, get the Pamphlets printed  get them circulated in the neighbourhood  along with various  Newspapers being distributed  at 3.30am mid night in my presence to ensure quality distribution. Simultaneously I had to take care of Data Collection, Compilation and Web Development. Thanks to my variety of corporate experience  and Engineering qualification, it helped me a lot to learn and execute the things without  dependency on others.
I started with one Part time team member and worked from Home. Gradually we took Plug and Play office on Rent.  hired 3 more full time people including Sheetal Gore, who  provided her expertise in  technical development and bringing the venture  in today’s shape.with an ever increasing team size..
We initially wanted to replicate the model through Franchisee Network of Fresh Graduates. But I realized after meeting many of them that Freshers are mislead by easy earning opportunities and have lost Entrepreneurship spirit. I Also realized that until every area representative  is  ready to take the  pains of Printing co-ordination  24×7, we will not be able to justify the money paid to us by Advertisers and  will  loose goodwill  as a Brand. Hence we changed our strategies and decided to focus on Web based media and adding more features in this. We could successfully develop very focused search as well as Intra Society Communication tool.

Challenges are many…the first challenge you start facing to answer the World…What the hell you are doing? Why did you leave the Job? What if it doesn’t work?  My immense faith in the supreme power helped me  to  look beyond  these questions and stay  focussed on my goal.
Though, my wife Jyoti was always a home maker, but she  added value to the venture by taking up   some responsibilities & bringing in new ideas  when she saw that getting the  right and reliable  candidate  is not only a costly affair  but also very tough for a start up like us. In the initial phase, money always flows in one way(it only goes  )…so friends supported to make sure that we are in right shape. Parents also supported a lot, when they realized that this project can help many person’s family in life, where as staying in Job will help only one family. Though even daughters also feels the pressure of being part of Entrepreneurs family, but  both my daughters Prerna and Dhairya have also been a constant source of support & always talk to everybody with great enthusiasm about the features of ApneAreaMein.com. Very soon,  they will be playing an  active role in our upcoming  promotional activities.
WD: What issues do you see in current trend of E-commerce in India? Do you see ApneAreaMein getting into E-Commerce in near future?

Devendra Sarda : Today E Shopping market is purely focusing on Price War. User’s  have the  privilege to buy from any of these portals which is offering at the low cost with discounts thrown in. However this will not help the Companies to survive for long by continuously reducing margins. Untill and unless some differentiators are created or used by these companies, this may adversely affect the Dot Com /E Commerce growth in Indian Market.
No, we would not be directly entering into E-Commerce activities as we have huge scope of our own offerings, however we can certainly hand shake with like minded E-Commerce venture to provide them differentiators to get an edge over others.
In your kind of Services, Telephone interface is very popular. So are you planning to come up with Telephonic Interface?
No, not at all.I am sure 9-12 months down the line, the need to get info over phone will be almost negligible. One, People find it a threat to their privacy as anybody and everybody starts calling them after getting their numbers, Secondly, there would be Web based Mobile devices with voice interface, which  are as good as Calling to a Call Centre and getting required information.

WD: Don’t you think, you should have more Co-founders ?

Devendra Sarda : I got great support of Financial Experts Chiranjeev Ajmera, Rohit Somani and Amit Heda right from day 1 & have been giving their valuable inputs in financial matters .  Their formal consent to join our Advisory Board is awaited..
I intentionally did not start with Partners, as I have seen many Partnerships break even before the product seeing the light of the day and it affects the momentum and enthusiasm of the Entrepreneur. As any start up might need to change the idea which was actually conceived multiple times based on practical feedback in the market, before you start saying, Great, we are ready !…this involves some time only time and sometime huge cost. And I wanted to make sure I would invite Partners/Investors only when I have experimented and I am ready. So that their investment is safe.
So now it is right time to get Partners.

WD: How is your product so different when there are already similar Products available? Do tell us about your existing and New products.

Devendra Sarda : We talk about very focused data. Apne Area Mein means Apne Area Mein
We provide hand holding to  the small Shopkeepers to increase his advertising budget as per  their  growth. One area to multiple area gradually.
We understand that although we can generate great Advertisement revenues by creating competition among Advertisers themselves, but keeping in mind the  long term perspective, it kills the spirit of Vendors(our Advertisers) being in business if they can not earn to survive and grow reasonably well. Our model is helping the Advertisers to retain Clients in their area and Clients are also able to get best after sales support.
In Intra Society Communication Tool also, we initially developed it based on our own understanding as a user and later collected the feedback of Residents of various Societies(who were already using such Products or who have not tried such products).And glad to share that we have features which has great utility and practical application and we are able to address the pain points of Users even in first version. Also we are going to launch different models to work with Builders and Societies as per their overall size and requirements.

 WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Devendra Sarda : Wishlist !  Though actual shape has dependency on Funding, which should be through soon.
Reach: 5 Cities in one year. 100 Cities in 3 years.
Technology: To be available on all the Technologies, which will be used by more than 60% of Internet users in India within 2 years and continuous upgrades thereafter.
Employment : 1000+ Employees.

WD: Currently which locations is it available? Are you looking to launch this product in other Geographies?

Devendra Sarda : Currently We have presence  in 10 areas of Pune, Maharastra, India as of now.
As most of the initial features are developed, now we would be expanding rapidly.
In other geographies, yes, we want to launch in 5 Cities within 1 year and 100 Cities in next 3 years in India.

WD: What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

Devendra Sarda : We will be operating through hybrid model of Company owned Branches as well as Franchisee operations
.
WD: Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors?
Devendra Sarda : We have recently initiated discussions with Investors. As ApneAreaMein addresses the need of huge Market potential in India, we are getting positive response to our initial discussions.
We are definitely interested to discuss to finally start working ASAP with Investors, for a mutually beneficial relationship.

I would like to introduce myself as a BE Electronics and Power graduated in 1994  from VRCE(NIT,Nagpur) having worked in various verticals  like  SAP HR, Marketing, Computer Education, Customer Care, Placement fields with Start Ups as well as. I have also worked with MNC’s like HCL, MPhasis both in India & Abroad.

During my stint in the corporate world I was recognized as a savvy leader with strengths in reengineering business process, defining continuous process improvement , presiding over lively brainstorming sessions, building consensus, recognizing and accelerating peer strengths and delegation of the right task to the right person and propensity to initiate positive changes.  Praised for prudently managing human resources and continually extinguishing fires.

I am a very friendly & easily approachable person with a caring attitude. I am equally active on social & professional networking sites like Facebook & Linkedin. I am a go-getter with a flexible and positive attitude . I am proficient in Client Interactions & timely deliverables to customers.

My hobbies include organizing outings, get-togethers & hosting events in Hindi.

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Exclusive Interview: Steve Fanale CEO of TheAppVillage- A Community App Incubator

Steve FanaleI caught up with Steve Fanale CEO of The AppVillage recently post Apps World North America. I was quite excited to learn about his venture The Apps Village which is a community App Incubator project.

Steve began his career in the interactive and digital media industry over 15 years ago. After initially working in senior exec roles at Young & Rubicam and APL Digital he decided to take the plunge and start up his own interactive agency, MassMedia Studios, in 2000.

MassMedia Studios is an Australian leader in the provision of digital and interactive services and moved on to the international stage when he opened offices in London and New York in 2006, and grew the team to more than fifty employees with global brands like Audi, Cadbury, Unilever, Diageo, Vue Entertainment and Yahoo!7 on its key client list. In 2003 work begun on the development of Traction, a relationship marketing platform that helps brands interact, learn and effectively target their customers across all marketing channels. Highly regarded across the digital marketing industry, Traction has grown into a global platform with clients across North America, Europe and Asia.

In 2007 MassMedia and Traction was sold to the publicly listed BlueFreeway group. During his time within the group Steve was asked to move in to an interim COO role to improve the groupʼs internal processes and stabilize its financial position. In 2010 Steve left the business to take some time off but his interest in digital innovation brought him back in to the world of apps in 2012. As the founder and creator of AppVillage, his 5th Start up, Steve believes he has developed an incubation model to meet the needs of innovators, designers, developers, investors and consumers who love being part of the app world.

WD: What is theappvillage.com  all about? What problem are you solving?the-appvillage_beta

Steve: The Appvillage is a a community app incubator for the development and marketing of mobile apps.

We are responsible for the assessment, development, marketing and funding of app ideas. Being solely focused on apps, allows us to establish a brand in the marketplace with a very clear vision.

Our aim is to grow an intelligent, sustainable, business with an in-built process that increases the chance of success with every app that we produce. We are able to do this through our ever-growing community that are incentivised to become the business’ biggest supporters.

Our unique model of sharing the risk, and rewards, with all contributors incentivises a global community and builds an audience via their advocacy across their own extensive social networks.

The model essentially fast tracks minimal viable products to market and tests market interests before setting up a viable business start up.

Problems we are solving :
– Difficulty in taking an idea from ideation to reality
– Increasing the speed to market
– Ensuring the quality of product is high
– Providing funding for apps – development and marketing
– Providing Marketing for apps
– Build the process and community to achieve the above

WD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Steve: Apart from being an Apple addict, the entire app ecosystem has always excited me. The prospect of developing applications and having access to a distribution platform to sell to the world is an Australian entrepreneurs dream. This coupled with increased smart phone and tablet usage, resulting in more and more people coming up with great, innovative ways to utilise them through specialised apps, was the reason I started AppVillage. The life experience that really pushed me to develop this idea was the passion to move away from developing digital products for clients and to make them and sell direct to the consumer. I wanted a model that was scalable and that could function at minimal cost. Out of this, AppVillage was born.

Challenges are the same as any start up. Trying to grow the business and get traction in the market place with minimal funds. Also the success of the AppVillage model will be more potent when we can show some traction and success and provide the momentum to grow exponentially. Till then we are relying on peoples faith in the model. Luckily some have shown that faith.

WD: Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

Steve: Steve Fanale and Patrick Visser are the founders of The App Village

Steve Fanale – Steve began his career in the interactive and digital media industry over 15 years ago. After initially working in senior exec roles at Young & Rubicam and APL Digital he decided to take the plunge and start up his own interactive agency, MassMedia Studios, in 2000.

MassMedia Studios is an Australian leader in the provision of digital and interactive services and moved on to the international stage when he opened offices in London and New York in 2006, and grew the team to more than fifty employees with global brands like Audi, Cadbury, Unilever, Diageo, Vue Entertainment and Yahoo!7 on its key client list. In 2003 work begun on the development of Traction, a relationship marketing platform that helps brands interact, learn and effectively target their customers across all marketing channels. Highly regarded across the digital marketing industry, Traction has grown into a global platform with clients across North America, Europe and Asia.

In 2007 MassMedia and Traction was sold to the publicly listed BlueFreeway group. During his time within the group Steve was asked to move in to an interim COO role to improve the groupʼs internal processes and stabilize its financial position.
In 2010 Steve left the business to take some time off but his interest in digital innovation brought him back in to the world of apps in 2012. As the founder and creator of AppVillage, his 5th Start up, Steve believes he has developed an incubation model to meet the needs of innovators, designers, developers, investors and consumers who love being part of the app world.

Patrick Visser – Head of creative and innovation

Patrick is a senior digital creative with over15 years industry experience in Australia,Switzerland and Germany.During his successful career he’s been involvedin the conceptualising, design and developmentof every aspect of digital media includingwebsites, applications, online campaigns, Flash
applications, videos and more recently mobileapps and sites.

Since 2006 Patrick has been working as acreative and consultant for a diverse rangeof clients; from ad agencies, publishers andgovernment departments through to bluechip companies and small businesses such asthe Spinifex Group, NineMSN, Fairfax Mediaand Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, for whom he
recently developed their first field training iPadapp.

Patrick’s focus is on designing and creatingengaging and highly functional user experiences.

WD: How is your site so different when there are already idea promoting websites selling similar concepts?

Steve: AppVillage is not just about promoting ideas, its about managing the process of making it a reality. AppVillage brings all of the cool things together in one place. With a focus on apps, incubating, innovation and quality crowd sourcing, we are helping to build a community and at the same time building investment in entrepreneurship.

Strengths:
– Scalable development team
– Focus on marketing of app
– Building a community to engage in the process
– Building a fund to finance the marketing and subsidise development of app ideas

WD: What is your criteria of judging an idea and approving it?

Steve: Judging criteria is relatively simple. We try and assess if the idea has the potential to reach a wide market and generate lots of downloads and intern revenue.  We do this by initially assessing if we think it is a good idea then look at competing apps, the genre performance and marketability of the idea.

To be more specific we look at :
– Download and revenue numbers.
– The potential scope to enhance the app.
– Room in the market to compete against existing apps.
– Rankings, ratings and comment in the stores
– Growth of genre.
– Online presence of competitors.
– Media interest in similar ideas

WD: Who can submit  ideas ? Whats the process of submission ?and How will that person benefit ? How do you plan to monetize these apps?

Steve: Anyone can submit an idea and we open up submissions for short intervals throughout the year so we can address them in a timely fashion. To submit an idea it is a simple as filling out a form on our website TheAppVillage.com and we will then review the it and let you know if you get to proceed to the next stage.

The innovator will earn 10% of the royalties and can earn more if they can provide the skills or funds to produce or market the app. Monetization of the app will vary depending on the idea but essentially we will either charge a premium, provide a range of in app purchases, generate advertising revenue or a combination of the above.

WD: Are you only focused on mobile apps or you intend to get into other Web or Connected TV apps ?

Steve: At this early stagAppVillageis focused on mobile apps but the plan is to include Web or IPTV apps in our offering in the future

WD: How do you intend to build and promote the app village ecosystem fordevelopers?

Steve: We have a lot planned for the development community. Not only will we be looking to promote the stars of the village but also provide education, promotion of services and special offers to the community. These are only a few things we have planned.

WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Steve: We have many initiatives planned but our focus at the moment is to build a foundation we can catapult from. We are also very aware that the app market is extremely dynamic. So we don’t think there is much point in solidifying 2-3 year plans when we may have to rethink them in 6 months

WD: Which locations is it available? Any plans of launching in Asia?

Steve: We are currently based in Sydney but anyone from around the world can submit an idea, join the village as a designer or developer, or invest so it is open to the global market. As we grow we would like to see offices in keymarkets which would include a head office for Asia

WD: What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

Steve: There are range of channels that we use and all with their own strategies and budgets. To what extent each channel is used will depend on the app. These channels include both Free and paid advertising/promotion suchas :

– PR main stream and digital press
– Social posting across all networks including image placement and video trailers
– Paid advertising on social and mobile media networks
– Blog posting
– Submission to referral networks
– App Website
– ASO and SEO
– Store description and images

WD: Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors ?

Steve: We have raised some seed funding but are currently raising a further $1M. $500k in return for equity in the business. This will be used to finance marketing and project management staff and marketing initiatives. The 2nd $500k for royalty shares in apps to finance marketing and subsidies development. Happy to be contacted by investors

 

 

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Exclusive Interview : Bill Magnuson co-founder & CTO of Appboy,a Customer Engagement Platform for Mobile Apps

Bill MagnusonWe  spoke to Bill Magnuson ,the co-founder and CTO of Appboy world’s top customer engagement platform for mobile apps

Previously, Bill was a Software Developer at Bridgewater Associates and a Software Engineer at Google, where he worked on App Inventor for Android, later taken over by the MIT Media Lab. He was a winner of the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon and a winner of the 2010 North American Debating Championship.

Originally from Minnesota, Bill holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS) and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a minor in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What is Appboy all about? What problem are you solving?

 Appboy is a customer engagement platform for mobile apps. We help app developers understand the people who use their products and turn them into loyal users post-install. We do this through a suite of automated marketing tools, including push notifications, in-app messages, email, social and customer support.

The problem we’re trying to solve is abysmal retention rates in mobile apps, which is the industry’s biggest challenge. Currently, 76% of people stop using an app after 3 months, in part due to the structural problems of the ecosystem, but also because app developers aren’t taking the time to build relationships with their customers. By giving them a way to actively re-engage these people in an automated and personalized way, we’re increasing their chances of building a strong app business while removing the pressure to constantly acquire new users.

appboylogoTell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

On a fateful Wednesday evening in May of 2011, I received an email from a former co-worker, Jon Hyman (now CIO), wondering if I was interested in competing with him at the Disrupt NYC hackathon that weekend. I had already made plans to spend the weekend in Vermont enjoying the great outdoors, but was pretty easily convinced to change them in lieu of hacking for 24 hours in a warehouse.

At the Hackathon, Jon and I built Gilt-II, which ended up taking top prize  and caused a huge amount of recruiting outreach for both of us. However, in the end it wasn’t one of the hundreds of emails that piqued our interest, it was a chance encounter on a street corner in Manhattan where I briefly met Bipul Singha (now an Appboy Advisory Board member). After 30 seconds of conversation waiting for the light to change, Bipul took down my email and later introduced me to Mark (co-founder Mark Ghermezian).

After a month of ignoring my inbox, I finally decided to take a break from my current work and go through the pile. Bipul’s email stuck out in the crowd and before we knew it Mark was flying up from Houston to meet Jon and I for dinner and discuss the terms of what would eventually become Appboy. Within three weeks we had all quit our respective jobs and moved to Manhattan. Appboy was born.

Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

  • See Bill Magnuson’s bio above
  • Mark Ghermezian – co-founder & CEO

Mark Ghermezian is the co-founder and CEO of Appboy, a customer engagement platform for mobile apps. He sets the company’s strategic vision and drives adoption of its platform among app developers and brand marketers.

A seasoned entrepreneur, Mark has launched three companies in the last seven years. Prior to Appboy, he started XE Mobile, one of the largest MVNOs in the United States with over 3,500 points of sale. He also founded and sold Flush Media, an indoor advertising company with 2,500 locations in North America. Mark is an active angel investor in B2B and enterprise startups, which gives him an inside perspective on the future of the category.

Mark graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in Finance. A native of Canada, he made his first mobile call with a Nokia 6110.

  • Jon Hyman – co-founder & CIO

Jon Hyman is the co-founder and CIO of Appboy, a customer engagement platform for mobile apps. He is in charge of building Appboy’s technical systems and infrastructure as well as managing the company’s operations.

Prior to Appboy, Jon worked as a lead engineer for the Core Technology group at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. There, he managed a team that maintained 80+ software assets and was responsible for the security and stability of critical trading systems. Jon met co-founder Bill Magnuson during his time at Bridgewater, and together they won the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon.

Jon is a graduate of Harvard and holds a Bachelor degree in Computer Science. While at school, he was an active member of the research team for CitySense, the first citywide wireless sensor network, and advised several tech startups including Eduardo Saverin’sCareplace.

Jon grew up in Dallas and enjoys good BBQ and playing guitar. His first mobile phone was a Kyocera 2255.

How is your product so different when there are already similar?

Appboy’s rich segmentation platform further distances the company from pure analytics tools like Mixpanel and pure messaging platforms like Urban Airship. Rather than giving marketers and app developers more data, Appboy lets them act on data in a targeted manner using tools like push notifications as well as in-app messaging, targeted emails, content recommendations and general customer support. Best of all, the process is fully automated and custom segments only take a few minutes to set up.

Products available? Do tell us about your existing and New products .

Appboy’s Customer Engagement Platform for Mobile Apps.

Appboy helps developers and marketers understand their mobile app customers and build stronger relationships.  We make data actionable by allowing you to segment your customer base and engage them via a comprehensive set of marketing channels like push notifications, in-app messages and email. To streamline your workflow, all campaigns are fully automated.

Appboy has two components:

1 – Easy-to-install SDK (iOS and Android)

2 – Web dashboard to control marketing activities

What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Appboy’s next 2-3 years will focus on:
* Scaling our infrastructure to meet customer growth, including build out of “big data” solutions.
* Expansion of our existing product into other mobile platforms and publishing methods.
* Expansion into non-English speaking markets.
* Further development of our customer relationship management and automated marketing tools.

Which locations is it available? Are you looking to launch this product in other Geographies?

The Appboy product is currently only available in English, however, translations of our SDK are coming this summer with the dashboard to follow. Internationalization efforts outside of language translation will arrive in iterations alongside the translation efforts.

What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

As mobile explodes, more and more companies are focusing on the B2B aspects of the ecosystem by building services at every stage of an app’s lifecycle. Appboy focuses on empowering app owners to understand and communicate/market to their users. We also give them direct access to user feedback so they can make better decisions and listen to their customers. These services are best leveraged by CMOs at enterprise companies and decision makers at small businesses who need them to expand, engage and monetize their user base more effectively.

How are we targeting these decision makers at enterprise/small businesses, as well as individual developers? We have a diligent PR and marketing team that specializes in rolling out launches for startups and also have expertise in reaching outlets that target these ideal demographics.

As part of any rollout, our PR and marketing team announces new features, partnerships, and funding announcements. The same team also assists with securing opportunities with relevant conferences as sponsors, panelists, and keynote speakers.

Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors?

These two stories cover our current funding:
Appboy Raises A Cool Million To Let App Developers Better Engage And Understand Their User Base
With Another $1.5M, Appboy Launches App Management Platform, Hootsuite CEO Joins Board

We’re not interested in being contacted about funding.

* This is an exclusive interview by WirelessDuniya.

 

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Exclusive Interview: Rohan Bhargava, Co-Founder Cashkaro.com

rohanWe spoke to Rohan Bhargava,  one of the Co-Founders of Cashkaro.com, a cashback site launched in India by Pouring Pounds.

Rohan is currently working full time with Pouring Pounds Ltd, a company he Co-Founded in 2011. Prior to this, he has several years of experience in the hedge fund industry in London. Rohan was last a Portfolio Manager at Aladdin Capital, overseeing a portfolio of $1 billion in structured credit assets. Rohan graduated from the London School of Economics with a BSc. in Economics.

WD: So Rohan, tell us what is your site all about? What problem are you solving?

cashkaroRohan: Cashkaro.com is a cashback and coupon website. We have tie-ups with over 200 of India’s leading e-commerce websites like Myntra, Yatra, Jabong and Firstcry. For every sale that we bring to our e-commerce partners we get paid a commission. Rather than keep this for ourselves, we pass most of this back to the users as cashback. So users now get Cashback on things they were buying anyway!

We also have hundreds of coupons and offers that users can use in addition to getting Cashback.

Our model helps create a new ecosystem for online sales. Cashkaro.com drives sales to sites like Yatra, Myntra, Tradusby giving users additional incentives of cashback and coupons. Retailers get better return-on-investment as they only pay when a sale happens. Users are happier with extra discounts and retailers save on their marketing expenses.

WD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Rohan: The Company was founded in the UK in 2011. The Groupon idea of Daily Deals had become very popular, but we felt there was a gap in the market for discounts on every day shopping. For example, discount on groceries, books, electronics and travel.

So we started to tie-up with top UK brands like Tesco, Debenhams, M&S and Expedia to do exactly that. These brands were happy to pay us commission for new sales, which we passed back to users as cashback. Brands were getting better return-on-investment, since they only paid for sales and users loved getting extra cash.

Today we work with over 2,500 top retailers in the UK and operate 7 different cashback sites, including the site for UK’s largest newspaper.

A key challenge has been finding high quality developers and marketers. Our technology powers cashback sites for some very large organizations so having top notch developers is critical. For almost every position in the company we have interviewed over 30 people to find the right blend of hardwork, team spirit and common sense.

 WD: Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

The Company was founded by the husband and wife team of Rohan and Swati Bhargava. Prior to founding Pouring Pounds, Swati spent several years in the Investment Banking Division at Goldman Sachs. Her last role at Goldman was in the Executive Office where she managed client engagements for the two Goldman Co-CEOs. Swati was also nominated for the Asian Women of Achievement Award awards in 2012. Swati graduated from the London School of Economics with a BSc. in Mathematics & Economics.

Prior to founding Pouring Pounds, Rohan spent over 8 years in the hedge fund industry in London. Rohan was last a Portfolio Manager at Aladdin Capital, overseeing a portfolio of $1 billion structured credit assets.Rohan also graduated from the London School of Economics with a BSc. in Economics.

 WD: How is your site so different when there are already websites selling similar products?

Rohan: In India cashback is still very new. Our main competition comes from coupon sites operating in India. Our main USP over these coupons sites is the additional cashback we offer. For example, let’s take a coupon on Jabong that both a Coupon site and Cashkaro.com has. After the sale, both sites get paid a commission from Jabong. While the Coupon site keeps all the commission, we pass most of this commission back to the user as cashback. This makes the Cashkaro.com value proposition for the user more attractive as they get both coupons and cashback.

 WD: What will be the market size of your niche in India?

Rohan: The scope of our market is almost every online shopper in India. Since we work with almost every major online retailer, shopping via Cashkaro.com is beneficial to every online shopper.

WD: How do you see the future of eCommerce in India shaping up ?

Rohan: I recently read that in 2013, India will have the 3rd largest online community after the US and China. eCommerce does have challenges like confidence in online payments and logistics, but there is no denying that eCommerce in India is the future.

I believe there is a huge opportunity in online sales of branded products like FMCG or even groceries. Businesses like Goodlife and Grocerywaale shall be very popular in the coming years. We have already seen how eCommerce has changed the travel industry in India and the same shall happen in various other sectors also.

WD: What technology platform is your site built on? Is it in-house?

Rohan: Our core platform is built on open source technologies like PHP and MySql.  All our development is done in-house. We have an extremely capable and qualified team of developers and designers.

WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Rohan: We have several really innovative ideas going live in the next few months. One such idea is a cashback / coupon reminder tool. Users just need to install this on their browsers like Chrome once. Now when they shop online on say Foodpanda.com, they will automatically receive a message on their browser with our cashback and coupon offers. No more searching for deals, the deals find you.

We have other such great ideas in the pipeline, that address making the shopping experience easier, while allowing for best price discovery.

 WD: Which locations is it available?

Rohan: Anyone in India can use and save with Cashkaro.com as it is online.

WD: What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

Rohan: In order to reach our target market, we are creating partnerships with leading mobile recharge companies like Rechargeitnow.com. Today many of the cashback deals on Rechargeitnow.com are provide by Cashkaro. We are creating similar partnerships with various other online businesses to create great synergies.

We are also working hard on traditional ideas like SEO, Facebook Ads and some guerilla marketing ideas like banners on autos.

WD: Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors ?

Rohan: Last year we were selected to present our business at an angel investment event at the London Business School. We got great feedback and received investment from one of the investors present.

We are looking at doing another funding round in India or the UK once we establish some more B2B partnerships in India. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with potential investors.

Did you like this interview ? If you have questions for Rohan, do put it on the comments section. You can connect with Rohan on LinkedIn.

 

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Exclusive Interview: Mohsin Khan, General Partner with Hyderabad based Seed Fund and Business Accelerator Utthishta

Moshin KhanWe spoke to Mr Mohsin Khan, General partner at Hyderabad based seed fund and business accelerator Utthistha on their growth plans.

Mr. Mohsin Khan holds a Masters in Engineering from US and has also completed the Advanced Management Program (AMP) from Indian School of Business. He started his career in General Motors, USA as an engineer and grew to a Manager position, While working there he handled strategically important projects spread across different countries. He joined CNO Financial Group (previously known as Conseco Inc) in US (a Fortune 500 company) as Managing Director for its India Operations and grew the company from 1 person to 370 people. He started his entrepreneurship journey by negotiating a minority stake in CNO India, which he sold back to the parent company CNO Financial Group, Inc on mutually agreed terms. He headed the operations of the subsidiary – CNO IT Services (India) Private Limited at Hyderabad in the capacity of a Managing Director. He is currently the Charter Member of the Hyderabad Chapter of the Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE). He is also a Member of Hyderabad Angels and is actively involved in the Hyderabad chapter of the CEO Clubs.

WD: What is Utthishta all about? What problem are you solving?

Mr. Mohsin: Utthishta, as the name suggests, has been launched to facilitate the spectacular rise of start – ups. We are a seed fund and a business accelerator.  We invest in companies that are built around upcoming technologies like web, mobile, cloud and software products. Utthishta Yekum Fund is organized as a trust under Indian laws and is registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a Category I AIF under the SEBI Regulations, 2012

The problem that we are trying to address is that of availability of funding to startups at an early stage. In India, startups still rely on the age old norm of approaching Friend, family and fools for the 1st  round of investment, as there are not many alternate avenues available. We at Utthishta intend to address this problem. We provide the incubatee company with a capital of Rs.10lakhs for equity of 15%. Also, there is a lot of scope for seed funds in India because currently there are hardly any funds operating in that space.

Mr. Ramakrishna and Mr. Mohsin KhanWD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Mr. Mohsin: Utthishta was started as an initiative by Mr. Mohsin Khan and Mr. Ramakrishna, with Mr. PrabhakarRao as the anchor investor in the fund. The major challenge that we faced was getting the SEBI approval, which took almost nine months.

WD: Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

Mr. Mohsin Khan – as mentioned under question 3

The other founder is Mr. P Ramakrishna

Mr. P Ramakrishna is a commerce and law graduate from Andhra University and also a rank holder. He is Fellow member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He has about 3 decades of rich experience across various domains including business development & strategic planning, auditing, accounting, process controls, risk management, corporate governance and compliance, tax structuring and succession planning. His functional expertise lies in deal making, valuations, due diligence, negotiation support, joint venture structuring and fund raising. He was formerly an Executive Director and the National Leader – Entrepreneurial and Private Client Service at PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited. He is a regular speaker at events conducted by CII, FAPCCI, ASCI, ICAI and ICSI. As a Lead Partner and Engagement Partner for Assurance, he has advised and reviewed various companies (business groups) which have grown many folds in a short span like Care Hospitals, Rain Commodities, Greenko, Lanco, GMR

WD: How is your Program different then other Investors  ?

Mr. Mohsin: Most of the VC companies in India are like High School / College. They generally invest in all domains/segments

There are four distinct aspects that differentiate us from our competitors:-

  • We are the Primary School for Entrepreneurs in India and are focussed on upcoming technologies like web, mobile, cloud and software products
  • We bet on complete strangers that are sourced from all across India based on merit and pre-defined selection criteria only – focus on very early stage
  • We focus first on business acumen / market risk and the second to that would be team risk and last would be technical risk
  • Our combination of two general partners where one is from technical, entrepreneur and operations growth side, and other from finance, audit side

WD: What kind of Startups are you looking to invest in ? What kind of Problems are you looking at Startups to solve and in what areas ?

Mr. Mohsin: We are a primary school for startups and hence we look to invest in teams that are at a very early stage of their business cycle. We are looking for companies that are working on upcoming technologies like web, mobile, cloud and software products. We would select a team based on the pain point that they have discovered and how they plan to address the same.

WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years for the Startup community ?

Mr. Mohsin: There aren’t any specific other than we plan to fund around 20 or 25 startups each year.

WD: What is your take on the Indian startup scene ? How easy/difficult it is for the Investors/Startups in India ?

Mr. Mohsin: India is still at very nascent stage when we talk of the startup scenario. We will have to go a long way to match the kind of numbers and deals that we see at Silicon Valley but its catching on. We are seeing more and more students at professional colleges opting for entrepreneurship as a career via-a-via a secure job in an MNC. There are a lot of problems that need to be addressed in the Indian markets and we hope to see a lot more entrepreneurs coming up with ideas that could address these pain points.

It is not very easy for startups in India. They not only have funding issues but also the societal pressure is high. The Indian society has still not come to accept the idea of entrepreneurship being a viable career option. The entrepreneurs face a lot of pressure from their families and peers to confirm to social patterns and hence take up jobs in big companies.

The Investors do face hurdles in terms of sourcing good deals and also the regulatory hurdles that complicate the investing process. There are also some hurdles in terms of exits.

WD:  What are the different types of investment ?What should they do to secure fruitful investments ? How much equity they will require to dilute ?

Mr. Mohsin: We only do one type of investment as Utthishtai.e Equity funding.  We fund 10 Lakh Rupees and take 15 % equity.  That is our model.

 WD: How can the Indian Entrepreneurs reach you ? What is your process of selecting/investing in Indian startups ?

Mr. Mohsin: Our selection process in explained in details on the website. Please see the link below :

http://www.utthishta.com/selection/

Entrepreneurs should only apply through website as the data is directly stored in a database from there. We will contact the entrepreneur once they apply on website.

WD: Your suggestion for the Indian startups/entrepreneurs?

Mr. Mohsin: Focus on pain points that are not resolved yet and don’t just copy US business models in India because our problems are very different than those found in the west.  We need to focus on our problems then only the markets will reward us

WD: Finally your suggestion on how WirelessDuniya can be the connecting platform between startups, investors &mentors ?

Mr. Mohsin: Keep interviewing and publishing more articles from startups in the wireless space along with accelerators like us. That will help WD become the connecting platform.

 

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Exclusive Interview: Abhay Pruthi, Director, BD & Idea Modulation At Lost Beat

lostbeatWe spoke to Abhay Pruthi, Director, Business development & idea modulation at Lost Beat.  Abhay is currently in his penultimate year pursuing B-tech from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, Delhi University. His area of expertise include marketing & idea modulation. Abhay has done internship with brands like United Biscuits-Mcvities & Freescale.

WD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Abhay: Well, we happen to be attached very closely to music ourselves. Ashish was a drummer in his school days. I used to be a singer. Akshay was a passionate music lover. I always felt that I could have had a future in this industry if I could get a better platform to showcase my talent. But as they say one should be the change they want to see in the world, we came together and started Lost Beat.

We did have our share of challenges, but then that is when we learned the most. Since ours is a technical product, there is no end to improvisation. It is like finding something better as soon as you think you’ve made it good enough. So, we keep trying to keep pace with that. We were meticulous in making the website as user-friendly as possible, this took almost two years; patience, is what we learned through the process. We are currently working towards expanding our marketing resources.

WD: Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

Abhay: We are a team of three founders. Ashish Goel, Director, Branding and Marketting; Akshay Pruthi, Director, Operations; and myself, Director, Business Management and Idea Modulation. Ashish is an Investment Banker from Birmingham Business School, Akshay and I are studying technology at Netaji Subash Institute of Technology.

WD:  What technology platform is your site built on? Is it in-house?

Abhay:  The website has been built on the .net platform. While we do have an in-house technical team, parts of it have been outsourced.

WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Abhay: Our next project is the launch of the second phase of the website. Our concept works on a two-tier plan, the online module has the website, and the offline module is where we organise shows for the bands and artists to perform in. As soon as the website picks up pace, we will begin skimming through the profiles online and will organise rock shows for the best bands. This is a very important part of the concept and we look forward to it. Also, we will soon be working towards penetrating the mobile industry. We are going to make Lost Beat mobile compatible and will launch musical applications for iphone and android. We recently launched our online journal, lostbeat.me, we also aim at expanding it.

WD:  Which locations is it available ?

 Abhay: You can access Lost Beat from anywhere around the world, though we are focusing right now on Indian Market.

WD: What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

 Abhay:  We are well into our marketing campaign currently. We thought if one had to bring in good content to a musical-something, no one could do it better than musicians themselves. So we launched an online journal, lostbeat.me. You can look at it as a kind of educational forum, where people can know more about musicians and the musicians can understand the concept of Lost Beat better. Our strategy is to focus on the in-flux of people who associate with music professionally for the initial few months and then switch to getting attention from general users.

 WD: Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors ?

Abhay: We funded the first phase ourselves. As described before, we have a blueprint and plan of action for the next few years. I guess the fact that we are still students says it all. Hail Capitalism! 😉

Did you like this interview ? If you have questions for Abhay, do put it on the comments section. You can connect with Abhay on LinkedIn.

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Exclusive Interview: Zuhaib Khan, Co-Founder, Shopatplaces.com

zuhaib-khanZuhaib Khan, Co-founder Shopatplaces.com,  is a finance geek turned entrepreneur. He has worked in Investment banking and Private equity firms like JP Morgan, Mape Advisory and Casa Capital. An MBA grad from FMS, Delhi, he has a keen interest in photography and is trying to hone his ‘shooting’ skills. His loves in life include travel, food and Shopatplaces, not necessarily in this order.

WD: So Zuhaib tell us what is your site all about? What problem are you solving?

 Zuhaib: Shopatplaces delivers Authentic Products from Places Famous for them to the customer’s doorstep. Hence, the tagline, ‘Famous Products. Best Buys.’

shopatplacesWe knew that Pashmina shawls of best quality originated only from Kashmir or that the best handcrafted Bandhej suits were from Jaipur. And they were in demand perpetually. The problem was of availability, quality assurance and authenticity verification, coupled with the fact that when these products were made available in other parts of the country, the good quality ones were exorbitantly priced. All because of the too many unnecessary levels in the supply chain.

We had our task cut out there and then. If we could deliver Authentic Products from Places Famous for them to our customer’s doorstep, we will be certainly adding value as a retailer. As of now, Shopatplaces.com is in the Beta stage and we are already delivering our products across India.

WD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

 Zuhaib: The idea for Shopatplaces came to us in September 2011, while I was working in JP Morgan’s London IB office while Sherfur was working in the Procurement department of Cadbury (now, Mondelēz International). We used to travel a lot while working for our respective organizations and every time we visited a new place, there were regular requests from our loved ones to ‘get something unique from that place’.

And that is how Shopatplaces was born! A site which will provide unique, hard-to-get products from places famous for them to its customers. We believe we are re-imagining the way traders operated on the famed silk route once upon a time.

Setting up a robust vendor base and supply chain was our biggest challenge so we left our jobs and traveled across the country for 6 months. It was a great learning phase for us, being on the ground and meeting the people who actually create all this superb quality stuff. This was a new domain for us and similar was the case for many SMEs and artisans who had never entered into a legal vendor agreement, ever.

Learning their challenges has helped us in working together in a better manner. For instance, now we understand that an intricate piece of Chikan apparel from Lucknow can take up to 6 months to finish. So, sourcing copies of this kind of product when we get an order from the customer is not possible at all.

We continue to face new challenges everyday and each day is exciting at Shopatplaces. Ultimate aim is always the same, keeping our customers smiling.

WD: Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

 Zuhaib: The founding team is comprised of two, Sherfur and myself, Zuhaib. Sherfur has worked in the Procurement and Supply Chain division of erstwhile Cadbury after getting his MBA from NITIE, Mumbai. I worked in various firms like JP Morgan, Mape Advisory and Casa Capital during my career in finance after finishing my MBA from FMS, Delhi. Both of us were classmates during our engineering days in Jamia, Delhi. We are Delhi boys and have traveled across the country for our work earlier and now for getting unique products for Shopatplaces.

On the personal front, Sherfur is a Chelsea fan and an Age Of Empires junkie while I love traveling and gorging on food from different places.

WD:  Why is your site so different when there are already ecommerce websites selling similar products?

 Zuhaib: We have been true to our Raison d’être of ‘Shop At Places’. We have on our site only and only those products which are famous from a particular place. Be it Filigree jewelry from Orissa, Brass jewelry from Uttar Pradesh, Tussar silk stoles from Jharkhand, Chikankari apparel from Lucknow and so on and so forth. We make these hard to find products available to our customers and provide assurance of quality with a promise of best buy. Our idea of best buy is pretty simple, say, we have leather bags from Kanpur, we will sell them at a price which is lower than the retail price of those bags in Kanpur itself. If we beat those markets where these products are manufactured, we automatically beat retail markets in all other cities.

As far as we know, we are the first ones in India to execute this idea of ‘Shop At Places’. If we talk about physical retail, then FabIndia is our close peer. Again, we are not into handcrafted products only.

 WD: What technology platform is your site built on? Is it in-house?

 Zuhaib: The IT team has developed the site using PHP on OpenCart. The entire UI has been developed in-house.

 WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

 Zuhaib: Our short term plan is to have authentic products from all states of India within the first 12 months of our launch. We also want to increase the number of categories we offer to our customers.

Our long term plan will be to provide internationally known products like Italian leather jackets or Indonesian batik print apparel to our users. In a few years, we hope to be the most trusted retailer in the minds of our customers.

WD: Which locations is it available ?

Zuhaib: We are already delivering orders across India and have been getting orders from both Metros and small cities. We hope to start delivering internationally soon.

 WD: What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

Zuhaib: Initial traction has come from various social media platforms. However, being in the niche product categories as we are, our initial focus will be on Offline / On-ground marketing campaigns to reach out to our target segment. Once the initial response is captured and further refined, we shall be replicating the same message via online mass mediums as well.

In near future, you will increasingly find our presence at places where our target group is, be it offices, malls, exhibitions or on online platforms.

 WD: Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors ?

Zuhaib:  No, we have not raised any funds. We are bootstrapping this business from our own funds and will not go out in the market for fund raising till the time we need a significant infusion.

We are actively scouting for mentors though as we believe that advice of experienced mentors is worth much more than funds at disposal. Mentors’ guidance can save us from committing many mistakes while making sure that we do not lose focus of the goal we want to achieve. We are open to being contacted by experienced industry veterans who can guide and mentor this young team.

WD: What is the overall plan going forward?

 Zuhaib: Our plan is to cover all India states within 12 months of our launch and start delivering internationally known products to our customers post that.  We plan to grow fast once we have a specific number of satisfied customers on the ground, as they will be our brand ambassadors.

WD:Your take on the current eCommerce scene in India ?

 Zuhaib: Many other experienced people are more qualified than us to answer this question. We believe that we are at the tipping point of e-commerce in India. The wave has not even started till now. Next 4-5 years will see a drastic change in the way Indians transact online and the categories from which they buy.

Did you like this interview ? If you have questions for Zuhaib, do put it on the comments section. You can connect with Zuhaib on Linkedin. He can also be reached at zuhaib@shopatplaces.com

 

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Exclusive Interview: Rico Wyder, Enterprise Sales Director,APAC at Fiksu Inc

Rico Wyder

We spoke to  Rico Wyder, Enterprise Sales Director, APAC, Fiksu, Inc

Rico heads up the global expansion efforts in the Asia Pacific region for Fiksu, Inc., developer of the award-winning Fiksu for Mobile Apps Marketing Platform that combines advanced optimization technology with the world’s largest mobile app media inventory. Rico’s roots run deep in the mobile space as an entrepreneur and angel investor in mobile apps, m-commerce and mobile marketing ventures including Cassiber, Foodpanda, and tenCube (acquired by McAfee). Rico graduated from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and is based in Singapore.

WD:  What is Fiksu all about? Where is the HQ? What problem are you solving? Tell us some of the Interesting/Unique features of Fiksu?

fiksu logoRico : With more than 1.4 million apps in the Apple and Android app stores, mobile app marketers face the enormous challenge of achieving discoverability, sustained user engagement and, ultimately, monetization. Successfully marketing your app requires more than mobile media buying and creative advertising. High-performance mobile app marketers must focus on targeting and acquiring loyal users – those who take a specific action, such as an in-app purchase or registration. It’s these loyal users who become repeat customers and deliver real, ongoing ROI.

Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Fiksu is a high-performance app marketing platform that delivers exceptional marketing performance. Leading brands such as Groupon, VH1, Barnes & Noble and Hearst Magazines, along with today’s hottest game developers and deal sites, are using the Fiksu for Mobile Apps platform to confidently achieve high-performance marketing results for their mobile apps. Our platform uniquely delivers the industry’s largest traffic reach for the highest install volume; optimized targeting of high-quality, loyal users; algorithm-based, real-time ad buying for the lowest possible cost-per-install; plus breakthrough visibility into app marketing performance.

Additionally, Fiksu’s deep-seated knowledge of the ever-evolving mobile app ecosystem led to the launch of FreeMyApps™– the world’s leading app discovery, engagement, and rewards platform for mobile app marketing.

WD:  What is the business model like?

Rico: Fiksu records more than 1 billion app launches per week and attributes them back to each traffic source and media spend through unmatched use of the widest range of marketing attribution technologies. Based on this, Fiksu’s predictive algorithms optimize campaigns in real-time to the traffic sources and creatives that most cost effectively deliver the users who take the conversion actions a mobile marketer desires. Fiksu can optimize volume, rank, loyal user acquisition, organics or other variables. This way, mobile marketers can allocate their valuable ad dollars based on performance and acquire quality, loyal users in highest volumes at lowest costs.

WD:  How can app developers use/benefit from your platform for acquiring loyal customers?

Rico : Leveraging the Fiksu for Mobile App Marketing Platform, app developers can experience:

  1. Centralized media buying from the world’s largest mobile app media inventory.
  2. Integrations with leading real-time bidding exchanges for the most targeted, efficient media buys.
  3. Integrated attribution for marketing insights that are actionable immediately and continuously.
  4. The most advanced, powerful optimization technology available for mobile app marketing.
  5. The only actionable database of historical app marketing performance data, which enables more precise media targeting.
  6. One comprehensive dashboard – which removes complexity from tracking and reporting.

WD:  Tell us the challenges you have faced globally, which are your major markets?

Rico : In July of this year, we secured $10 million in Series B funding, largely to accelerate our global growth efforts in Asia-Pacific (as well as the U.K.), which is fast becoming a hub for mobile app development and innovation, particularly for the flourishing gaming space.  We have an existing base of clients from Korea, Japan, and other APAC countries, and work closely with them to reach U.S. audiences.  However, one of the challenges we face is that app developers who can achieve good results in their own local app stores don’t necessarily realize how much more competitive the U.S. app stores are. Once they do, the benefits of the Fiksu Platform become much clearer.

 WD: Any success stories on how Fiksu has made a difference to apps /brands/developers?

Rico: I encourage you to check out some of Fiksu’s success stories here.

WD:  What are your plans for the India market? Are you looking at partners in India? Your growth plans if any?

Rico: The Fiksu Platform can work for app marketers in any geography, so we definitely hope to be adding more Indian partners in the near future. As described above, we have significant growth plans in the region, primarily focused on bringing Indian and Asian apps to U.S. app stores.

WD: Lastly any tips for the App developers on how to market their app and build loyal customers?

Rico: Fiksu has developed a series of educational materials outlining tips and best practices, which are simple to execute and can deliver profound results. I encourage you to check out these resources to learn more: Best Practices for Growing Your Mobile App BusinessTop 5 Mobile App Marketing Mistakes And How to Avoid ThemHow to Acquire Loyal App Users – Strategies to Grow In-app Purchases, Ad Revenue & Registrations; and Android App Marketing And Google Play – What You Need To Know.

Did you like this interview ? If you have questions for Rico, do put it on the comments section. You can connect with Rico on Linkedin.

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