1 st Lap of the Roller Coaster Ride

Hi ,

This would be my second update on our entrepreneurial journey after my previous post <Start of an entrepreneurial Journey>. As i write this update  i sense the adrenaline rush of having gone through a roller coaster ride in the last 2 .5 months hence the title of the post “1st lap” ! . Along the line we have had to unlearn the big company mindset which both me and Santosh had got used to and learn the quickly the world of start-ups . To not let the cat out of the bag , i would first talk about the changes which we have made to our business and then would  i would like to document some quick learning’s which i hope would be useful for startUp enthusiasts.

Business of Complaints -> Venting Platform -> Realtime Feedback for businesses

The title of this section lets it all away :). Yes we are no longer in the business of  handling complaints from consumers and we changed our primary business twice in the last 2.5 months !

Business of Complaints: After a month of working on consumer complaints we realised that people who are raising complaints on our platform are hoping to get a resolution by coming to our platform  and the only way we could have happy customers was to resolve their complaints.  The primary premise that companies would respond to negative publicity was not working even after we got 10s of complaints against a single company. This meant that in order to keep our user happy we had to follow up their complaints individually with the companies and soon we realised that the companies were  either too slow in responding to followup from our side or were not approachable because no one person was responsible for complaint handling in the company  . At the same time we met a top-tier VC who advised us that this business is not scale able due to the fact that we need to  hire more employees to followup on complaints to scale up which means that we did not meet the criteria of scale-able businesses. The investors are looking for scale-able businesses to invest  so we decided to move on and try to pivot into another area.

Venting Platform : The venting platform or rather a platform where we could say anything about any product or place was our next idea. The basic premise of this business idea was to provide a platform which is different from FB and Twitter (friends and followers) where i could say anything i wanted to say about a place or product to other consumers who have been to the same place or have used the product. In simple words if you had a great experience about place or product you want to not only share it with your friend but would also love to interact with other people who have had the same experience.

Before executing this idea  we made analysis of what makes a successful B2C product like instagram <Find out the secret sauce of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Foursquare>  and then started to chart our features of our product and also started to work on the product. During this time we met another investor who gave us some insights into B2C business which we did not have earlier . The point made by him was that  the Indian market  is too premature to make a product like this as the user base in India is too low and asked  us not to get carried away by numbers like 100 million internet users in India . He bought out a prospective that even a super successful business like Flipkart has only 2 million consumers only thus we have very low real internet savvy users  and to make a successful B2C product supported by only ad revenue  we need 10 million users or more (FourSquare is still struggling with 20 million subscribers with no revenue model in sight after 5 years). The message was simple this is a long haul game with no investor appetite in India and weaning investor appetite globally and hence not something that 1 st time entrepreneurs should try. We were glad to get this advice as it bought us back to reality and asked us to focus on a problem which can be monetised quickly.

Realtime Consumer Feedback:  During our study of the venting business we realized that there are other problems which we could tackle headon . One of the most obvious ones which struck us was that the businesses don’t have an easy way to understand the pulse of consumers and hence look at many proxies like mystery shoppers , feedback forms (who fills those still !!) , CSAT survey and what not. But still we figured that the forms of gathering feedback are not effective either because they are cumbersome for consumer (e.g  feedback forms) or miss the moment of truth in an experience because they are not gathered then and there !.  This gave birth to our next idea “Realtime Business feedback”. The experience which the user has had is often expressed in a single sentence e.g “The Cafe latte at CCD was super” or “The toilet at Shopper’s stop sucks , will never come back”. The companies don’t ever get to hear such feedback because they don’t make the effort to capture such feedback simply because the tools used by them are not meant for this sort of feedback . Normally a company would give the consumer a feedback form which had loads of unnecessary details in it or could make a CSAT call a week later by when it is probably too late.  This is the need which we want to address and after some study we realised that any easy to use approach for this could be an in-store request to give feedback using an SMS ! . The appeal of SMS is simple as all we are asking the consumer to do is to summarize his experience in a single sentence in a medium he is already used to (SMS) and  that the feedback is captured then and there.  The feedback mechanism also allows businesses to react in real time as we are raise alerts based on the content of the text e.g In case the customer complaints about AC we can immediately alert the facilities manager of a store in realtime. Thus a business can gather feedback and react immediately to correct problems.

We are now working in full flow on this business idea by speaking to several businesses to validate the idea before starting our development. As of now we have started to develop our product which would take SMSes from end consumers and analyze the sentiment of the sentence (positive , negative , neutral). Apart from this we would use NLP (Natural Language processing)

This was a short summary of our journey as a start-up and boy it has been a wondeful exciting journey till date.

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