Nitin CoFounder – NowFloats comes in with an MBA from ISB and was also the president of e-club at ISB and had worked with BirlaSoft and Intelligroup for around four years and learnt how to sell and finally worked with Microsoft for four years with portfolios ranging from Heading Delivery for MS Dynamics to being a BD head for ME for Microsoft services. The other three – Jasminder Ghulati – CEO had worked with Microsoft, CA and TCS for around 18 years and Ronak samantray – CTO had 4 years in Microsoft and Neeraj Sabharwal – CXO who is a non tech co founder specialises in UX and can design and write – Chief experience officer CXO, has earlier worked with Saatchi & Saatchi and with a few other media agencies.
With so much of information overdoes that is floating around us in the internet, the problem that people face is to get some information that is pertinent to them at that point in time. The four of them figured out that this is a large enough problem that people are trying to solve and decided to provide information as it happens now and hence the name of the product – NowFloats. The product was a mobile app that will aggregate pieces of information about the individual at that location in terms of the events this is happening around them, the businesses around them and the message they are trying to tell the individuals and what other people are talking about at that point in time. They devised an easy way to feed the information into the platform for people to see it. They had a tied up with MyDala to get the feeds and with MeraEvents for events to name a couple. With the key partnerships in place for the content, the founders began meeting the SME businesses to tell them on the importance of on-boarding the platform and also took a custom message on what they want to tell about their business to people and made them send this message as a SMS to a specific number which will get uploaded in both the website as well as the consumer app. They were surprised that the demand for the website was very high compared to what they thought it was because the joint benefits that the SME business got in going online with 4 SMS and in 2 minutes, maintaining the team without a technical team and getting discovered on the internet (they have an automated algorithm which captures the SMS message and configures those search parameters on the website) gave them lots of customer base.
This gave them a new dimension in their business. They realized that aggregation of information from SME and publishing their business on the internet is more valuable to make money than the consumer app and hence pivoted and focussed on SME business.) They started in Hyderabad with Founders meeting the shopkeepers and offered the product free to customers to find out if they are even willing to take the website product free and found out that the prospects saw the value. Some of the shopkeepers even began updating their website which was as a good indication of the markets interest. With this validation, they hired 2 sales people, zeroed in on a Srinagar colony in Hyderabad which had lots of SME retail outlets(Mom and Pop shops) having more of a B2C kind of a model. They spoke to the store owners and clarified that this was just not a web listing but their own website with .com extension and spoke about the benefits. They began to charge for the product when enough of free and paid customers began updating their website contents.
They white label their products to partners like Getit who brands it on their own. They also have Microsoft Africa as an alliance partner and they are ramping up two channels – Direct field sales and Alliances. Third channel is being contemplated to enterprise customers. Nitin talks about the brand FastTrack where he says that all these brands that have a retail outlet has powerful brands that are online but there is no online presence for each store which needs to be searched on google in todays marketplace. They give a quick online presence like a microsite on the company site powered by NowFloats. They now give tablets to their sales teams who walk into the stores and show their prospects of how going online will look like and will benefit them and are able to get customers.
Nitin’s advice to startup founders – Showing the product live to the customers is important to sales. The kind of feedback and innovation ideas that one gets is very different when shown live and having a SaaS product is easy to develop once and deploy instantly to all customers and the concept of on-going development of the product based on the customer feedback allows them to charge the customer 20 times more than what they were charging initially.
NowFloats(http://nowfloats.com/), currently has 90 employees in sales in six cities and boasts a customer base of 33000 SMEs(Combination of Alliance and Direct). They are testing the model of customers downloading the apps creating a website in the international market, Their friends and colleagues were the initial investors and they won the Microsoft BizSpark challenge which got them 13 lakhs and they were also roped into the 1st batch of Microsoft accelerators where they got a chance to meet Mumbai angels and Blume Ventures who gave them the first professional seed round and they started their operations in Hyderabad, Bangalore and in Delhi. They also received their next round – series A from Blume Ventures, Mumbai angels who invested and they are now in six cities. They were also in the Nasscom top 50 2014 and were ranked as the top 100 innovative companies by ‘Hot 100 Tech’ and Google awarded the best app in mobile category.