Monday, 24 October 2016

Deliver the right solution to the right people - Go the local way!

Successful businesses meet user expectations through appropriate placement of relevant results. Brand loyalty among potential customers is intensified through local discovery, which acts as a distinct leverage in terms of accessibility.  Achieving a steady customer base through location-based marketing is profoundly impactful in the long run.

Unravelling Local Discovery
  • Better Search Engine Visibility: Google loves generating personalized results. Your Google account records your geographic location and search history to display relevant results. Here, locally optimized businesses win the game.
  • Growth of Mobile and Wearable Devices: The advent of smartphones has revolutionised the way people use the internet. While the share of mobile-only users in the US alone has climbed over to 11.3 percent, the desktop-only population has drastically declined to just 10.6 percent in 2015. The shift in consumer behaviour needs to be embraced and acted upon judiciously. With the emergence of GPS-enabled devices such as Apple Watch and Samsung Gear, location-based discovery is truly indispensable.
  • Cost-Effective and Accurate: Unlike other advertising mediums, there is a high return on investment in location-based marketing because local people reach to local businesses only when they need them. Make sure you are available to the customers looking out for you at the right time.
  • Cut-Throat Competition: With the sudden spurt in the number of product and service based companies, it is quite tough to survive the brutal market competition. Local SEO enables better search engine visibility and thus guarantees more customers for your business.

Up Your Local SEO Game!
  • Boost your Visibility: Create an awareness among prospective customers through a compelling online presence. Ensure that you are updating accurate business information across all social media platforms.
  • Go Mobile: With a large proportion of customers shifting towards mobile, businesses need to realize the importance of mobile integration. Meet the mobile user expectations by correctly placing messages and notifications and designing a user-friendly interface.
  • Generate Positive Reviews: Word of mouth convinces people across the globe. 92% of the consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. Generating positive reviews by loyal customers help businesses witness an influx of potential customers.
  • Optimize your Content: Frequent business updates on the web enables better discovery among potential customers. Make sure you are designing content which is relevant to your business.

NowFloats enables businesses to get more customers through geographically tagged location specific Search Engine Optimization which facilitates an impactful online presence. RIA, or Relationship Intelligence Agent, is a NowFloats automated solution that helps businesses stay connected with customers through minimal manual intervention.

Organizations opting for Search Engine Optimization witness a significant surge in their revenues. Geographically-tagged businesses exhibit an increased level of customer satisfaction. Local SEO is a sound investment as the output generated plays a pivotal role in the growth of your business.

Written by:
Nikita Kumari

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Building Dreams Beyond Incentives: The Force That We Call 'Sales'

As a company that aims to make small businesses bigger, NowFloats finds entrepreneurs and business-people from all walks of life, who are finding unique ways to grow. There are people who find joy in making and selling sweets, and there are others who have depended on the distribution network they built to sell car batteries, counting on it as a source of income for generations. There are millions of businesses that range from livestock to LED lighting, but the dreams are the same- to be able to buy that family car or send the children to a better school.

Being a company where Sales Personnel outnumber anyone else by at least 1:4, we realize the importance of how much trust our customers place on knowing each individual in order to buy our product. In achieving this, each sales person becomes a small business of their own, within the NowFloats family.

Not just because it's the norm, but also because we acknowledge how much the sales team drives us, that we love celebrating their achievements. I remember when some of us were at the NowFloats Kochi office headed by Kannan Kutty. As we huddled as a team and white-boarded away, Sathesh Kohli, who usually just shares very clear directives for sales broke his flow of thought mid-way and said "You know, everyone in this office should be able to buy a car really soon."

The statement had no direct correlation to the sales strategy we were just discussing, but Mr. Kohli was looking at the situation on a deeper and more personal level. We had just spoken to a very happy customer that day, who was talking about how his medical equipment distribution had caught international audience through NowFloats. We knew that the hard work that they were putting in was resulting in immense profit to several small businesses, but our own sales force was too humble to acknowledge the impact they were capable of creating.

Curiously enough, we've been giving out incentives since forever and everyone's relatively quiet about it. Last month, we started a little something called the "NowFloats Sales Awards". For the second time now, we've given out 'Hercules' and 'Atlas' awards to our top performing sales people. And the minute we handed it out to everyone, Twitter exploded with celebration.

It's heartwarming to see the Gujarat team celebrating their huge success, whereas their team led by Vijendra Singh have always been outperforming themselves. All it took was one white-black-yellow sheet of paper and a video conference with all our offices across the country. By calling them 'Hercules' and 'Atlas', we're probably close to describing how much strength they truly possess.

As we speak, there are people in every state out in the sun, or calling up people, talking in every language of the country, on a mission to get more small businesses online. We just want them to know that they're unmatched.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Break The Discount Model Or Break-Even? How To Make Buying And Selling Online In India An Effortless Endeavour.

Without an Amazon flood of cashflow, e-commerce sites in India are basically Robin Hoods, taking away from their investors and feeding the market with dreams of discounted smartphones. But on the 4k full HD LED TV in your living room, you might not notice that it makes nobody profitable.

There are now thousands of sellers in the e-tail space, reaching out to more customers across India and generating sweet revenue. But there are millions of other small businesses who could do the same- 51 million SMEs in India across all verticals, to be precise.

While sellers enjoy profits on an e-tail aggregation platform, the aggregator themselves suffer losses. The fact that all their finances are directed at attracting shoppers to buy online, convincing more sellers to join in, and bear the crippling costs of shipping returned goods is only half the story.

The other half sounds a lot like what Abhishek Bansal has to say:

Photo by Ishaan Gupta, for Digital Desh Drive
When aggregators are marketing so hard, what's stopping the SMEs from going online? If the threats of sellers backing out throws any light, it would be that handling customers can indeed be very tricky.

ATKearney came up with this comprehensive report that might need some deconstruction, but here are some key highlights:

1. Let the customer be gratified as soon as possible

So what if they can't touch and feel the product, at least make sure they know exactly when their purchase will arrive. Same day deliveries are cool too.

2. Help the customer trust you with money

Cash on Delivery is easily a favourite payment method because it both gives the customer the power to reject the product at their doorstep and eliminates the 3-5 days' time to process a refund. People like their money. Make people like you too.

3. Super-pack inventory

One of the biggest reasons why people shop online is because of the variety of products they're able to access in a single place. There's an algorithm that sorts it out and presents it to the user, instead of them having to wander from shop to shop looking for the right product at a price they like. Let every player make their goods available at the palm of every shopper.

4. Deactivate Discounts

There are currently 50 million online shoppers in India, and it is projected to grow to 175 million by 2020. That is still a tiny number considering that there will be about 317 million mobile internet users in India by 2017.  There are ways to make online shopping preferable and desirable for customers without having to make SMEs fight for their share of visibility or reduce their margins.

5. The SMEs must go online anyway

Consider this: A shopper goes online to look for something (say, schoolbags). They run a Google search that lead them to a page with a list of schoolbag sellers. The seller with a bigger inventory and a lower price point is on top of the list and more visible to the customer, than the one who is a smaller player and owns one shop in the local market. The local players must not lose out in the end.

If every small business had their own website and could be discovered locally, they could compete with search results featuring their aggregator and be more available locally. Online selling is not for the big fish alone. Selling online must be an equal opportunity exercise, just like pitching a stall in the Sunday market (but with less exhaustion). NowFloats does that for the small fish.

Busting crazy discounts could provide a big breakthrough in convincing the smaller SMEs to go online. They're losing out anyway, and realize the importance of being more accessible to the masses. If balancing the demand depends on how aggregators enhance the "Retail Therapy" experience, there must be a way for doing it without trimming away at margins. Let there be Profit. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

God's Own Countr-eee! How This Dentist In Kerala Is Making The World Smile :)

Back in 1965, going international meant going "foreign". But for Dr. K. T. Paulose, 1965 was the year to step up dental care in Kolenchery, Kerala. Over 50 years later, now they're truly international. Nechupadam Dental Clinics now offer Dental Tourism for people all over the world.

Dental Tourism, as part of the Medical Tourism sector, is a niche that a lot of countries want to tap into. The Europeans would call it a "Dental vacay", and why not? Things that happen inside your mouth don't necessarily affect how you go about exploring a new place. Cut to Kochi, to the very tech-savvy Nechupadam clinic. The proactive Dr. Thomas Paulose, who now runs the Kochi clinic has equal expertise in new media and dentistry. Unlike other dentists who manage to somehow scare you through their perfect smiles, Dr. Thomas has very disarming charm. Like he says, he's a Doctor and an Engineer, who is ultimately an Artist- because smiles are designed.

People from about 34 countries have come down to Kerala to be treated at Nechupadam. It's not only more cost-effective for them, they also get to experience the magic of Kerala. How did Dr. Thomas go international? The answer lies in the power of Digital Media. Dr. Thomas loves the way the internet instantly connects him to his patients. Patients find him from every corner of the world, and a Skype session decides what treatment they need, and before they arrive at Kerala, their holiday is charted out for them. Here's what Dr. Thomas has to say about the value of SEO to his operations:

Kerala is as humid as it is beautiful, and finishing off one course of prawn curry will leave you breathless. But Nechupadam helps people do it all with a spectacular smile. After all, it's God's Own Countr-eee!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Prevention or Cure? How Will Google Pixel Impact Internet In India.

Mr. Yogesh Tiwari, school teacher at Mandu, Madhya Pradesh. Picture from Digital Desh Drive.

Here's how India works. If, say a school teacher in rural Madhya Pradesh (in picture) wants to buy a laptop, he will first take a hardware course and then make his purchase because there is nobody else in the vicinity to troubleshoot problems for him. Every small village will hopefully have one geeky 20-something who sets up Google accounts for everyone so that they can use their smartphones. And God help if they accidentally sign themselves out, nobody knows or remembers their login credentials and all their data is lost. In short, India has a Digital Literacy problem. And the internet is so relevant and necessary for rural India that you might as well teach adults how to use a smartphone while they learn how to read children's stories. But how likely is it for anyone to think of setting up "Mobile phone labs" like they did (and still struggle to do so) with "computer labs"? Exactly my point.

At the risk of excluding the rest of the world and their problems with basic digital access, I'm going to talk about what the launch of Google Pixel means for India (where there are already 236 million mobile internet users). There is patchy internet connection in all non-urban spaces, yet people own affordable smartphones, mostly the ones with multiple SIM card holders to switch between fickle networks. Reliance Jio has ambitiously stepped in to solve this problem, and is also distributing free SIM cards for which people are lining up around the block. To borrow from the adage, this is like feeding fish to the hungry man but not teaching him how to use the fishing rod. In the tech context, this means- TEACH people how to use the internet in the first place.

First, a few unnecessary words about Google Pixel's awesomeness (and for the necessary words, click here). Since nearly 10 out of 5 internet users always use Google search for finding everything on the web, it makes a little sense to package all of Google's products and services into every user's palm. Except, of course, you need to have at least INR 43,000 to procure it. It is a price many people are willing to pay, considering they're just as open to paying for iPhones. Pixel costs lesser, at least.

For the people who're inclined to compare the merits of iPhone and Pixel, please stop right there. Both phones are stuffed with features and look more lovely than Katrina Kaif in a dance number. The 'packaging' is brilliant and beyond the league of anybody's aesthetics. But let's look at the 'package' for a minute.

Google Pixel is not a phone that is a phone. Remember how we evolved from having cameras in our phones to using our phones to actually place calls?

Let's just say Pixel takes it a step further, with a little something called Google Assistant.

Yes, Siri is still smart and useful. But here's the difference- while other smartphones have a smart assistant in them, Pixel looks like a phone that was made just for the smart assistant to be. Pixel is the physical manifestation of today's kickass AI.

Before bloggers everywhere ruin Pixel for the world with their out of the box analyses, let me make a few obvious predictions. With the new Google Assistant, I no longer have to put on an accent to talk to my phone, because now it's supposed be far natural and easier to communicate with it. What's more, by the end of the year, Google Allo is all set to launch Hindi as a language for communication. It's not the most efficient solution for other regional language speakers, but it's a beginning.

Which brings me back to my point. At first, they put AI in the phone. Now, phones are the medium for AI. Is this "advanced technology" going to boggle internet users further, or eliminate their existing user problems? Do they have to know what 'YouTube' is in order to watch videos, or can they get away with hollering "video dikhao!" to their phones? 

The way Pixel works, it seems to be a good preventative measure, rather than a well thought out (and resource draining) cure. But what of its price? Well, today it might cost us an arm and a leg, but when I think of how my father bought his first Samsung flip phone and his latest Motorola smartphone at the same price over a ten year period, there's hope. After all, tech adoption is so much more demand driven today. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

How To Make Digital Marketing Work For Your Small Business Without Hiring More People For It

Before we started calling startups 'startups', India already had a great many number of bootstrapping SMEs- 51 million SMEs, to be exact. And NowFloats, in its aim to make all of them discoverable online, has found unusual stories from all corners of the country.

Take for example Yashveer from Pushkar, Rajasthan. He's only 18 years old. He lost his father at the age of 15. His father owned a small clothes shop that Yashveer had to manage. Despite doing that, he still went to school.
Read the full story here

How did he manage to do both? Yashveer had a solution outside of the physical marketplace he was in- he used Instagram to post his t-shirt designs and managed to attract more customers to his store. This makes us ask a very important question- is Yashveer the only Small Business Owner who can benefit from posting on various social platforms? All the 51 million small businesses can potentially do it- but there's just one problem.

In order to increase discoverability across multiple platforms, you'd have to make posts across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even your online listings like Justdial or IndiaMART. That means you copy-and-paste messages in at least 3-5 different platforms, that too after updating your original website. That itself is such a time consuming process that you want someone else to do it. 

Huge companies with swanky offices have a whole marketing team to do this for them- they'll write SEO content and add cute hashtags, and do this multiple times a day to stay relevant to customers. What should a local medical supplies distributor do (for example) to be at par with them, and not put in the crazy time and effort for it?

And that's why we added the Social Sharing feature on the NF Boost app and the Manage Portal to enable every SME owner to link their various social media and 3rd party accounts in one place and distribute their content updates in one go. No more jumping from one platform to another, no more "forgetting" to post updates on a different platform. And you can see how each of your posts is performing across various platforms, all in one place. 

Since launching the feature last month, there were about 3000 posts sent to Facebook from various users, and these posts alone reached about 1.4 million people! If each small business owner was to increase the number of their posts even by 1 a day, they'd manage to reach more than 500 people on the same day!

And let's say a Home Appliances showroom owner posts an update about the Dussera sale in his store, and reaches 500 people, even one person buying from his store would result in thousands of rupees in profit at the cost of... nothing! 

That easy!

Leveraging social media and 3rd party platforms to increase your reach can be very beneficial for your small business, but there is no reason why you should spend your precious time and energy making multiple updates of the same thing. NFX is your new marketing team, and it does it for you! Meanwhile, you can continue raising invoices in peace- Discovery beyond Search is finally here.

Friday, 30 September 2016

A Lover's View Of The Quarter End

There is a wall at NowFloats that I like to stare at, like a piece of art in the otherwise minimal-looking office. There is vector perfection everywhere except on this one wall, which is cluttered with words and emotion. There are pictures here that I can never imagine seeing live, very serious people caught at the exact moment when they're beaming about some little victory, messages about the company that remind us all that the work that we do multiplies into the world- it's all here in little black-and-white notes, connected by yellow arrow marks that lead you to the last memory, the next milestone.

When I look at this wall, an overwhelming sense of purpose fills me. There are places we have traveled to, people we have met, all in the pursuit of understanding our country's small businesses and excelling in our field. We'd like to go miles further and hopefully never sleep, but my eyes linger for a moment over a picture in which a customer made a multi-year subscription for NowFloats Lighthouse. We HAVE changed some fortunes and people believe in us. The yellow arrows lead me on to the moment when Ronak Samantray, one of the co-founders, was named in the Forbes Asia 30 Under 30 list. There was one idea, and so many rewards. 

While I continue to put myself in the company of Thinkers and Innovators, I wonder when, and more importantly how, these people became 'Doers'. I see the faces of the four co-founders smiling back at me. But I have my back to a whole room of people and I feel them staring at me- these guys are here for a reason. 

In an office where even the background noise wakes you up like a dose of coffee, standing in one place is a misplaced activity. I'm forced to peel my eyes away, and while I don't return to my desk, a pantry-run wouldn't be too conspicuous. 

I bump into Sameer Chhabra, the only person whose opinion I fear. He and I don't work together on anything and he's about the sweetest person I know, but my conscience prickles when I'm not being productive enough. I cleverly dodge my own train of thoughts- "What's the second thing on your mind?" I ask him. He opens and shuts his mouth a few times, like a fish. Then he points at his computer screen- "Look at all this data! The visualization is exciting!" he says. The spreadsheets and charts sprawled across his two screens reminds me distinctly about why people want to wake up when September ends. Whereas Sameer is permanently sleep-deprived. There's an additional quarter-end glaze in his eyes. 

"Is this really your thing?" I ask him. Without directly answering my question, he shows me yet another green coloured bar graph "But look how exciting this is! All these numbers..."

"So what, Sameer?" I ask "So what?" (I'm secretly glad I'm not the one doing these reports, at this point.)

Sameer looks like he's about to shoo me away and continue working, but he takes a deep breath instead. "You know how you enjoy watching a cricket match? Every ball is different, you may or may not be able to predict how the match ends and if your team can give good chase, but you're excited anyway. It's like that." 
"So, that's it?" I ask. This sounds a bit anti-climatic. "It excites you and then what? It doesn't give anything back to you!" 

"I love the data," Sameer states sagely "The data may not know that I love it, but I love it. Because..." he takes a deeper breath "Relationships cannot exist without expectations, but love can!" (which he quotes from his own blog, I tell you!).

The 'Sameer Sutra' mode is on!

Still, it takes a lot of bravery to call anything 'love'. And I think we can all agree that while we cannot define what 'love' really is, it's greater than affection, respect, and commitment put together. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And like a tubelight, I slowly realize what it means to us as a company. 

It doesn't matter that one person had a great idea and executed it. It doesn't matter that we work on our own little tasks that lie completely outside of the NowFloats app. It certainly doesn't matter to Sameer that he's colour-coding the month-end report. Because the magic of NowFloats happens in the gaps where one person's work ends and another person's work begins. All that matters is the Wall of NowFloats. It matters that an Exide battery dealer generates Rs. 1 lakh extra per month through his NowFloats site, that a doctor can reach out to his patients better and heal lives. And it matters that we put our moments on our walls just to remind ourselves that when we're done with our 'job' at NowFloats, we're still with our fellow humans. 

It's the 30th of September. The month is ending, the reports are shuttling between inboxes, but there isn't a single stressed face in the office. Ask anyone what's going on and they'll tell you what they have planned for next month, the next idea to be executed, how their job roles are evolving. It's another beginning, and we're falling in love to make small businesses bigger one more time.