Wednesday, 30 November 2016

We Put 2.3 Lakh Businesses Online. Now Imagine What They Can Do Together!

One small click for your business, a giant leap for our economy!

The Oxford English Dictionary didn't include Bazaar in its pages without a good reason. Take a moment to think of the buzz, the sights and smells, and the sound of delight when you find exactly what you were looking for. There are so many such bazaars in India, and everyday, hazaars of cash changes hands. Right there is the pulse of our economy, in the stores of millions of small business owners. But it's unfair to say that all of them are in a marketplace. 

Some of them have beautiful little shops, some have shops in different places in the city, some have workshops that make products to put in our houses and vehicles. You might not buy a toolkit as often as you buy milk, but you definitely wish you knew where to buy spanners when the kitchen tap starts leaking. 

This is why NowFloats aims to put every small business online, no matter what they do, because they deserve to be discovered easily in their location, amongst their customers. And in the past four years, we have put over 2.3 lakh such small and medium businesses online! 

As we see our growing community of small business owners, we see the immense potential of all that they can achieve if they join hands. These yellow dots on the map are more than just data points- these are real people with real businesses, who are growing bigger everyday. 

That is why, we're introducing NowFloats CONNECT- an event exclusively for NowFloats customers, so that they can meet each other and our team to strengthen our relationship and help us serve you better. This time around, we're hosting this event in Delhi at our office in Connaught Place!

We're eager to see you on the 3rd of December, at 6.30 pm in AWFIS Coworking. To register for the event, click here. Together, let's make small businesses even bigger! 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Salutations From NowFloats, Not!

We always had this unwritten constitution for the culture at NowFloats- chill, be a geek, and own your work. We have no hierarchy whatsoever, and there are shouting matches with a man known as the 'CEO' that end in beers and happy tears. We're also a company that Tweets more than hitting 'Reply All' on e-mail chains.

Just last night, two of our co-founders had a sly conversation on Twitter that went something like this:

We recently had Vivek Naithani join us as the Head of HR, and he's been our favourite man since Day Zero. Vivek being Vivek, sent us all this e-mail first thing this morning:

Oh man, there it was. Whenever someone did call another person 'Sir' or 'Ma'am', it was mostly sarcastic/ironic. But what to do, jee? We've been growing so big, so soon that we're now a company of 500 people (that's 350 more than what we were this time last year!). Now people are actually taking this 'Sir/Jee/Boss' business seriously. 

It's become important for us to articulate everything in order to be the NowFloats that we are. Our Employee Handbook is a 40+ page delight that I enjoyed reading more than Confessions of a Shopaholic. I love a company that can tell me in writing that if I don't have fun, I have no business being at work. 

The percentage of young people at NowFloats is higher than the percentage of young people in our country. That is fact. And we'd look like a British Sitcom if we start Yes Sir-ing each other around. 

I can count the number of old(er) people in the company on my fingertips. They're lovable mentor figures whom we hold in very high esteem. It would be so easy for them to become parent-like in their positions and take a little liberty with us while having conversations. But no. 

The minute Vivek sent out the 'No Sir' e-mail this morning, Nitin, our other co-founder shot back a reply that went something like this:

It's one thing for employees to love their company, and a completely different thing for employees to feel loved in the company. I know we constantly behave like cool people who are probably fist-bumping each other at work, but secretly, we also want to eat ice-cream together and be a family. 

Work is fun, not just because it's intellectually stimulating or personally gratifying. Work is fun because the workplace is also fun. We're dropping the charade of formality and kicking ass as usual. 

No sir. No jee. Here's a high-five from NowFloats. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Demonetization Woes? Not For This Indelible Ink Manufacturer Who's Winning The Internet!

Yesterday, a Citi Bank manager who had procured Indelible Ink markers took a closer look at them before running a Google search on the manufacturer. When the manager found Alpha Chemika online, he was shocked to learn that he had paid twice the amount of money for the Indelible Ink markers by buying them through a middle man. 

Mr. Tanmay Mahajan is the CEO of Alpha Chemika, a manufacturer of Silver Nitrate among many other chemicals. The demand for Silver Nitrate has gone through the roof since the government demonetized currency, and banks are being asked to mark customers with indelible ink to keep a check on repeat withdrawals. Indelible Ink markers contain Silver Nitrate, a chemical that cannot be removed even by the toughest of acids.

And all of a sudden, Mr. Tanmay Mahajan's orders skyrocketed.

Without wasting any time, his first response was to update all his online channels to publicize that he sold Indelible Ink markers. Mr. Mahajan had always ensured that Alpha Chemika has a strong online presence, including having a NowFloats site. He left no stone unturned in making sure that he was discoverable as the seller of Indelible Ink markers on all platforms across the internet.

Less than a day ago, he received an order for TEN THOUSAND units for a requirement from the Reserve Bank of India itself! However, that order was being catered to by a third party supplier that RBI was no doubt paying a premium for.

In the meanwhile, Alpha Chemika was receiving direct orders from individual banks and post office branches for smaller order sizes. While a typical bank orders 30-50 units and a post office orders around 50-100 units, one small branch of State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur in Kolkata ordered only ten markers at the same time when the huge order of ten thousand markers arrived- Alpha Chemika will be shipping both overnight, at the same price per unit.

Each marker can ink over 500 people, and Mr. Mahajan believes that he should make them as easily available as possible, because the smaller branches should not have to pay twice the amount of money it costs by trying to procure them via offline channels.

Alpha Chemika is prepared to ship any order size, at the same flat price.

Big players like PayTM make have benefited from the demonetization move overnight, but the future of our economy was always going to be on the internet. Alpha Chemika proves that by making a timely use of the opportunity and stepping up online, instead of letting their customers succumb to the steep prices charged by middlemen.

Write this down in Indelible Ink: Every business is going to become bigger online. Our duty to this country is to innovate until it becomes easy for every entrepreneur, small or big, to have a meaningful online presence. And if you want that Indelible Ink marker, you know what to Google :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Changing UX Of India

Jugaad- this nation's greatest flaw. We built this skill from scratch, polishing tired apples with wax so they would sell better, putting on a helmet only at traffic signals so that CCTV cameras wouldn't catch you, pushing money under the table to get a greedily designed housing plan approved. And then we took this DNA and applied it to all the other things that came our way. We bought dual SIM phones to recharge only the best plan available, we Quikr'd our profits, and cash-backed every rupee we spent online.

WhatsApp was never meant to be used to sell your fish before your fishing boat reached the shore. Neither was Google Translate meant to help a 14 year-old learn Spanish just so he could communicate with his tourist customers. But this is what we did as the Digital Desh- we took our tendency to jugaad and turned it into beautiful innovation. The animal of ingenuity seared its way right through the heart of India. Long before the world realized that emoji had to come in every skin colour, Indians claimed technology however it suited them. And these were not just the perfectly pouting selfie taking urban girls, these were everyone from Soya bean farmers in Madhya Pradesh to carpet weavers in Rajasthan.

This is Digital Desh, and you're free to pick an Instagram filter to see it the way you want. 

Inside the Internet of India, one is promised a treasure chest of surprises and guaranteed goosebumps. When adapting to technology is coded in our genes, the least we can do is write good code for India. We're on our Nth wave of innovation, but we finally have a name for it- Digital Desh. And the UX of India is a canvas that is pliable to our imaginations. India can be whatever you want it to be. This is the true historic moment of our future, and you're part of it. Abhi, isi waqt. 

Right now, you can download an app and make your own website and float online meaningfully. You can benefit from a foxy piece of technology to appear your best to every visitor on your webspace. You can be an internet participant in every language. Even as we speak, the intellectual troops are rallying to make finance, healthcare, and education products for Bharat. We have never been so extroverted with our Geek Quotient. Newton on steroids couldn't beat us at this. 

It's more important now, than ever, to both consume and innovate technology and play by our own rules. But a conscious decision has to be made on our part to be proactive in the Internet Premier League, because if you don't pad up now, India Won't Wait. 


Jasminder Singh Gulati, CEO NowFloats will be speaking at HostingCon on 17th November, 2016 at 4.40 pm. Dive into the Internet of India with Digital Desh by NowFloats and Kitsune. Register for HostingCon here.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Our DNA Desires To Be Inclusive (A Children's Day Story)

Chacha Nehru's birthday wish was to celebrate children, and in India, we have done so since the time we can remember. November 14th turns out to be that day of the year when you wear the brightest clothes to school and wrap your fingers around hard-boiled candy. You could even coax your parents into buying you something new- usually a book or a box of colour pencils. That was back then.

Children's Day has evolved into a different kind of celebration these days. It has permeated into more spaces- tempting sales splashed everywhere, dentists offering checkups for milk teeth, and even Google Doodles made by your average 10-year old.

We at NowFloats also marked the day off on our calendars to spend time with children. We usually talk about getting small businesses online and worry about digital literacy. We fret about making technology so easy to use that it becomes naturally inclusive for the masses. But today, we took the same concerns and went offline with it.

To DESIRE Society in Miyapur, Hyderabad- to be precise.
Once upon a time, there was an epidemic in the country and thousands of people were infected by HIV. These people then had children. Unfortunately, society judged these families so harshly that parents abandoned these kids out of stigma, some just didn't have the right homes for a happy childhood they deserved, and others were orphaned. India now has about 110,000 HIV-infected children.

This is why DESIRE Society was formed- to give these children a happy and safe place to grow up in, get an education, get proper medical attention, and be rehabilitated socially. Team NowFloats spent Children's Day with them to bring them back into the folds of our love, not as the "rest of society", but as people.

We gave them the Children's Day we enjoyed in our childhood- stuffing them with sweets, and flooding them with colourful school supplies and toys. For the 'older' children, we also slipped in health and care products.

Most of these children spoke Telugu, but there was no doubt about what they were saying- their dreams were large, and their love for life larger. It reflects in the easy way they break into song and dance, or the thirst in their eyes when you, as an adult, tell them something new.

We can ask ourselves over and over again- what can we do for children? And whatever we think of is never going to be enough. Because the children do more for us than we can even imagine or perceive. Every child is special, because when they look you in the eye, you know that the future is a beautiful place. Give each child the ability to hold that future with confidence, because you will do so sooner or later. Slowly and slowly, the river must meet the ocean:

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Four Fresh Ideas, Same Great Product: Say Hello To The New And Improved NowFloats Boost App.

This time last week, the Dev team decided to have a Hackathon over the weekend- at the drop of a hat- as if there wasn't enough to do already. But their aim was clear- we now have more customers and more data than ever. There was something better we could do with it. So they sat down from Friday and worked through Monday, saw something new and put it to action immediately. When Surabhi Verma visited from the Delhi office, this is what she saw:

I walk in to Hyderabad office hoping to meet my all my old colleagues only to find a handful loitering about like zombies and as I am greeting them, I notice a body submerged in a hoodie, passed out on the Dev table. Dead to the world. That's when I realize a Hackathon is in progress and people have been working, willingly, for four days straight. Their ideas are great and their dedication to the project, admirable. 

At 3.30 pm, the rest of the office is asked to stop everything they're doing and gather around. 

The geeks were ready to show us what they had done. They had teamed off into four groups and this is what they made:

Team SubEngage wants to engage with the existing subscriber base better. While they have many ideas (loyalty rewards, discounts, etc.) on increasing this base, the one they have deep dived into is increasing engagement by auto-creating a newsletter based on latest products/updates. 

Barring a few easily workable limitations such as lack of awareness of the merchant and increasing spam, this could increase the value of updates. Receiving individual updates is rather annoying and not always useful. This feature could add more value to the customer by sending regular capsule information.

WildFire Facebook: Using existing images from the merchant's site, creating Facebook ads from templates, running demo, throwing back analysis and THEN asking them to pay to continue. Fantastic auto-sell idea, instead of theoretically explaining the product we show them results. This would lower customer acquisition cost and effort tremendously. Finally 'what's my RoI' question is thrown out of the window! They bravely posted their presentation live, even before they showed us their demo. Here's the link

DubHacks shows an attractive graph of site sense tags, allowing the merchant to see keyword density of their site and compare the keywords to the top performing sites locally. While this may not seem big, it will make data consumable for the merchant. Most of our merchant are SMBs who do not understand site sense tags, this graphical representation will allow them to enrich their own content. If our system can use this data and throw back analysis at the merchant, especially around competitors, this can be a strong selling point. Businesses always need their competitor's data.

Team HookUp consisting of NF's eligible bachelors, HookUp uses existing business data from the merchants' sites, finding that business on other forums and retrieving content to suggest uodates automatically. Whoa, stalker alert! But if they are stalking correctly, this could be big. It will help the merchants solve content problems and consolidate data. Managing all online identities is one of the major pain points, and if executed intelligently this can be explosive. Imagine all relevant data syncing. Essentially what Google Now/ NowCards does with all it's products, NF can do for all it's customers. 

These are not ideas but live features in our product. All thought of, reworked, coded, designed, shipped in 3 days! Just 3 days!! I'm speechless. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Brick and Mortar or Click and Order - What should be the ideal go-to-market strategy?

As of 2016, the world has over 3.4 billion internet users and owing to an ongoing wave of global digitalization, half of the world’s population will be online by 2018. Out of the 400 million Indian internet users, 98% of the connected population use the internet to shop. Consumers across the world are attracted towards the ease of shopping and the comfort of doorstep delivery. Amazon Prime offers unlimited free One-Day and Two-Day Delivery from India’s largest online store on eligible items to over a hundred cities. The varied range of promotions and payment flexibility persuade the user to make an online purchase even though they do not have a clear intent of doing so.

Having an offline retail store guarantees physical discovery to your business, but a strong online presence goes a long way in strengthening your marketing strategy. Despite the tremendous growth of e-commerce industry, there is a significant proportion of the population who prefer shopping offline for the sake of an in-store experience. These set of consumers appreciate the ability to verify the quality of products and their availability in real-time.

Setting up a traditional store requires a hefty investment, and on the other hand, selling online is comparatively cheaper, though the seller is unnecessarily burdened with packaging and shipping charges of undelivered or returned items. Furthermore, 78% consumers research online before purchasing any product offline. Consumers tend to be apprehensive about the existence of a business if they don’t find it online. What could ideally have been a revenue making source for the business is now no longer even a prospect.

Online or Offline - Do You Need to Choose?

Both online and offline mediums have their unique significance. Ignoring any of the two channels could have fatal repercussions. Perhaps you don’t need to choose at all! Both clicks and bricks have their fair share of pros and cons, but a clever amalgamation leads to an efficient business strategy.

The New Buzz in Business - Bricks AND Clicks

Successful retail marketers are opting towards a customized integration of bricks and clicks by going the omnichannel way. Omnichannel retailing provides a seamless customer experience by incorporating both the physical and virtual platforms. A multi-chain retail store may allow customers to choose products from the store and get it delivered at their doorstep, or order online and pick it up at their nearest outlet. Lenskart, a leading eyewear e-tailer, is rapidly boosting its physical discovery by setting up offline stores. These integrations are aimed intensifying brand value and popularity through convenience and increased customer satisfaction.

Organizations are now going an extra mile by providing customized and tailored services to consumers. Smytten, an online discovery platform for premium fashion products and services, offers free trials and addresses two major pain points at one go - discovery and try-before-you-buy.

Digital Desh aims at exploring ‘Inside the Internet of India’ through unravelling exactly how the Tier 3 and 4 cities are using technology in their everyday lives. Kusum Malik, a talented perfumed water manufacture nestled in the gorgeous Udaipur, has readily used the internet to grow her business. She started her shop with INR 2000, now makes INR 20,000 a month just from online queries.

Kusum Malik from Udaipur, Rajasthan. Picture by Ishaan Gupta from Digital Desh Drive 2.0.

Reaching out to potential customers, communicating and collaborating with them to provide a satisfying experience promotes the sustainability of any business. Businesses aspiring to succeed must synchronize bricks and clicks to produce prolific results.

Written by:
Nikita Kumari