Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Is Hampi Afraid Of The Internet? Here's The Dig Of 2017 From The Archaeological Site

A room in Gauthami Guest House, Hampi.
Right until you reach the road that leads down to the Hampi Bazaar, you'll have a signal on your phone. It magically disappears the minute you enter the streets of Hampi. But worry not, every guest house and restaurant in Hampi provides free WiFi and you'll never be disconnected, although sometimes when too many people are connected to the same network, it can get excruciatingly slow.

Nested in Bellary district in Karnataka, Hampi is the oyster of the former grandeur of the Vijayanagara Empire. Legend has it that when King Krishnadevaraya ruled, the kingdom was so prosperous that rubies were sold by weight in the same stone-paved marketplaces where hippie clothes and trinkets are sold today. A constantly popular destination for Russian tourists among others, local guest house owners claim that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Hampi has seen a sudden rise in the past three years.

Most of these guest house owners run their businesses out of their homes. These are small buildings with no more than half a dozen rooms to spare at a time. Auto rickshaw drivers who bring tourists from the closest railway station in Hospet convince them to stay at these guest houses. But ever since people began to book their stay online, most of these guest houses have been listed on at least one travel aggregator's platform. It gives them some security because they know their bookings in advance, but the downside is the high percentage they pay as a commission to these platforms.

When NowFloats set up the Digital Hampi campaign, everyone was keen on joining in. Yes, they wanted their own websites with a booking engine. Yes, they were tired of paying a commission. Yes, they ran a better guest house than the others and they deserved more customers.

In the absence of their owners, managers figure out how to set up their NowFloats site- using only the manual. 
The response was huge. In the first three days, everyone had heard about NowFloats and wanted to try it out. However, some people politely declined the offer. The reason was usually "I don't need my own website," which seemed counter-intuitive to their own market behaviour.

River Tungabadra flows through Hampi. It separates the main bazaar and temple from "the other side". On the other side of the river, there are larger guest houses, no temples, and a ready availability of non-vegetarian food. The area is largely exclusive for foreign tourists who are looking to "chill".

The first guest house you'll find on the other side of the river is run by Santosh (name changed) who immediately puts his hands up when he sees the NowFloats team in "Digital Hampi" T-shirts. "I can't go online," he says, and it's different from what other people said about not needing to go online. Santosh is hesitant and won't spend more than two minutes with the team. He leaves.

Needless to say, the response from the other side of the river is rather mixed. However, there is a single similarity in everyone's response- they would like to try NowFloats at least once. And that is how a conversation sparked when the team met Elango Pandian, a guest house owner on the other side of the river.

Elango explains why he "can't" have a website.
Even though Elango downloaded the NowFloats app and set up a site for his 70 room guest house (one of the largest in Hampi), he began by saying "But I can't have a website," as if it was a risk to be discovered. When pushed to speak, he reveals "All these properties might get bulldozed soon".

As it happens, the local business people and guest house owners in Hampi are at loggerheads with the government. This article from The Economic and Political Weekly (from two years ago) explains why the haphazard urbanization in Hampi is deemed a threat to the World Heritage Site, especially affecting the businesses in the area closest to the Virupaksha temple. Already, several large guest houses have been razed to the ground. The rest of them are fighting it out in the Supreme Court, and a decision is pending. This decision might very well backfire and bring these thriving, yet "illegal" constructions to the ground.

It seems rather counter-productive that on the one hand, the ministry of tourism is making every effort to boost traffic in places like Hampi, and on the other hand are trying to eliminate services that are helping tourists have a memorable time. Will the local economy really suffer in the cross-fire between preserving our archaeological heritage and protecting hundreds of small businesses? Or will the once-prosperous land of the Vijayanagar empire thrive again in the digital age?

Follow NowFloats on Facebook and Twitter to read more about the story, and to get latest updates. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Sultan Ko SEO Pasand Hai: Kukreja Ji Drops Bass With His Aluminium Business Online

Remember who sponsored Salman Khan in the blockbuster movie 'Sultan'? It may have slipped your notice but not that of the hundreds of fans who Googled "Kukreja Pressure Cookers" the minute they stopped whistling and clapping. As you can imagine, it landed on the site of one lucky Kukreja ji.

Sumit Kukreja is a smart businessman, He manufactures aluminium products and is based in Delhi. In order to be found by potential customers, he created an automated SEO enabled NowFloats website called aluminiumandsealants.com. For the sake of describing the multiple uses of his products, he used the phrase "Pressure Cookers" once. JUST ONCE. Who knew that it would change the course of his business so much?!

Perhaps the makers of 'Sultan' didn't run a Google search before they put "Kukreja Pressure Cookers" as Salman Khan's sponsors- and little did they know that it would land up in a real business!

Not everyone needs aluminium products in their daily lives. So usually, when he receives enquiries online, it's specifically for aluminium required for construction or other manufacturing needs. Imagine seeing a sudden spike in enquiries, that too for pressure cookers!

When the film 'Sultan' was released, Sumit Kukreja took a trip to Bangkok. When he returned to Delhi, he started receiving endless calls about pressure cookers! He was clueless about what was going on until one movie-goer advised him to refer to the film. Because of this hilarious incident, Sumit Kukreja ended up catching the movie that he may have otherwise missed due to his busy schedule. And now he's even considering expanding business into manufacturing pressure cookers- because why not? Perhaps Salman Khan will even endorse it.

There are 51 million SMEs in India and in all likelihood, Salman Khan cannot endorse all of them. Perhaps through his next hit film, he will end up picking another lucky winner. Until then, if anybody needs to become discoverable online, they must use Sumit Kureja's "Sultan of SEO". You can get your own automated SEO enables business website here.

Monday, 26 December 2016

"I Fell In Love On The Internet, And With The Internet": How Orkut Changed Kannan's Life

When Kannan's grandmother died, his mother received an inheritance of twenty thousand rupees. The first of four siblings, Kannan was one of the few in his family to finish college and had taken the monumental step of enrolling into MBA. So the money was used to buy him a desktop computer.

Kannan's father, a tea shop owner, had always put his children's education first. The only time Kannan saw his father cry helplessly was when Kannan had to help him with a task as simple as filling up a bank challan. Even through several academic stumbles, Kannan was motivated to make something of himself, and in 2009, he entered the magical world of the internet with his first Gmail ID. 

You know what they say about young adults on the internet- they "waste a lot of time". And they are never prepared to face the side effects of social media. Kannan was not very different on that count. When a friend introduced Kannan to Orkut, Kannan sent out a bunch of friend requests to everyone, a whole lot of whom were girls, and one who would turn out to be the love of his life. 

12 July 2009

Kannan remembers this day with such clarity. The girl he had sent a friend request to, did not accept it, but spoke to him over messages. Eventually, they decided to chat over GTalk. They hadn't seen each other, but they were engrossed in their conversation. As they got to know each other, something bloomed beneath the surface. On 12th July, she told him something that he never imagined would hear from her- "I love you." It was a two-way street. Kannan had found his Neethu. 

When Kannan gave his phone number to her, she mulled over it and promised to call him some time. But when she did, both Kannan's internet and his cell phone stopped working temporarily. Trust network connectivity to give up at the wrong time! Imagine having told a man that she loves him, but not being able to reach him right afterwards? It was the beginning of a long list of hiccups that Kannan remembers fondly, only for their high Drama Quotient!

1 January 2010

A minute after midnight, when people still hadn't caught their breath from screaming "Happy New Year!" among themselves, Kannan's inbox rung up an attachment that left him in deafening silence. It was a picture- Neethu had sent him a picture of herself and some of her friends. "Find me," she had teased. And Kannan was left staring at every face in the picture, trying to find the one the voice in his heart belonged to. 

(He did find it... Eventually!)

8 May 2010

A little shy of "Ja Simran, Ja", this day was straight out of a Bollywood romance. Neethu had just finished her exams and was longing to meet Kannan. While she was in Kerala, Kannan was in Chennai. Kannan had said "Maybe you should come visit," which, to everyone's shock, Neethu took seriously. 

Without letting anyone know, she boarded a train to Chennai. And off she went. 

Back at Neethu's place, her entire family turned the world upside down trying to find her. It wasn't until they snooped through her mailbox (and read every single message she had ever sent to Kannan), did they reach out to him and told him that she must be on her way. 

At 5 am on 8th May, Kannan received Neethu at the railway station, and sat with her until her father came to pick her up. When he met her father, he said to him "Your daughter will be 18 in a couple of months, I'll come for her then."

But it took Kannan over a year to convince both families, and then they were engaged in 2011. 

The beginning of the next leg

Kannan was adamant about building a house before he married Neethu. Even though it was early days in his career, he didn't shy away from taking a sizeable bank loan to build the most loving 4 bedroom house in his hometown in Kerala. It meant that he had to wait another year and a half to marry the love of his life, but he pulled through. 

On 26th December 2012, he finally married Neethu. Today, their drama days are done, and they're a full house:

The NowFloats family would like to wish this lovely couple a very Happy Anniversary. They discovered their love online, even though they only wanted to live it offline. It's just the way we do things around here!

And for Kannan, he's not done falling in love yet. He has a life-long tryst with both his wife and the internet. He deliberately chooses to work in the area that he does- enabling everyone with the internet, because he knows how it can change one's life for the better. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

We Just Crossed 100 Alliance Partners And This Story Was Completely Meant To Be!

When Pradeep Singh Thakur was combing through Facebook in search of potential Alliance Partners for NowFloats, he had no idea he was about to score the century for our team. He eventually got in touch with Digital Prologic Services Pvt. Ltd. only to be told that they were trying to get in touch with him, too!

Digital Prologic Services, being in the business of optimising Digital Marketing methods for businesses, was looking for partners to serve their customers better. What better than a platform like NowFloats who could easily put businesses online and bring them foot traffic to their stores?

When Pradeep Thakur met Bhaskar Saragadam of Digital Prologic, they were discussing the partnership instantly. Needless to say, it didn't take them much time to shake hands on the deal. If the story seemed simple so far, hold your breath, it's only the half of it!

It was the end of the month, by the time we transacted on the partnership. Pradeep was back in Digital Prologic's office. Just when documents were changing hands, he happened to meet their director, Mr Krishna Reddy.

Imagine Pradeep's surprise when he was greeted by Mr Reddy with a big smile and a booming "Pradeep Singh Thakur, is that really you?"

Turns out, Pradeep and Mr Reddy were classmates in college, and after all these years, they discovered each other through work again. It's almost as though it was meant to happen, especially on our 100th Alliance Partnership!
But in the wise words of Nitin Jain, our co-founder, "We have arrived at the Basecamp of our conquest. And there is a steep climb ahead." 

We're ready and super-charged to make our double century really soon!

Monday, 12 December 2016

How To Easily Create A Successful Omni-Channel Strategy For Your Small Business

Image Source 

In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in the consumer behaviour from bricks to clicks. One of the biggest challenges faced by physical stores today is the competition from e-commerce websites. An online presence for a business acts as a powerful marketing and communication tool, an incredibly cost-efficient platform, and a standard requirement today.

A dynamic web presence strengthens your business strategy, but the physical aspects of retail marketing cannot be overlooked. Multichannel marketing uses a variety of touchpoints to interact with customers (the web, social media, physical stores) and focuses on maximising the individual performance of each platform. But, omni-channel retailing involves operating your business across different channels and establishing a perfect sync between both online and offline platforms to provide a seamless shopping experience for the buyers. It ensures that the customers receive the same consistent, interconnected and personalised experience across different platforms .

'Omni-channel' and 'multi-channel'- most of the marketers coin these terms interchangeably,  though there is a distinct difference between the two. If your business delivers solutions  through multiple channels, you need to figure out which approach suits you the best.

I already have a multi-channel plan, what difference will omni-channel make?

Most businesses realise the importance of investing in the multi-channel experience. They have a business website, a company blog, and an active social media presence in addition to their local stores to engage with customers. However, in most cases, the customers still lack a smooth experience across each of these channels.

With the emergence of predictive analytics, organisations are keeping track of consumer preferences and their search history to offer customised results and a consistent brand experience across channels. Insights gained through building a continuous connect on social media, and using customer information and feedback obtained from physical stores contribute to creating the most effective marketing campaigns and collaterals. Omni-channel strategy, if executed efficiently, can prove to be extremely fruitful in improving brand value, enhancing customer base and boosting revenues.

If you have an omni-channel strategy which incorporates local stores, NowFloats is a great option for executing the online part of the strategy through discovery of the local inventory - be it for walk-ins or an online purchase from the local store website.
NowFloats is an award-winning location-based platform that helps brands
▪ Be more visible on search engines
▪ Drive relevant traffic to your local franchisees
▪ Track & analyse online consumer behaviour

Here's what some NowFloats users gained:

Naturals, a pioneer in the Indian beauty & hair salon industry, chose NowFloats for optimising their online presence. We delivered 8.74% of their total web traffic.
Fastrack is India's largest youth fashion brand with a snazzy collection of bags, watches and more. Their belief in NowFloats drove 12,84,023 visitors to their sites.
Bayer Network is a group of India's premium Pest Control Professionals. NowFloats buzzed 11,71,807 visitors to their sites.

Some of the other enterprise customers that have successfully established an online presence as a part of their omnichannel strategy through the NowFloats solution include Samsung, Asian Paints, IndusInd Bank, Canon, ColorPlus, and Ezone.
A successful omnichannel strategy caters to the functional and emotional needs of the customers while simultaneously building a cohesive brand presence for your business.
This post was authored by Nikita Kumari.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

We Put Over 2.5 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 2.5 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.