You pick your lazy self up on a Sunday evening to visit your favourite café down the road for a quick cup of free rejuvenating coffee but to your horror you forgot the free coupon back in your jeans pocket that now lies in a pile of freshly washed and ironed clothes. The disappointment and despair felt at that moment is worse than a day without internet. Wouldn’t it be great if even this problem was solved by our smarter-than –we-are smartphones? To save us from this ordeal Shiladitya and Priyo brainstormed together to give us ‘Pointshelf’, a mobile application that saves us the extra effort required to carefully stack our loyalty cards. Here’s an excerpt of a chat with the Cofounder of this smart application.
How did the name ‘Pointshelf’ come to be?
Priyo and I used to keep discussing ideas about starting up for almost a year before the idea actually settled to build something in the loyalty space. The name itself came up after we tossed around a whole lot of words related to the loyalty industry but we always knew we wanted something that wasn’t difficult to understand as we wanted it to be simple and recognizable and since we were talking about how we would help users collect points from all their favourite places and have multiple cards stacked in the app (as books on a shelf) this name was a winner!
Could you shed some light on Pointshelf?
Pointshelf is a mobile-based loyalty app that helps users to collect rewards from local small businesses that they visit more often than the large retail stores or other places which have loyalty cards and complex programs. This app helps them get points (in the form of stamps on a virtual card) for even the smallest of purchases. The uniqueness of the product is that it is a platform for the small businesses also who can set up their program in minutes and manage users from our cloud-based dashboard without the need for any paper/plastic cards or software to be installed at their counters.
What motivated this startup?
The main motivation was the fact that almost all of us living in cities such as Mumbai and other urban areas often visit a lot of local places like coffee shops, cafes and salons a lot more regularly than we go to large retail outlets or take flights or check into hotels, where loyalty cards and loyalty programs usually show up as a main feature.
So we wanted to help small businesses by creating a simple program where they could connect with their loyal customers just with the help of phones and not burden them with paper or plastic cards which people have to carry.
Has Pointshelf got the feedback and growth you expected since the launch?
We have received a lot of praise for our idea and implementation and also for our design and that’s been more than what we expected. We’ve also got requests from users to launch the product outside Mumbai and we’ve seen respectable growth and adoption from our small business merchants as well. Our growth has been great on Android in the first 6 months and after launching it on the iPhone, our growth has doubled.
How do you plan to monetize Pointshelf?
We are planning to monetize the product when it reaches a critical mass of users so that it is worthwhile for vendors to pay to connect with their loyal customers in better ways. We will be driving value by helping merchants to understand their existing customers and also drive new ones by using our platform and integrating with social media and some new in-store marketing plans we have.
We are also expanding to more cities in India such as Bangalore and Pune as well as planning our international launch in Dubai, where we will be able to monetize the service much more effectively.
Have you had any failures and what did you learn from them?
We have had initial struggles with growing and the small business industry especially in the F&B space is full of a lot of inefficiencies in staff and other problems so not every owner understands the benefits of technology like ours or is able to give the time required to encourage users to download the app, but we are making inroads in helping them in many ways and they really appreciate that. We are also constantly evolving the product to better suit the feedback we have received from merchants and users and are launching a new and better version after almost every three months.
How different is Pointshelf from its competitors?
Pointshelf competes with a lot of loyalty technology products in India and abroad and while many outside the country do follow the same method, currently we are the only app in India to provide a platform for both businesses and users in such an easy way. We are different because of our user experience and the way our apps are designed. We are also completely mobile based.
Five years down the line, where do you see Pointshelf?
We plan to build Pointshelf into a much more comprehensive platform to help merchants understand their brand, communicate and engage with their users and provide users with relevant and genuinely deserving rewards from their favourite places, at the right time and place. We are enhancing our product to be much more intelligent in understanding user patterns and their purchasing habits so that it can reward them better. We are also looking at expanding into more interfaces such as tablets which will introduce a lot more options for both merchants and users.
Ultimately we would like to expand into the mobile-payments space as well where users can easily complete any purchase at the store by just using their phone and don’t have to carry cash or credit cards which would lead to convenient ordering, no queues at cash counters and so much more.
What advice would you like to give to other young entrepreneurs?
I always advise people to focus on something they believe passionately in and hence are inherently good at. If you do something you like doing, you will surely become good at it and know a lot more about that domain than anyone else in your peer group. Keep trying to find out a lot more about all the problems you see around you and try to solve them, see where you hit a wall or if you can do something better than the status quo as only then will you have the drive and conviction needed to be a successful entrepreneur.
You need to be confident and not be bogged down by setbacks or even competition for that matter. Your competitor might seem better but you need to focus on the strengths you have.
Can you convince the reader to start using Pointshelf in under 50 words?
If you’re in Mumbai with an Android or iOS smartphone and want to save money on every coffee, every cupcake or even your monthly haircut just by using an app on your phone – Pointshelf is a must have for you!
Do visit Pointshelf and let us know about your views on this startup!