About Karan Chechani
I am Karan Chechani, Co-Founder at Hashtag Loyalty. I completed my graduation with a BE in Production Engineering from Dwarkadas J Sanghvi College of Engineering in Mumbai. Post graduation, I worked as a Research & Development Engineer at Godrej Appliances followed by a stint as a Selection & Development Associate at Teach For India.
When and How did you guys think about Hastag Loyalty?
Over the last decade what we are experiencing is a rapid depersonalization in the way businesses work. As our country has pushed for economic growth, the organized sector is growing rapidly YOY. There are thousands of businesses catering to crores of customers, but the businesses don’t know who these customers are. In this day and age where customers have multiple options available for their each need – viable business cannot afford to not know their customers. This is where the need for smart data arises for SMBs.
In India, SMBs are just realizing that if their customers suddenly stop coming, they wouldn’t know where to look for them. Today, even though organizations are growing and their sales are increasing, companies are in severe need of technologies and processes that manage their relationship with their customers. The importance of customer data cannot be stressed upon more. The faster the businesses adapt to the changing technology landscape and start leveraging data, the farther they will go to drive profitability in the future.
The Pareto principle where 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers holds true for almost all businesses. Yet the businesses do not focus much on retention. But how will they if they do not know who their customers are. Currently businesses lack affordable technology to successfully engage with their customers and their is a significant disconnect.
At the same time the entire loyalty ecosystem for consumers is chaotic and cluttered. Multiple registrations, multiple cards/apps, lack of awareness of “What is in it for me?” along with too many unnecessary conversations.
This is where we saw a need – the SMB market is a major driver of our economy. We wanted to develop an affordable product to change the way this industry approaches customer retention and acquisition. Our personal drive to actively impact a typically challenging SME industry is what drove us to form Hashtag Loyalty.
Please Introduce your Co-Founders and Team
I know my co-founders since a while now, I met Dhruv Dewan at DJ Sanghvi during my graduation. Dhruv worked with Ernst & Young in the IT Risk department on projects associated with Financial Services industry after completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology from DJ Sanghvi College of Engineering.
Krishi Fagwani has been a close friend since more than 2 decades. Prior to Hashtag Loyalty, Krishi worked with Ernst & Young in the IT Risk department on projects associated with Financial Services industry. Krishi’s experience prior to this includes time at Cisco Systems, internships at Accenture and Atlas Copco. Krishi has received Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Co-Incidentally, Dhruv and Krishi were working together at Ernst & Young in Mumbai.
Further our team includes Vibhoo Mishra & Nitesh Mishra our Technology Wizards, Avani Ashar who is our Sales & Development Associate and Rohan Moona who handles Social Media Marketing.
What does Hashtag Loyalty do?
Hashtag Loyalty is a digital universal loyalty program.
For consumers, we provide a universal platform that they can use to earn and redeem points at businesses everywhere they go through a fun and engaging user experience.
For businesses, we provide a customer powered loyalty program and robust marketing tool that helps them track customer activity and behavior, conduct targeting marketing activities, acquire new customers and bring back existing ones more often. Essentially we are providing businesses with technology that they otherwise would not have access to and are leveling the field with the enterprise businesses.
What makes us different?
We help turn every transaction to a relationship. We wanted to de-clutter the loyalty system for consumers and at the same time provide SMBs tools (that were otherwise extremely expensive to build) and at a minimal fee, leveling the playing ground with larger organizations.
The key to our business lies in the basic understanding of the SME market.
This market consists of individual entrepreneurs – both new and seasoned – learning the ropes of the game to survive the market or rapidly expanding on their success. They have their own set of challenges that they face on a daily basis. We are working backwards to understand the real challenges this market is facing and building affordable technology to aid and assist these entrepreneurs in their challenges.
Launched in March 2015, Hashtag Loyalty has seen a marvelous response from both businesses and consumers. Currently, live at 140+ locations in Mumbai, we have crossed 38,000 consumers who have used the product over 1,30,000 times to earn and redeem points across the city.
Current & Future plans:
Currently, we are live at 140+ outlets in Mumbai and cater to the F&B, Salon & Spa and Fitness industries. However, we are also entering the Entertainment and Retail industries as well as the E-commerce vertical over the next few weeks.
Our growth will be purely based on market saturation and we are looking to raise a seed stage investment to help us get to 1500 outlets across 3 Cities within a span of a year.
Immediate targets in order to achieve this goal are to setup a strong sales & operations team and add to our tech team to strengthen the technology infrastructure. We believe that a repeatable marketing and expansion strategy coupled with a no-lose proposition for SMBs will help us replicate the same in other cities in the future. Long term goal – is to scale to 7400 outlets across 8 cities over the next 3 years.
Hashtag Loyalty’s mission is to help small and medium sized businesses unlock the power of data, email, social and mobile marketing. We are working towards revolutionizing the in-store customer experience. Loyalty is just tip of the iceberg – with the amount of data being captured – the vision is to leverage this data to provide consumers & businesses recommendations and insights to make the right choice. At the same time the aim is to build a consumer facing brand – where consumers can get rewarded everywhere they go with a singular loyalty eco-system.
The Market: When we started we knew the primary challenge would be selling a complex solution (customer relationship management and retention solution) to a customer base (SMBs) that is notorious for being difficult to sell to, slow to adopt new technologies, and has an exceptionally limited wallet for new investments.
What we did to tackle this was build a very SMB friendly program that eliminated these and many other barriers to adoption that plague other technology startups in this channel. We provide an out-of-the-box solution for loyalty at affordable prices. For our beta period we also offered a free 45-days trial.
Here my advice would be to identify the challenges the market is facing and build your product around it. Stepping out into the market to understand the practicalities of it is of prime importance. An important lesson we’ve learnt is build your product 75% and leave the rest 25% to enable yourself to pivot and cope with any challenges you may face. Be bold and flexible.
As a founder it is important to maintain a balance between your emotions and professionalism. Your thoughts are bound to be occupied by your work 24/7 that is the passion and dedication that helps convert your idea into reality. But to further sustain it – involves finding the right balance. Your initial passion needs to be converted into a well-oiled machine that can help you grow from a seed to a successful plantation.
Our startup ecosystem is young and currently fragmented. To bring it together – people within this ecosystem and outside need to hear what’s happening and how companies are constantly innovating. This would lead to a highly informed and collaborative ecosystem. Collaboration will only lead to products and companies that are successful at disrupting the market and creating real value. VID is aiding and enabling such communication and collaboration. Congratulations and the best of luck to the team at VID.