1. Connecting offline SMB stores to online customers

Connecting offline SMB stores to online customers

With the euphoria around start-ups not receding anytime soon despite the hiccups in funding, entrepreneurial activities are springing up across the hinterland.

By: | Published: March 29, 2017 2:42 AM
Currently powering more than 2,40,000 websites of SMBs, NowFloats has recently closed a Series B funding of million via Iron Pillar and IIFL. (Reuters)

With the euphoria around start-ups not receding anytime soon despite the hiccups in funding, entrepreneurial activities are springing up across the hinterland. But the biggest challenge for any new business is to ensure a strong connect with prospective customers. NowFloats, a Hyderabad-based start-up, is helping small and medium businesses (SMB) in creating a strong online presence and enticing potential online customers to walk into their offline stores. Currently powering more than 2,40,000 websites of SMBs, NowFloats has recently closed a Series B funding of $10 million via Iron Pillar and IIFL.

NowFloats creates websites which are auto-SEO enabled, for SMBs. By messaging regularly, the website helps them get discovered by their potential customers based on location. “When people want to research something, they search for the product. When they have the intention of buying, they search within a location. We help companies build “local SEO” to ensure more customer walk-ins,” says Ronak Samantray, co-founder and chief software architect, NowFloats. The other three co-founders are Jasminder Singh Gulati (CEO), Nitin Jain (COO) and Neeraj Sabharwal (chief experience officer).

On the reach and market potential in the SMB sector, Samantray elucidates, “NowFloats currently caters to 2.5 lakh customers in 50 countries. It powers 2,40,605 websites of small and medium businesses which is about 32% of all enterprise-owned websites in India. These businesses have single or multiple stores and are using NowFloats to get discovered online. With a total of more than 51 million SMBs in India itself, we have a huge potential market right here.” NowFloats, which started in 2012, has recently started targetting SMBs in international locations, and in the last few months has developed partnerships in the Philippines, Europe and Turkey. “Our partners are some of the largest companies in their respective countries, who cater to the online requirements for SMBs in their region.

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We seek to keep this momentum on and grow business accordingly,” informs Samantray. The start-up uses machine learning and AI to improve the merchant’s website with relevant content. It has introduced RIA (Relationship Intelligence Agent) that represents a personal web consultant for every merchant. The tool creates custom recommendations and prompts for every merchant, which helps it update the right content and enhance SEOs. “Since we cater to a highly diverse client base, most of whom may not be familiar with building their SEO scores, these prompts become valuable in terms of aiding them to create their own unique content,” he explains.

After RIA implementation, NowFloats swiftly upgraded its platform to a technology called ‘Kitsune’ that has the ability to render different themes for one website, directed at different end users, depending upon the demographics and user behaviour. This leads to higher engagement on the merchant’s website, leading to higher sales/conversions. Kitsune is the first UX design language in the world. Talking about the business model and how the company generates revenue, Samantray explains, “Our focus is on SMBs across the country. When we have an SMB/merchant on our platform, it pays an annual subscription for our services. Many of our renewals are now being made for multiple years. Apart from this, we have alliance partners in India and internationally, who provide NowFloats as part of their services, based on a revenue sharing model.”

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NowFloats has recently closed a Series B funding of $10 million via Iron Pillar and IIFL (Seed Ventures Fund I and Cash Opportunities Fund), along with Blume Ventures and Omidyar Network, which had invested in the Series A round as well. The start-up plans to invest this capital primarily in customer support and engagement and increase the value proposition of the technology provided to SMBs. It will invest the capital to further improve the new technology stack that drives customer support — it would now be a hybrid of automated and human interaction support system.

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