Reinventing start-ups: Innovating for the Covid-19 era

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Published: May 20, 2020 5:30:19 AM

Chennai-based Inthree Access Services was founded in 2013 on the belief that rural India is more than willing to buy branded white goods.

To emerge relatively unscathed, these start-ups have to reinvent themselves. To emerge relatively unscathed, these start-ups have to reinvent themselves.

Many start-ups that were looking forward to 2020 with optimism are now facing some seriously uncertain times. Downsizing and closures have already begun. To emerge relatively unscathed, these start-ups have to reinvent themselves. Some of their business models have lost relevance.

Bengaluru-based MyGate, launched in 2016, is a platform that provides security management services for gated communities. Residents can use the app to communicate with neighbours, discuss matters on forums, manage visitors, maintain attendance record and salary payments of daily help, discover services and pay maintenance bills, among other things. These communities are beehives of activities. Abhishek Kumar, co-founder & COO, says, “We are a VC-backed company and have been growing rapidly year after year.”

After the lockdown, very few people can either go in or come out of the gates of these huge complexes. The app is not needed at the moment. The company has figured out a way to help residents of these communities and also expand its activities. “MyGate is collaborating with various service providers to restore essential services for residents. We started identifying the pressing needs of our gated communities, and are using our multi-city workforce to find feasible partnerships across the board”, says Kumar.

The start-up has collaborated with Grofers and ITC. It has also partnered with Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo and Licious to offer contactless deliveries, and has tied up with telemedicine companies to provide free consultation from home. MyGate is the tech partner for the Karnataka State Police’s Clear Pass, which issues curfew passes. So far, over 1,85,000 curfew passes have been given to 30,000 essential service providers for critical travel during the lockdown.

Another service it provides is the delivery of news. Over 3,00,000 app users access at least one of the 17 newspapers (with 50 regional editions to choose from) on offer. Users spend 6:08 minutes reading news on the website. MyGate hopes to add more services, they have not monetised any yet.

Hyderabad-based Ozonetel, founded in 2007, is a pioneer in providing on-demand cloud communication services in India. The solutions are KooKoo CloudAgent and KooKoo Interactive Assistant. Chaitanya Chokkareddy, CIO, says, “These solutions are perfect for companies looking to shift work to home as Covid-19 has triggered the world’s largest work-from-home (WFH) experiment. However, not all jobs can be executed at home. For instance, is it possible for call centres to switch to a WFH model?”

Keeping this in mind, Ozonetel is offering cloud-based solutions to its clients to switch to a WFH model easily. Cloud telephony moves your business phone system to the cloud, allowing you to manage your business calls without compromising on quality and cost. With the help of the offline mode, companies can temporarily switch their call centres to a WFH model. This can be executed without compromising on security and privacy concerns of businesses.

Chokkareddy explains, “BigBasket is one of our clients. Delivery boys can move around. Agents gather the information from call centres, which are shut. Now, with our server, it is being done from home. The number of calls to call centres hasn’t come down.”

“We are the first company to establish a call centre on the cloud. We were ahead of the US”, he adds. Set up by three technocrats returning from the US, with no backers, Ozonetel has quietly grown by client recommendations and word-of-mouth publicity.

GoFrugal, a Chennai-based SaaS company promoted by Kumar Vembu, has decided to help kirana stores. Vembu says, “As the country battles Covid-19, neighbourhood stores have emerged true heroes by being there for consumers during the crisis. To stand by them, we are offering free subscription of our bundled solutions till September 30.”

These will help set up online ordering and a delivery management app. With OrderEasy, retailers can set up an exclusive branded Android app. Orders are automatically processed, making it easier for retailers to measure and improve service capability.

The GoDeliver app provides retailers with a platform to manage deliveries efficiently. It gives complete control to retailers by streamlining deliveries, sharing the most optimum routes with their delivery staff, tracking delivery, location and even rescheduling or cancelling. Retailers find managing the logistics of delivery easier and efficient and can serve more orders than usual.

Vembu says that in the last 4-5 years a lot of these neighbourhood shops have become supermarkets. They are, however, still small and social distancing is not possible, and customers cannot go inside. In this period, shops are open only for a few hours. By receiving orders through WhatsApp, shopkeepers are able to serve better.

GoFrugal has 30,000 customers across 70 countries. Of these, 6,000-plus are kirana stores. The company has seen a 30% rise in customers since lockdown, receiving an average of eight requests per day, and have on-boarded more than 220 customers.

Chennai-based Inthree Access Services was founded in 2013 on the belief that rural India is more than willing to buy branded white goods. It pioneered the concept of assisted commerce in rural space with Boonbox. “People don’t understand that rural customers are aspirational and they have disposable income to buy consumer products,” said Ramachandran Ramanathan, CEO, and one of the three founders, a few months ago.

“We believe this is a great opportunity to go beyond consumption commerce and work on the larger rural ecosystem,” he says. Boonbox will tie-up with small farmers, SHGs and retailers via a digital platform.

“The post-Covid-19 scenario is a great time to accelerate digitisation in rural areas; that could be the single catalyst to a more prosperous rural ecosystem. Considering that all elements of the ecosystem are already prevalent across most of India, but in silos, Boonbox will be the integrator of the ecosystem,” adds Ramanathan.

Those that are nimble and innovative will emerge as survivors and winners.

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