It is an undeniable fact that the Internet is one of the most cost-effective enablers for reaching a broader and much more diverse audience. However, only 5% of the 47 million small and medium businesses in India have a Web presence. And one of them, NowFloats, hopes to increase the online presence of Indian small businesses by making it simpler to create websites.
And the good news for most small businesses is – it just takes a couple of SMSs (short message services).
Not all small businesses in India have a website or Internet connection, but all of them have a mobile connection. It is this pervasive technology that NowFloats will be using to bridge the gap and help businesses use the Internet for increasing their bottom line.
There are about 900 million mobile users in India and the rapid growth of mobile and wireless connections is seeing increasing adoption of the Internet. The number of web users in India reached 176 million in 2012.
Web and mobile users are increasingly depending on the Internet and services like JustDial to search for services, businesses or deals relevant to their location. NowFloats provides location-tagged websites which make it easier for people to find businesses or deals relevant to their location. It also offers a mobile app for Android and Windows smartphones that enables users to discover businesses or get deals based on their location.
Businesses can even use SMS to update their website and NowFloat’s patent pending technology ensures that these messages rank higher on the search results of popular search engines. The company maintains that a website will be created within 13 minutes of receiving a couple of SMSs. This innovative service has been adopted by more than 2,000 small businesses.
NowFloats also helps businesses connect with their customers and increase brand loyalty. For customers subscribing to a business and the news update service, all messages that the business sends to update their website can also be sent directly to their customers.
NowFloats, based in Hyderabad, India, was co-founded by Jasminder Singh Gulati, Ronak Kumar Samantaray, Nitin Jain, and Neeraj Sabharwal. While Jasminder, Ronak, and Nitin were ex-Microsoft colleagues, Neeraj was associated as the creative/advertising person for many campaigns at Microsoft. Jasminder and Nitin met Ronak at a TEDx conference and since they were all working on similar problems, they got together. Within two months, Neeraj joined them as the Chief Experience Officer.
The initial focus for NowFloats was to build an application for finding all establishments such as deals, events etc relevant to a location. The app would also have ‘floats’ or thoughts about a location that a user could share. However, the main challenge they encountered was that the basic information about establishments required for making such an application work was hardly available and highly unstructured. To fill this gap, the founders undertook a new mission to enable all businesses to create and update their website – through mobile and SMS, without a computer.
There are quite a few companies that help small businesses create websites in a self-service mode, including Google and GoDaddy. Companies like BuildBazaar, Shopify and Shopnix help create eCommerce stores. However, having a computer is a basic requirement with these platforms, a compulsion that NowFloats aims to eliminate.
All Small Businesses Can Have a Small Business Website
NowFloats hopes to make the process of website creating and updating so simple and accessible that all small businesses would be able to have a Web presence. A Web presence is the first step that a business needs to take before it sets up an eCommerce store or sees any of the other advantages like broader customer base, broader, cheaper advertising reach and higher revenue that web-enabled businesses typically enjoy.
NowFloats has recently raised its first round of funding from Mumbai Angels, Blume Ventures and a few individual investors. It has also been selected by the Israel Foreign Ministry and TiE Delhi as the Indian entry for a startup global competition, “Start Tel Aviv Competition” in Israel in October this year.
The company is also working with large enterprises interested in acquiring large numbers of small business customers – mobile carriers and mobile handset vendors, for example – as possible channel partners.
NowFloats now has a big job ahead – getting 47 million Indian small businesses online.
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