Nukul Upadhye, Avijit Ghatori and Nikita Mokhariwale did their schooling together in Indore and are friends in arms from more than a decade. Avijit went to IIT while Nukul and Nikita went to BITS Pilani for their graduation. The trio always had a knack of working together and they participated in many b-plan competitions while in college to validate their ideas. They also started their first startup called Opinions.h, a marketing firm while they were in their second year (had Foodiebay and BuyThePrice as customers) and they always knew they wouldn’t be stuck in a corporate job.
They moved on to work for a couple of years but were soon back together, along with a fourth member Kanica Jindal who had graduated from NIT Surathkal. The agenda was to take their previous idea a notch further. “It had become apparent to us that prime challenge of any e-commerce company was not to reach their customers, but to retain them,” says Nakul. Designing the customer retention strategy was the core of their offering with Opinions.h and realized that it was more meaningful to integrate the individual loyalty programs of all our clients than run them individually. Thus was born Againn in November 2012.
Againn is a coalition loyalty platform for eCommerce stores which allows the end user to earn and burn points at any of Againn’s merchant partners. “Loyalty programs need to be seen as integral part of retail industry and will grow hand in hand with retail. The existing loyalty programs fail to do the basic function itself. Till users do not actually do repeat shopping and redeem their points, the loyalty program does not make any sense. Existing stand alone and coalition loyalty platforms make the redemption process extremely unattractive and hence the average burn rate is really low,” believes the team at Againn.
Againn is trying to solve the problem by making the whole experience extremely simple for the end user and keeping the system very flexible. Based out of Bangalore, the company started as a pure rewards program and kept on adding features based on the feedback from end users and merchants. “As of now, we have around 20 paying clients and close to 8 other clients in the pipeline. The MOM increase in the number of registered users in close to 100%,” says Nukul.
Againn gets into a revenue-sharing model with merchants, wherein they charge a small percentage of transaction amount done through Againn. The charges differ substantially between earn and redemption cycles and are also based on the industry segment of the merchant partner. Againn doesn’t charge any setup or subscription fees. “The fact that we are actually put our own skin into it makes the merchant much more confident about our intention to put additional efforts to make the program work for each and every client,” says Nukul.
The team started up by raising a small amount from friends and family and has plans to quickly move to offline retail, for which they might raise funding. The team has firm faith in their vision to empower the retailers to delight their customers. “We grew up at a time when the nearby retailer would know his each and every customer personally. This really helped the retailers improve the customer service level. As the retail space got organized, the retailers lost this edge. We want Againn to enable retailers to serve each and every customer better by treating each customer individually and differently. With a robust loyalty program, retailers can regain this lost edge.”