Ex Goldman Sachs analyst relocates to India to start FRILP – a trusted way of discovering local services and shops

All of us tend to trust recommendations made by our friends and people in our networks when compared to reviews from anonymous sources. Be it a doctor for your mom or a music teacher for your kid, or even things like a nice little eat out place.(we  ask our friends and people we know to beat the hassle & the risk of disappointment. Online yellow pages like JustDial, Sulekha (in India) and Yelp in US help consumers to discover plethora of vendors with reviews & ratings from individuals whose authenticity, preferences/tastes you have no idea about. However, discovering reliable trusted businesses through word of mouth recommendation is a very tedious task. Why can’t there be a quick and easy way of discovering recommendations on local shops & services from across our trusted sources, i.e. our Facebook friends, Linkedin connections, phonebook contacts, etc.

Here comes Chennai based FRILP- which is an application focused on connecting users with local services & businesses through recommendations from friends and colleagues. Frilp primarily enables you to reduce the time and effort it takes for you to discover that one trusted business which you can go ahead and confidently use. It helps people in discovering and sharing valuable information from within their own network. From the business owners’ perspective, Frilp helps the 40 million SMEs and consumer facing businesses to get an online presence when they are recommended by their happy customers. This creates a trusted channel that enables businesses to acquire prospective customers/footfalls through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Frilp_Team

Story of Frilp’s evolution & people behind it

Shyam decided to quit Goldman Sachs New York, to return to India with the intention to start something of his own. In the process of relocating and setting up his home with a 6 month old, he went through the routine ordeals of anyone who moves to a new city and had to look for an entire ecosystem of vendors: carpenter, paediatrician, music-tutor, invertor-guy, home-furniture shop, gym, massage centre etc.

When making decisions purely based on sponsored listings and newspaper ads he had had multiple bad experiences with the service providers and shops. In the end, for most of his needs he ended up reaching out to multiple friends, colleagues manually over facebook messages, emails, corporate bulletin boards & SMS/phone calls, to figure out the right local businesses & services for his needs. This was the pain point that led Shyam and his team to quit their well-paid jobs and start Frilp.

Frilp has an active set of advisors out of which Dr Ashish Goel, Stanford-associate professor of computer science advises them on the algorithm side, while Girish Mathrubootham, CEO, Freshdesk works with them on marketing and user-acquisition. Frilp’s algorithm that identifies and creates meaningful groups out of your facebook friends won them IIM Ahmedabad’s iAccelerator incubation in January 2013. The startup also released a web application integrating the algorithm to identify right folks within your network whom you can ask and get recommendations for your specific local needs. Frilp is currently in beta and is being piloted in Chennai.

Major features

Frilp, is an INVITE only application on web and mobile and just like how Quora and Facebook opened only for select colleges and companies, at present, it is available only for employees of a select set of companies. “Frilp is a tool built on top of facebook social graph and Google maps, so you don’t need to invite or add friends. One can simply login using Facebook and if they are part of the 50 companies or colleges supported, they get instant access and can start using the application’” says Shyam.

Frilp's-screenshot

Once the user logs in, Frilp allows the user to search and browse through shops & services recommended by his/her facebook friends and gmail contacts. When the information is not available on search, Frilp suggests you a small group within your facebook friends and colleagues with reasoning as to why they will mostly have the information you are looking for and prompts you to post them a private question seeking their recommendation.

Traction

“The product was piloted with select people from 5 out of the 50 communities (companies & colleges) & campaigns were run for seeding data across Chennai in July-Aug 2013,” adds Shyam. So far over thousand people have registered, out of which many posted their needs & asked for recommendation by tagging their friends/colleagues not only for essential services like Doctor, Music classes but also for lifestyle needs like clothing stores, stitching places, hangout spots, cafes and restaurants. “Over the 2 month of this pilot & seeding experiment, 786 real business recommendations were added to Frilp. This is plotted on a map with real user names, profile pictures, their company which they are associated with and ‘why they recommend’ text,”. Frilp has been recently recognized by the Kauffman foundation as one of the Global Top 50 innovative-high-potential early-stage-start-ups.

Road Ahead

Like how Facebook is the best tool for social sharing, Quora is the best tool for general Question & Answers, Frilp aspires to become the best tool for exchanging & discovering word of mouth recommendations on local businesses. “We realize for Frilp to be successful, a good product and awesome user-experience alone will not be enough. We need to get the data seeding strategy & operations right in each city and each of the 50 companies/colleges that Frilp currently supports,” says Shyam.

Frilp is currently working on its Android application and preparing its launch for Bangalore in Q1 2014. Frilp plans to extend to 10 cities in India and quickly pilot in Singapore over the next 1 year period. Want to try out Frilp check out here.