“Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon. All I want is having you. And music, music, music”. These lyrics from Teresa Brewer’s timeless song makes one long for old Hollywood diners and rusty jukeboxes where you could insert a penny in the machine to play your date’s favourite song and twirl around the floor as if the world were your very own. Flash forward to twenty first century India where “moojicians” Neha Behani and Kumaran Mahendran have come up with a unique concept of interactive music which ensures that customers will be able to play the music of their choice, with a tap on their smartphones, wherever they are hanging out.
With a keen desire to launch a start up in the mobile space, the founders of Moojic were blessed in their choice of mentor- Archana Patchirajan, co-founder of MyCityWay and Hubbl (Hubbl was acquired by Airpush for 15 Million Dollars last year). Guided by her, they quit their jobs and started on their dreams. At the inception, they had a team of three people and combined savings of ten lakhs. Moojic’s success story was preceded by tales of two consecutive failed products that had quite discouraged the young entrepreneurs. But a chance idea sparked in a café lead to the creation of Moojic and with this they seem to have hit the jackpot.
What is Moojic all about?
Moojic is an In-store radio service for restaurants, cafes, salons, bars, gyms and other retail outlets. What is unique about our offering is the jukebox like functionality which allows customers to interact with the playlists at the locations that have signed up with us. Imagine sitting at a bar with friends and being able to play a song that you actually like. All of this from your smartphone and for free! Feel like singing along and don’t seem to remember the lyrics, just open up the app and view the lyrics to keep singing! Or sit and listen to your favourite songs while you are getting a pedicure done at a salon!
What inspired you to launch Moojic?
Neha Behani and I (Kumaran Mahendran) quit our jobs in 2011 to start a mobile advertising network. We have always been interested in the convergence of Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) and we quit to build an advertising network that would deliver relevant and local ads. This needed the participation of local merchants (Cafe owners, restaurant owners etc) as building up a hyper-local ecosystem would be incomplete without them! We spent a good one year walking in and out of restaurants, cafes and bars trying to explain how our product would help them to bring in more customers. We however realized that merchants were really difficult to get on board. And we realized people wouldn’t continue using LBS Apps.
After dabbling with two products in two years, we were at a Cafe early for a meeting and the people we were meeting landed up a little late. That gave us some time to think. We looked around to see what we could do to keep ourselves engaged. It was then that we thought of the jukebox of yester-year!
We landed up grabbing a bunch of napkins and mapping out our idea! We then walked around and spoke to all the customers siting in that cafe (At least the ones who entertained us) and asked them if they would use a mobile app that allowed them to play their favourite songs while they were at the cafe! We got some pretty exciting feedback and we were charged once again. It does get difficult to keep one charged up after two failed products. We had our first prototype in about two months – customers could send an SMS from their phone to play the song they wanted to listen to. They would select the song from a physical catalogue. We were however in parallel working on the mobile application as well that would bring the catalogue into the phone! And we realized that Moojic got people talking to us! The merchants who would not understand our earlier products would get Moojic in a couple of minutes! They loved the way people could interact with their playlists! After two years of talking to merchants and hear rejections, with Moojic we got invited into merchant locations!
What problem does Moojic solve?
Moojic allows us to fill the most essential component of the SoLoMo ecosystem that we are trying to build – the local merchants. For our customers, the local merchants – we allow them to use their existing audio system to create a personalized in-store radio channel for themselves. They can communicate with their customers by passing radio like advertisements through our platform. They can play welcome messages, their own radio like jingles and get customers to sign up for their loyalty programs or just let customers know of on-going deals and events! Also their patrons can now take control of their experience. Our platform allows customers to crowdsource the mood of the place! Walking into a bar at 6pm on a Thursday and the same time on a Friday could be two completely different experiences. Our smart player automatically adjusts the experience on the basis of the people sitting in the outlet!
Going forward, we will open up our platform of merchants to Brands and bring in-store advertising as well!
How big is your market?
Moojic basically fits into any place that plays music – This includes restaurants, cafes, salons, bars, gyms, malls, retail stores etc! Taking major Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, we believe there are more than 1 Million outlets that we can get into. We also have our solution available at various price points to suit any outlet.
We believe that Location Based mobile applications will only be successful when there is a real world connect. The mobile app user needs to be gratified in the real world for him to want to continue engaging with a location aware mobile application! With Moojic, it’s not just about checking into locations but one can actually see (Listen to) the effect of making a selection on his or her mobile phone. This we believe is essential as a business model revolves around SoLoMo.
What were your challenges initially? How did you tackle them? Please give examples. Also tell us some of the hurdles you see before you today.
Our initial challenges with the ecosystem have been to get them on board! Many merchants are averse to technology (Beyond a POS service) and even many others are wary of anyone saying anything that sounds close to a “Deal based model”. With Moojic, it’s been considerably easier for us. We have more than 350 outlets today on Moojic and are growing at a great pace!
Other hurdles we faced was with the red tape around the Music industry and content. Our original business plan was to deliver content through our network! We spoke to labels and licensing bodies to understand how to get about doing the same. It was in one of our meetings with a senior person at one of the largest music labels when he pointed out to us that to make our model work, we needn’t start out with content! We build a platform for owners to manage their existing content. Once our network scales, it would make sense to speak to labels for content licensing deals. Hence, Moojic doesn’t work with content and the responsibility for content lies with the restaurant owner.
Who are your competitors, and how are you different from others in the same space?
Other competitors who do something very similar to us are the other in-store radio providers for retail outlets. We are however very different in the sense that we allow outlets to build their own in-store radio. They can customize everything from the songs they are playing to the jingles and ads they want to play in-store!
We would rather put ourselves in the same industry where other technology products are looking to get in-store. Be it restaurant reservation products or menu listings apps, we would like to put ourselves in the same space!
Tell us about the core team behind Moojic.
Neha Behani, co-founder, COO and CMO, graduated with an MBA from the Asian Institute of Management, Philippines in 2009. She completed her Bachelors in Business Management from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore and was working as a Product Manager with HP in Singapore post her MBA. She quit her job to work with a location based app called MyCityWay before Kumaran and she started Adonta Mobility Solutions Pvt. Ltd in Mumbai. Neha has a lot of experience in Branding and Marketing and her interests lies in Product Management and has a keen interest in figuring out new and engaging channels for brands to connect with consumers. A tough lady to deal with when it comes to Operations, she’s sometimes referred to as the Dragon Lady at Moojic.
Kumaran Mahendran, co-founder and CEO, graduated with an MBA from Asian Institute of Management, Philippines in 2009. Neha and Kumaran were classmates and it was during their MBA that they got interested in the field of technology and wanted to launch a start up with ideas in the mobile space. Kumaran is an engineer from College of Engineering Guindy, Chennai (Anna University). He was one of the founding members of a media start up based out of the Philippines. After a year, the start up folded and then he worked with Sutherland Global Services in their Global Strategy team after which he quit to start Adonta Mobility Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Gautam Verma, CTO, graduated with a B.Tech in Computer Science and Technology from the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Jabalpur. He is a passionate programmer and is a keen problem solver. In fact, his list of hobbies shows programming right on top! He worked with another start up for two years before joining the team at Moojic!
How have you been funding your start up? Are you looking for funding currently? What stage are you at presently?
We initially bootstrapped with our savings of 10 lakhs. We raised an Angel round of investment from investors that include Rajan Anandan, Managing Director, Google India. Moojic is also proud to be part of 10,000 start-ups! We are currently in the process of raising a Pre-Series A round of investment and are in talks with investors for the same. We are looking to close this round in the next few months.
Operationally, we have crossed 350 stores and are present in more than eight cities. Sixty per cent of our customer base is however in Mumbai now and we are looking to increase our presence in other cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Pune. Our team size is ten today. We are however looking to ramp up our team in the next few months as well! So those of you out there looking to join a really cool start up (Music plays 24×7 in our office), do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We are looking for passionate programmers, Sales folks and basically anyone who are looking to find a place to fit into at Moojic!
How do you see your start up evolving in the coming days?
Moojic is looking to create the largest real world advertising network in the country. In effect, we will have a radio network that allows brands to target customers via radio like advertising coupled with in-app based notifications as well. This in effect turns into a revenue channel for merchants as well. We are also looking to expand into other South East Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
We are also excited to see the launch of our new product, to be revealed in the next few weeks. We are also on the verge of launching Moojic for home use.