!ntouch- a mobile retail symbioses
Capillaries are not just the blood vessels that support micro circulation in the human body; they also stand for something very different. In the retail sector Capillary stands for a mobile + retail symbiosis that has changed not just how effective brand loyalty can be but also created business for retailers while enhancing the shopping experience for consumers. With over 40+ brands using their“!ntouch” system in over 2500 stores, and more than 6 million consumers, Capillary Technologies definitely has a winner on their hands.
Aneesh and Krishna are the young entrepreneurs behind the “!ntouch” business idea from Capillary Technologies that has achieved this knockout combo. They attribute their incredible journey of ascension to “QPrize™"
"QPrize™" is an international competition sponsored by Qualcomm Ventures with prize money and opportunities worth over$750,000. "QPrize™" is designed to launch great ideas from entrepreneurs in the mobile and wireless space who strive to bring technology innovation to the global market place.
Yourstory found out how their entrepreneurial journey came about and how winning the "QPrize™" changed their entrepreneurial prospects from Krishna.
1) How would you describe what Capillary is and does to a newbie?
Capillary provides instant customer engagement solutions to retailers – replacing the unwieldy plastic cards with mobile numbers and adding instant gratification. This is backed by industry leading analytics and integrated campaigns, operational services and helps retailers increase their business substantially by using lower cost data driven marketing as compared to high cost advertising.
2) How is !ntouch different from other CRM solutions?
!nTouch has instant analytics features. For instance, if you purchased two shirts from a premium collection from a store but no matching trouser, an offer on the right trouser can come to your phone immediately as soon as you bill. Since most customers are in two minds about some items, we have seen impulse purchase being tipped by giving small offers – it’s great for the retailers since it increases their business in the customer’s current visit and for the customers, since they get some benefits right away rather than carrying points that most of us don’t remember about.
3) How did the business idea for !ntouch come about?
!nTouch was borne mostly out of our understanding of retailers. When we had started Capillary, we had many other ideas around bringing retail and mobile together. As we met with many retailers with our initial prototypes and ideas, we started to understand that existing forms of customer engagement were very archaic and didn’t really work for retailers. That’s when we decided to start building a platform from scratch that is real time and uses a lot of analytics.
4) How did you find your partner and decide what sector to go into?
Both Aneesh and I know each other since we were together at IIT Kharagpur, in fact, we were wingmates! I went on to work for two years at Microsoft Research where I worked on multiple fields including software verification, search, collaboration etc. Aneesh worked with ITC and towards the end of 2008, when we got bitten by the startup bug, and blue-eyed jumped into entrepreneurship with the mobile + retail sector in mind.
5) Has the !nTouch concept found takers in tie ups? What retail verticals are you involved with?
We are now running !nTouch at more than 2500 retail locations in India, including marquee names such as Raymond Ltd., Peter England, Planet Fashion, Scullers, Indigo Nation, Puma, YLG, V-Mart – over 40+ brands. Our reach spans apparel, grocery, consumer durables, salons and spas, restaurants and almost all verticals under retail. In a short span of time, we have become India’s largest brand loyalty provider with over 6 million consumers in our network. We have been able to generate very high returns on investment for our retailers.6) Where do you see mobile-based CRM services and !ntouch five years from now?
We are only at the beginning of this revolution – the next step is to take !nTouch international. We have already started seeing very good traction in the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe and US – in all of these places we have either signed up pilots or started speaking to relevant parties. We are very excited about the traction that we see and we believe that !nTouch can become the next benchmark for customer engagement.
Apart from this, in India itself, we are very excited about taking the solution to smaller retailers and over 100 such stores are already operational. We also see a huge potential in using our cross-sell technology to improve the way many other industries interact with customers.
7) What makes the !ntouch revenue model a successful one?
The beauty of !nTouch is that there’s no upfront investment required for the retailer. It’s a purely operational model where you pay every month for the services you use. In this sense, we are probably one of the most successful deployments of SaaS in India serving many large organizations. We charge the retailer a fixed fee per store per month, and an upside on successful campaigns.
8) As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
The beauty of entrepreneurship is that every day is a new day and a new set of challenges. Your job profile changes every week, and the pace of activity is fantastic. Life’s a constant see-saw of fortunes and one day you might feel on top of the world while the next day things don’t work out.
One of the biggest pluses is the ability to interact with very smart people, and also hire people who are smarter than you and work with them to build a successful organization. On the downside, I have had more airline food than anything else in the last one month, and I would now kill for home food J
9) How big is the !ntouch team? What industry background do you prefer in an employee? Are you looking at hiring?
Capillary is almost 80 people now and to give you some perspective, last year at this time, we were barely 12 people. We have been growing by leaps and bounds and all this growth is coming on the back of business that has grown even faster. We have managed to put together a stellar team consisting of people from the best of colleges, experience at top international companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo!, Akamai, Oracle, dunhumby, Cisco, P&G. It’s only due to the awesome people we have – who believe in the company, take it to be their own, and deliver in the face of insurmountable odds – that we have managed to grow and prosper.
And yes, we are looking to have great people join us – people who are self-starters, always looking for challenges, and who become impatient in case they have to do the same thing for two consecutive days – and help us build the company further.
10) What are the upcoming steps in your expansion plans?
We are now India’s largest provider in the space of customer engagement and analytics – and expanding rapidly abroad. Our first installations in the international market should happen as soon as December and we are very excited as we start to build a global product company out of India. We are also looking to leverage our relationships with top merchants in India to grow our product portfolio.
11) How much of the retail segment have you covered till now? What potential do you believe can be unlocked?
We have 40+ brands using our system now, with over 2500 stores. There are more than 6 million consumers in our network. We plan to double our reach by March and grow another 10 times for the coming few years, god willing J
We are extremely excited about the growth that lies ahead of us and we believe that we have the platform and capability to build a very successful entrepreneurial story.
12) How did you happen to enter and win "QPrize™"? How has it changed Capillary and its business prospects?
It was quite interesting the way we got to know about "QPrize™". I had gone to one of the Open Coffee Club sessions and Karthee Madasamy of Qualcomm was the speaker that day. I was quite impressed by his ideas and he asked all of us to submit our proposals. It was right at the last moment that we manage to send out presentation out, used to as we are of doing things right at the 11th hour. We got through the first selection round, and then worked very hard to get the traction and the market correctly covered before the final presentation. Even at the last moment, we had not expected to win, with some of the other entrepreneurs being far more seasoned. However, I believe, at the end of the day, it was the traction that we had gotten very well-known retailers using the solution and actually paying for it that tilted the results in our favour.
"QPrize™” has been a life changing experience for us. The PR and buzz that it gave us helped us a lot in terms of hiring smart people, convincing clients, and partners and advisors who came on board to help us build the company. Thanks to "QPrize™", we have managed to scale up almost 15 times since we first won "QPrize™", and the benefits have been more than just the money. The Qualcomm team has also been of great help in guiding us in the right direction, giving us the necessary attention and connections, as well as to help us generate the right buzz and get traction.
Yourstory wishes the entrepreneurial duo of Aneesh and Krishna lots of success in the retail + mobile segment. We urge you to have a look at their website and learn more about their offerings at http://www.capillary.co.in/capillary