Now Bringing Referral Business to Your E-commerce Ventures is Easy!
Singapore based entrepreneur Dinesh Raju, founder & CEO of ReferralCandy, shows the way
Dinesh, thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk to you. Please share with us a little bit about your background.
It was during my undergraduate studies in Carnegie Mellon that I started to get really excited about technology. Back then, the internet was just starting out, hardly anyone had heard of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg was just 16 years old! Yet, it was clear that if you could think up of a powerful algorithm in your mind, you had the ability to make a huge impact on a global scale. This was a tremendously addictive idea and the one that drew me into the world of software.
What problem are you trying to solve via ReferralCandy?
Customer referral programs are a time-tested idea. Everyone understands that they work since you can see many examples of successful referral programs out there. The problem is that running a customer referral program for your online store isn’t easy. You either need to run it by hand, pay a marketing agency, or get your technical team to develop a customized in-house referral program. As you can imagine, doing it by hand isn’t scalable, and hiring a marketing agency or technical team can be very expensive and time-consuming. That is the problem we are trying to solve with ReferralCandy. We want to make it really easy for an online retailer to run a customer referral program so that they can use relationships and trust to grow their business.
Any personal experience that triggered you to startup ReferralCandy?
It all started out when I was having lunch with a friend who owned a shop selling beads. We were trying to figure out what he could do to increase his sales. We knew his customers loved him and there had to be some way to channel that. The conversation got around to using social networks to reach out to his customers and their friends. So then we thought, why not set up a customer referral program? Since there wasn’t anything on the market that was easy to set up and use, we decided to build it ourselves and ReferralCandy was born.
When was ReferralCandy started? What is the size of your team now?
Anafore(the parent company) was founded in 2009 and back then it was just a one-man show. Soon, a few friends were brought in and our customer referral app was launched in September 2010. The app was recently renamed to ReferralCandy and we’ve now grown to a team of four.
We’ve also designed our app around making it very easy for the customer to spread the word about your store since they can simply forward the email to friends. Customers can also use the social sharing features to post the coupon on Facebook and Twitter to make the offer go viral. This social media sharing is automatically detected by our platform.
Every account also comes with a fully-featured campaign dashboard. The dashboard gives you real-time statistics on the number of campaign invites sent out, forwarded and referred. You can also see who your most influential customer is and which social networking sites customers are using to recommend your store.
At the end of the day, we make it effortless for online retailers to carry out a full-scale referral program that increases their sales.
What technology was used to build ReferralCandy?
The technology stack that we use can be quite a mouthful: Ruby, Rails, Amazon Web Services (RDS, EC2, Route 53, ELB), JQuery, Sass, Haml and Compass.
How did you acquire your first few customers?
When our product was first launched, it was launched as a Shopify application with the most minimal features and a bare-bones website. Despite this, we made our first sale within an hour of launching on the Shopify app store. From this we learnt two important things; merchants understand that referral programs can help them get more sales, and they’re willing to pay for software that helps them run their referral program.
Tell us about any partnerships that helped you acquire new customers.
If you build an application that can be plugged into e-commerce stores to help online retailers, it’s now possible to get listed in the app stores of the various e-commerce platforms. Getting listed in these app stores has been very helpful in acquiring new customers for our app.Who are your customers? Where are they mostly based?
We have been fortunate enough to have Okabashi, the largest manufacturer of sandals and flip flops in the United States, use our app. Besides Okabashi, we have hundreds of other online retailers using our service, these retailers are mostly based out of the US.
Dinesh, what is your revenue model?
We take the approach that we are successful only when we make our customers successful. In line with this, we have a commission-based pricing model where we take a percentage commission on each sale that we help the online store to make.
Tell us about your recent funding round. What will the funds be majorly used for?
We recently closed a funding round with iXiGO's initial investors as well as a co-founder of Skype. We’re excited about this partnership with our new investors, as it gives us an incredible opportunity to realize our vision for ReferralCandy and Anafore. The funds will be used to scale our marketing efforts, develop new product features and grow the company.
Do you want to share some of your success stories with our readers?One particular story that comes to mind is an online retailer whom we wanted to approach early on, but didn’t reach out to as we thought that they were too big. A few weeks later, we got an email from them to set up a call as they wanted to learn more about our app. They ended up installing our app on their store and became one of the most successful retailers on our service.
What next at ReferralCandy? Share your expansion plans with us.
We now have a product that works and one that online retailers see value in and are willing to pay for. Right now, we are scaling our marketing efforts to reach out to more merchants that we can help. Eventually, we want to become the brand that first comes to mind when you think about a customer referral program.
Anything specific that you got for India?
It seems clear that despite a few teething issues, India will become a major global player in the e-commerce scene. Although having only $10 billion in e-commerce revenue in 2010, it’s 47% annual growth rate makes it an exciting market to watch. We are looking forward to helping Indian online retailers ride this wave of growth.
What is your final word for the readers of YourStory.in?
It is incredibly exciting to witness the way technology is changing the world we live in. The rise of social networking, mobile computing and e-commerce gives us an opportunity to change the way that consumers discover quality products and services. Our hope is that Anafore pushes the state of the art in connecting merchants and buyers more efficiently to make irrelevant ads a thing of the past!