Why Social Discovery? [Insights and Trends]

1st May 2012
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The post has been co-authored by Suneil Chawla and Anupam Agarwal, founders at Koolkart.com.We humans are inherently a social race, always observing the behavior of others, and giving and receiving suggestions on everything we do.

If we are planning to watch a movie or checkout a new restaurant, we prefer checking with a friend for a review. The same applies to any electronic gadget or dress we may be planning to buy. A second opinion counts. A lot.

We Indians, in particular, like to shop with our friends and family and get as many inputs as possible. Shopping in malls continues to be a group activity. How have tech startups fared at building on these social elements online? Across interest areas, social discovery has played out very differently.

Music: Globally, Spotify has become a great mechanism for music discovery. Closer home, Saavn has clearly taken the lead on Gaana.com for Indian music discovery. Both of them excel in leveraging the power of your social network to deliver music that people around you are listening to.


News: Washington Post has a social news reader where news is read publicly. Looking at which of your friends have read an article gives an interesting angle to every story. Very similar to hearing gossip, or finding a relevant news article, news travels much faster creating a context around the article even before it has been read.

Games: Zynga has been a clear leader in the space of social gaming. The crazy growth of Draw something has shown how social and virality can be such a deadly combination.

Travel: TripAdvisor has begun taking some steps in embedding social into travel reviews, but this is yet to be fully explored by the Indian travel websites – haven’t seen anything from Makemytrip or Cleartrip.

Shopping: Globally, there have been sites like Polyvore which have very successfully integrated social into online shopping. But sharing shopping related information can have some issues if not handled correctly. We worked with a few Stanford researchers working on social discovery to understand the problems better. We learnt about the failure of well-funded startups like Blippy.com, who tried to introduce frictionless sharing of purchases, where every transaction on one's credit card is automatically shared with everyone. There were two issues in this (1) All purchases get shared - so, no one knows if you liked or would recommend what you purchased and (2) There is such a flurry of transactional data, it becomes tough for anyone to summarize the data accurately. For example, sharing a purchase of a cappuchino at Starbucks is far less exciting than purchase of a new dress, book or camera.

Factoring this in, at Koolkart, users can voluntarily share products they "like" and review the products. Based on the likes of one’s friends and other similar users, a user gets a personalized stream of product recommendations across categories. Not only is it relevant to see which products are liked, but also who are the people liking them. This kind of a social proof is a one of a kind online experience, that reproduces the proof associated with shopping related decision-making offline.

This has really worked with Indian consumers and we see many interesting trends. The most heartening is the clear interest of consumers in discovering touch-and-fell products online, including Jewellery, Apparel and Home décor.


It is clear that ecommerce is taking off in a big way in India. Our homegrown companies are at the forefront of this innovation, proving that the entrepreneurial spirit in this country is among the best. Given the highly cost and image conscious nation, the ecommerce market is set to see interesting times ahead.

On similar interest graph, you might want to read about location based services.

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