There will always be weddings, meetings and parties. And there will always be the need of a venue for these gatherings. With almost everything coming to the tips of our fingers, nobody would mind clicking 10 times if it saves the hassle of calling venue managers, negotiating financials and getting down to choose one while still wondering if you got the best deal. LocalOye is a Mumbai based startup, co-founded by Aditya Rao and Anupam Tulsyan, which is building a product aiming to take away the headache of venue booking in India.
For Aditya, entrepreneurship was never really a career choice but it was something that he kept drifting towards with each decision that he was taking. He says, “It is a pretty simple reason, it makes me happy! The feeling you get when you see people consuming what you have created, or the thrill of seeing a sales happening because of you, it is just amazing. That sense of ownership can never come in a big organization.” He is the quintessential why-am-I-doing-engineering-when-I-don’t-like-it engineer who graduated from BITS Pilani as a Mechanical Engineer and quit his job within 3 months at Mercedes Benz. He tried his first stint at entrepreneurship with a Social CRM product, which is defunct now. He started working at Jombay / YourNextLeap as a core team member after 3 weeks of its inception. And after two and a half years, in this September, he co-founded LocalOye with Anupam.
Anupam hails from Uttar Pradesh and has graduated in computer science from USC, California. He worked for Drawbridge Inc. at Silicon Valley building the core ad serving and reporting systems. He came back to India in June and met Aditya through common friend at another startup, Voxapp, Delhi. He gives the credit to his Silicon Valley experience for his learnings and passion to create cool products. He adds, “It was very inspiring and I learnt so much from my friends who were building amazing products that solved real problems. And sooner or later my Marwari genes had to kick in to work on my own business. ”
Anupam was hunting a venue for his bachelor party and Aditya was trying to help him. It turned out an annoying experience for them with multiple phone calls, negotiations, confusing parameters regarding pricing, amenities included and the list goes on. It was a pain. Aditya says, “We did a quick market study and it gave us very good results, especially because the ticket price of the transactions are really high. A common passion for building stuff got us together and we quickly hacked out a very cool product called i’mma – which later became LocalOye.”
Aditya claims that their recommendation engine makes sure that it saves you time by helping you shortlist venues very quickly and their relationship with venue managers make sure that they can get you discount deals and save you some money too.
According to him, currently venues work on less than 50% occupancy rate, even during peak months. He shares, “LocalOye helps improve this via relevant leads and efficient inventory management. We are already working with 300+ venues in Mumbai. We are also building SaaS solutions for venues to manage incoming leads and build business analytic dashboards. We launched our first version of the automated lead management and call center for venue manager and venue seeker this week.”
Currently LocalOye helps two stakeholders. With venue seekers, they work on a fixed subscription fee or a percentage cut depending on the ticket size and for venue managers, they have two models - prepaid and postpaid. In the postpaid model, they help close the lead and take a percentage cut of the transaction, which ranges somewhere from 1 lakh to 5 lakh. They will be rolling out the prepaid model this week where they are working with a few venues to give them featured status on LocalOye for a fixed recurring fee per month.
LocalOye has got users and clients from word of mouth through successful clients, social media and with the help of SEO. Aditya says, “We have been on the ground for around 6 weeks now and have worked with 65+ venue seekers till now, some of which are recurring corporate clients, with a closing rate of 67%.”
Aditya believes that their biggest competitors are the horizontal classifieds like JustDial and when it comes to the vertical category focused, Silicon Valley based Eventup and Ahmedabad based Meravenue are in the same space. He says, “The events and activation industry for social and corporate occasions is pegged to be at 4.3 Billion INR in 2014-2015. We are currently focused only on the venues segment of events. We plan to expand into other cities soon and are experimenting with adding new stakeholders like event planners, DJs, decorators etc. into our recommendation engine.”
We faced the age old problem of hiring as Mumbai is a little low on tech talent, though very high on marketing and sales talent. And now our biggest difficulty is finding enough bandwidth to service all the leads that we are getting. Past few weeks has seen more leads and booking enquiries than a team of 5 sales people could handle. We are actively hiring to solve that and are also bringing more and more automation into the product like the automated IVRs, call centers and lead management solutions. There is always space for good people and on an active basis we are looking to expand our venue relationship team with sales and marketing people.
We have an unlimited vacation policy where everyone is free to decide their holidays and their work timings – as long as we are all pushing ourselves to our maximum potential and reaching our targets. Believe it or not, this policy has actually resulted in more quantity and better quality of work.
The events industry is very fragmented and our data sciences team is excited to expand our algorithms and models in the coming days to better use the meta data. We are excited about solving the issues of local commerce, which we believe is so big that it can only be solved piece by piece and not by local classifieds or review sites. Our next long term mission from a product point of view is to build a Pricing Fluctuation Engine that can use our deep meta data to accurately predict prices based on various criteria like weekend bookings, bargaining power, peak season vs off season etc. We believe that ideas are dime a dozen, and it is the execution that counts. We hope to continue this good momentum that we have picked up since starting up and have lots of fun along the way.