Shubham Agarwal graduated from the Symbiosis International University with an MBA in Finance. He went on to work for Amul and Mother Dairy for a couple of years. All this while, he was eating out and was also a shopaholic. "I discovered many retail outlets didn’t want daily deals but wanted loyalty. They had no loyalty programme due to cost, time and technical constraints, and if they had, they weren't really working out,” says Shubham. This is where the idea took birth. Talking to people, he got in touch with Gaurav Dalal, who has a solid technology background, through a common friend and the the two of them then decided to execute a solution, which took the shape of Squarecoins.
Squarecoins is a universal loyalty solution where small and medium sized retail businesses can retain their customers by running their customized and unique loyalty programme on a common platform. Customers (the end users) get loyalty benefits at the convenience of an app. “2012 was also a time when there was a lot of buzz in western markets about universal loyalty solutions (like tagtile which was acquired by facebook). So this also motivated us to solve this problem here,” says Shubham.
Squarecoins mainly targets F&B retail stores, salon, health, wellness and spas, etc. They provide the partners with an iPad and a Squarecoins application. End users can download Squarecoins mobile app or use universal Squarecoins QR card. Squarecoins has a 30-day free trial post where they have a pricing plan of INR 3000/month. Businesses can also run targeted campaigns based on customer profiling/analytics. It has been close to two years and the business has been raking in revenues enough to sustain them from the last 6 months.
The market is competitive with a lot of players in the space. Forysta Ventures and Pointshelf are based out of Mumbai. tagNpin and Againn are based out of NCR. We asked Nukul Upadhye, Co-founder at Againn, which has around 30 clients and close to 100K users out of which close to 40K are from Delhi, about the market, and he said, “Though PayBack looks like the most apparent competition, the biggest competition is stand alone loyalty program. The challenge is to convince merchants of the benefits of coalition program against running their own individual program.” Most of the startups have been tweaking the model but Payback remains the clear leader here.
Payback is a loyalty program scheme launched in 2000 by Metro AG in Germany. In 2010, I-mint, India's leading rewards programme, was taken over by Payback (then they tied up with Future Group), and as of 1st July, 2011, it had over 12 million registered users. There have been many fragmented efforts, but loyalty programs haven't really picked up in India till date. With the penetration of smartphones, this scenario may change, and the growth of these startups will be an indication of how the space is shaping up.