[App Fridays] Yelo aims to make P2P hyperlocal discovery of professionals and services easier by leveraging users’ phonebooksHarshith Mallya
A mobile only platform, yelo.red aims to be a local marketplace for people to connect with other professionals or services. It aims to be a local referral system to put users in touch with the right person by leveraging their personal network through phonebooks. Users need to download the app and get their mobile number verified before they can start using the app.“Users' phonebooks are safe as they are not stored by yelo on its server. Instead, the app uses an alphanumeric one-way encrypted string (md5 hash) to recognise first-degree and second-degree networks,” says Prasun Jain, Founder of yelo, clarifying about privacy concerns that users may have.
Not only has yelo been selected for the 2014-2015 batch for Nasscom 10,000 Startups, Google Launchpad, FbStart, and Construkt launch 2015, it was also among the top apps at Google’s Android App Expo 2015.
The application has three main tabs: ‘Me’, ‘Feed’ and ‘Chats’.
Under ‘Me’ users can create personal cards about their areas of expertise and include categories, sub-categories, and if desired, can include a link to their website.
Under ‘Feed’ users can create and publish a post under various categories and subcategories, can add a detailed description about their requirements and add an image, if needed. Users can also browse through posts from other users and start chatting with the original poster (OP) directly. They can refer someone from their phonebook who they feel is a match. When this happens, a personal card with the relevant categories, subcategories is automatically created for the person being referred, based on the requirements’ listed in the original post.
The USPs of the app include higher levels of authenticity because of the sign up process and better quality leads, as they are made through personal referrals. Users on the platform can get notified when their phonebook contacts post an inquiry and can give him or her trusted referrals. Since there is no public chat option under a post, the focus is on the posts, and not public chat threads. This protects OPs from being trolled or teased for their posts. Till date, yelo has 2000+ users on the platform, and over 9000 odd chat messages have been exchanged between users.
Prasun Jain, the Founder of yelo, is an IIT Delhi alumnus. He started his career at Procter & Gamble, working with brands like Tide Naturals, Pampers, and Pantene. Then in 2011, he co-founded his first startup, Green Brick, which was sold to Digital Utilities (India) in 2013. He then joined Sourcebits Inc. and handled tech recruitment and marketed the mobile app - 'twine'. The same year in December, as a tribute to Aaron Swartz, he founded an open source project titled 'Barter.li’, a platform to exchange books.
The idea for yelo came from the frustration that Prasun faced while moving from Delhi to Bangalore and realizing that he had no connect with the local community. So, he wanted to come out with a simple but elegant solution that even non tech savvy persons could use without worrying about privacy. He recalled how his mother, a tutor, was now using Whatsapp to co-ordinate with her students. Prasun was surprised as his mother had never been very tech savvy and wasn’t very comfortable with email and social media, but found messaging services easy to use.
So Prasun decided to develop yelo on this premise, and got together the same team that had worked with him on barter.li. Khusboo Maheshwari, a Harvard Business School and IIT Bombay alum, got on-board as a mentor. Presently, yelo is seeding the product and have yet not monetized it. Ideas for multiple business models are in the pipeline, such as a subscription-based model, where a supplier subscribes on a monthly basis and can send quotations to relevant users. Another model involves consumers buying from service cards.
What we liked?
The app has a colourful UI and the UX is good, as all the features are easy to understand and use. The concept and execution of yelo is interesting as it aims to decrease the noise and increase value got from peer to peer interactions.
The app creates a card automatically when a user refers a person for a request. This generates actionable intelligence at every stage. Users have the flexibility to change their location at any point, and check the ‘leader board’ to find out the most active users and their areas of expertise.
What could be improved?
Currently, users can only share photographs while posting their requirements. An added feature to upload and share pdfs or word documents would help. We would also like to filter results, based on categories,by tapping on them as they appear on the top right corner next to every post.
Another much needed feature would be the ability to search for keywords in the feed. Prasun says that this is the most requested feature from users and would be implemented in future updates. Users currently get notifications, whenever someone in their network posts on the platform, which can be irritating for some. It would help if a certain time during the day can be selected for notifications to be sent. (There is a feature to permanently disable all notifications.)
yelo has an interesting value proposition, and aims to make peer to peer hyperlocal discovery easier and more mobile friendly by leveraging the users phonebook. With an experienced team and mentor on board, it will be interesting to see how they scale and which business model(s) they adopt.