Critically acclaimed Gujarati filmmaker redefines 'Where are You?' the app waySindhu Kashyap
Location-based apps are the new catchphrase in today's app world. While these apps direct you to eat outs and entertain hubs of the area, or connect you with people of the locality, the big question – where are you? – remains the, well, big question. The wWhere app was especially designed to replace the "Where are you?”texts, which amount to a whopping 30 per cent of total text messages sent by smartphone users across the globe.
“In the world of smartphones, we are still stuck with the conventional ways of finding locations: street names, closest landmarks, or asking autowallahs and pedestrians for directions,” says Ritam Bhatnagar, the Founder of wWhere, and an acclaimed filmmaker from the Gujarati film industry. But wWhere, says Ritam, enables people and businesses to locate each other effortlessly by being ‘Uber for everything.'
Ritam Bhatnagar used to run a private film club during his MBA days. "Though Gujarat is quite developed industrially, three years back city people were quite unaware of the Gujarati film industry. So my friend and I decided to make the first urban Gujarati film.” The movie did well, and so began Ritam’s foray into the production and distribution of Gujarati films. He even produced a Gujarati film with Amitabh Bachchan Corporation.
Most of the Gujarati films came under Ritam's banner Freeway Films. In 2011, Ritam started the India Film Project, which was the first venture under Freeway. "The idea was to give a platform to new filmmakers to make their film. They had to make a film in a stipulated time and post it online, which in turn would be judged by critically acclaimed filmmakers," adds Ritam. By 2014, this became Asia's largest filmmaking event with more than 15,000 filmmakers participating under one roof and making 1000 films in 50 hours. These films even made it to the international film festivals.
Birth of an idea
The idea of the wWhere app came to Ritam when he was visiting Mumbai for the India Film Project for sponsorship. "I had a meeting scheduled at 12, at Lower Parel. Though I had lived in Mumbai for over a year, this was an area I was unaware of. We reached the destination almost 15 minutes before the meeting, but to search that building, it took us more than 25 minutes. So I was late and the meeting was with the marketing head," says Ritam.
Needless to say the meeting went downhill. After going back and discussing this incident with his friends, Ritam realised that many people faced the same problem. "While we have smartphones with GPS, we still look for locations like homes, offices, shops and buildings through postal addresses. There has to be some revolution in the postal address space as well,” says Ritam. Almost 70 percent of the businesses that are based on walk-ins or delivery are losing time and money because of hunting for locations, he concludes.
Elaborating further with the example of Uber, Ritam says, "Cabs were always there and then one fine day a company comes up and says you can order a cab based on your location on the web. The cab driver reaches you without the unnecessary bunch of calls. When you integrate a simplified location into a business, it creates magic."
Success at IIM Ahmedabad
After several months of research, testing, and trials, Ritam applied the app at the IIM Ahmedabad programme iAccelerator. "Though I am not a techie, we could make it go through just on the basis of our concept. It solves a problem in our daily lives," says Ritam.
Elaborating further, Ritam says, "People are becoming more aware of locations, which is the main premise of Life 360, whom we consider as competition.”Life 360 has become one of the highest downloaded location apps. It keeps users connected to their families 27/7. Fifty million people have downloaded it within a month, but people in India don't know about it as it's based out of US,” says Ritam.
Thus, during the conceptualisation of wWhere the team made sure that the app had these two features: It connects users to each another using locations, and to make people location aware through circle-based groups.
The beta was done in September 2014, "It was a private beta for 12 hours in September, and we saw over 500 downloads and 2600 signups in that short span of twelve hours. We are now working for a global launch, targeting countries in Asia, Australia, and Europe," says Ritam.
wWhere has received commitment of over 1.2 crores in funding from a consortium of high-profile angel investors across the US, India, and Singapore. The company is raising $100K out of commitments at an undisclosed valuation. The app will be launched sometime in April this year.