At the Chaayos outlet in Galleria, Gurgaon last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find a neat login page to access Chaayos’ free WiFi network. The venture-backed tea chain has founders with a strong technology background, so I thought this might be a reason for the smooth internet access experience. But the ‘powered by’ signature pointed me elsewhere, to the startup that builds and manages the system. Meet Bhaifi -- a managed WiFi hotspot provider that lets café, guesthouse and restaurant owners have a secure and fast WiFi hotspot.
Free WiFi has almost become a necessity in cafés and restaurants, but the experience is pretty broken since the user needs to login through multiple layers. This is mainly because of the legal standards that a small business has to comply with to provide WiFi to its users (refer to page 2 of this DoT document). As of now, this area is covered by three major chunks -- the likes of CISCO, telephone companies that give away free internet for a while as promotions (Airtel, Reliance JIO, etc.), and then the players like Bhaifi, who are trying to bring efficiency to the area.
The idea for Bhaifi struck Sachin Yadav when he was sitting at a Chaayos outlet located in an IT Park in Gurgaon. He got along with Amit Raghav, a friend and colleague from SapientNitro and did some research in the space. The duo discovered that many small businesses were facing problems in the provision of internet access to users. These included misuse, legal compliance, etc., and needed to be tackled.
So the two of them built an MVP and demoed it to the co-founders of Chaayos who liked the product and were on board immediately as clients for Bhaifi. Building on the basic product, Bhaifi was ready to hit the market by December 2014.
In the short time since then, Bhaifi has started operations in NCR, Bengaluru, and Jaipur, with Mumbai in the pipeline. “We operate at over 200 outlets across these cities and handle about 50,000 sessions every day,” says Sachin. Apart from the internet access, Bhaifi has other built-in features like business marketing and collecting customer data. “Clients can market their café or restaurant among people searching for a free Wi-Fi hotspot. This helps to drive more customers from the existing internet infrastructure,” adds Sachin. For instance, a brand can ask a user to pay via social share for additional internet while at the cafe.
BhaiFi works on a freemium SaaS model. A business owner needs to purchase a specialized router onto which Bhaifi will install its software. “Our technical team will install routers after thorough testing and QA check at the business location in two to four business days,” says Sachin. Experience in the telecom domain gives the core team expertise in this area. There is competition from smaller players but the market is huge and only growing. The need for providing internet access will not recede any time soon.
Sachin had previously started an enterprise company in 2011 which shut down in nine months. That experience has come in handy in allowing the team to position itself better. On top of providing a managed hotspot, Bhaifi has added benefits like:
a) Real-time customer data and insight. An array of tools present helps a business analyze and segment their audience on the basis of user demographics, such as length of internet use, total amount of users and data usage
b) Clients can have a branded login screen with their logo and background. They will be able to segment and target the right customers with marketing that speaks to them, delivered via email to their mobile devices
Currently a team of eight, Bhaifi works from Gurgaon and is also looking to raise a seed round to scale operations and go pan-India. They have seen a surge in demand in Mumbai and this is where they are heading next.