IIT Kanpur alumni co-found visual search startup iLenze, raise $500K fundingTarush Bhalla
The journey which Ashish Kumar, Koustubh Sinhal and Ankit Sachan took was one filled with aspirations. Before even starting up, Ashish recalls how enamoured he was with Zomato. Such was his love for the company’s services that theirs was the first mobile application he downloaded for personal use.
But aspirations are fuelled by vision, determination and passion. And these IIT-Kanpur graduates have plenty of each. They aspired to build an Indian company which has a global stature.
Having lived together for 10 years now, the three co-founders had an inclination for all things technical. They used to return from work and code all night. Ashish says working on a railway ticket waitlist prediction platform was what got them all engrossed in the first places. The platform was never launched, but it helped them realise their calling.
What was next? The trio quit their jobs to focus on their passion completely. Soon, they co-founded a social fashion discovery platform called Fashupp which proved to be a stepping stone for their second venture. The idea for their current startup came from Sci-Fi fiction, where protagonists get more information about an object just by looking at it. They realised that visual inspiration is the innate approach to product discovery.
The iLenze journey
After a successful stint, the trio started iLenze in January 2015 and launched the product in June.
Essentially, a visual search startup, iLenze tries to bridge the information gap between the real and the online world. It enables users to search for any object one can see with their eyes. With product discovery as its core concept, the startup is currently working in fashion, furniture and home-decor domains. Within three months of its launch, the company is already piloting with established e-commerce players for enabling and integrating visual search onto their platforms.
At present in liaison with six clients, the firm closed revenues of USD 3,000 last month while having contracts worth USD 10,000. However, understanding the market opportunity before them, the venture is gunning for revenue of USD 1,00,000 by the end of next six months.
Being all about aspirations, Ashish tells us
“Our bigger vision is to create a meta visual search marketplace. We have already started doing groundwork and one can expect the product being rolled out in a couple of months.”
The venture plans to take-off with its consumer marketplace in phases, with the app to be launched this October. The company is also planning to go global with its partnerships and has commenced work with a Singapore-based startup. Ashish says that in the near future they are aiming to close 10 global partners contributing 50 per cent of their revenues. Additionally, in the next six months, iLenze intends on expanding into verticals like electronics and FMCG.
Bootstrapped until now, iLenze raised its seed funding of USD 5,00,000 from Singapore-based Mercatus Capital.
Speaking exclusively to YourStory on the investment, Ashish tells us that the funds will primarily go into building the technical team. With a current strength of three members, the venture is all set to expand its technical team strength to seven to 10 members. The firm is also looking to on-board academicians as well and is looking to build an active sales team, taking the total team count to 20 members.
According to the co-founders, the investment will also be used towards building the application.
Commenting on the funding Tracy Kuok who has invested on behalf of Mercatus Capital says
“We were looking at a scalable as well as a leading edge analytics to invest in. After evaluating several players, iLenze stood out to us for being able to implement their technology commercially despite being one of the youngest companies in this space.”
She adds that the intelligence and passion displayed by the founding team was another key determinant to their investment in the venture.
Without much doubt, visual search is currently the big thing hitting the e-commerce iceberg. Companies like Vooknik, Wishary and Craftsvilla are not the only ones enabling visual search on their platform. Giants like Flipkart and Snapdeal are also seen jumping in the wagon trying to master this skill to get a market advantage over their competitors.
Increasingly, Indian companies like Mad Street Den (MSD) and SnapShopr are functioning in this space. Recently, both raised seed funding - MSD for USD 1.5 million and SnapShopr for an undisclosed amount - and act as a testimony for the potential this space holds.
However, what seems to be a differentiator for iLenze is their consumer marketplace. If they manage to successfully implement the suggested market model, they might be disrupting the space, with customers heading to the iLenze metasearch, rather than individual e-commerce websites to search for items.
Tarush is driven towards delivering unbiased and accurate reportage while engaging with as many mediums as possible to narrate a fresh perspective. Working for the past few years in the digital space with YourStory, he has covered the Indian technology ecosystem extensively, focusing on new age Fintech companies, while building strong connects within the industry.