Have you ever ordered a product from an online retailer and on getting it thought, “But it looked different on the website”? Well, so have entrepreneurs Abhinav Sree and Ashwin Nath. But rather than merely blowing off steam by giving the retailer a bad review online, these guys set about developing a product that would deliver authentic product reviews to consumers on a medium that defies misrepresentation – user-generated videos!
Thus Pollseye, a new Android app, was born. Pollseye allows users to review products and services on 30-second videos and share them. Shoppers, in turn, can use the app to get authentic product information from their peers and make better purchase decisions.
Pegged as the “world’s first video shopping guide,” the app aims to get a share of the $9 billion-and-growing social commerce space currently dominated by social media giants Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.
At 27 years of age, Abhinav and Ashwin are already battle-scarred veterans with two successful ventures behind them. Both of them dropped out of college to start their first company, Innoz (with classmate Deepak Ravindran). Innoz broke new ground in the pre-Andriod days by providing SMS-based offline search services to users and addressed nearly one billion queries in its four years of existence. Their second venture was Springr, a popular café, music studio, gallery, and incubation center for creative ventures based in Fort Kochi, Kerala. The facility supported more than 200 artists before closing shop last year.
Then came Pollseye. “What attracted us to the concept of video reviews was that we really believe in the power of user-generated videos to tell an authentic story. Plus, videos are the perfect medium to reach today’s busy shopper. This puts Pollseye at the cutting edge of social commerce, which is predicted to be an increasingly important driver of online and offline sales,” says Abhinav. Abhinav handles operations and marketing for Pollseye, and Ashwin takes care of the technology. Vijith K.K., the back-end tech guy, completes the team.
Value proposition and target market
“Pollseye is a video shopping guide by the people and for the people. This means that shoppers can be sure of getting genuine reviews from people like themselves,” Abhinav says. Through this app, users can search for reviews of specific products and follow reviewers and experts in different product categories. The app incentivizes reviewers by giving them credits for the number of Likes their reviews generate; the credits can be used for purchasing merchandise online.
The app currently offers product reviews for beauty and wellness products, home accessories, fashion, and gadgets, and will soon expand to cover automobiles, books, and hotels. “Our most popular category right now is gadgets, which is not surprising because the majority of our early users are young urban men and women” says Abhinav. To widen its reach, the company is exploring the option of including reviews in major Indian languages and plans to eventually go international with the idea (“À la Zomato,” remarks Abhinav with a smile).
Marketing and growth strategy
Pollseye’s growth has been organic so far. “My philosophy is that unless your first users are telling their friends about the product, there is no point in spending money on marketing,” explains Abhinav. The company ran a private beta test of the Android app nearly three months ago and launched a public beta version a few weeks back (the iOS app is under development).
“In response to user feedback, we optimized the encoding and reduced data consumption,” says Ashwin. “We also realized that users saw the app as ‘infotainment’ and are adding features that will maximize the app’s entertainment quotient. Our next huge update is to put in tools to help our users make the 30-second video look uniquely Pollseye with great visuals, text, and background music,” he says.
The founders say that the app has gained good traction over the last few weeks. “Total downloads is just under 5000 right now and we’re adding 100 downloads a day on an average,” says Abhinav.
Plans for future growth include tie-ups with e-commerce sites like Flipkart, Amazon, Oyo, and Zomato to be their official video feedback channel. “We will also tie up with brands to become their go-to place for launching new products,” says Abhinav.
“Right now we are angel funded by the same group of investors who had first invested in Innoz. But as the app builds traction, we will need another round of funding to get more brands on board. In fact, we are already in talks with a few investors,” reveals Abhinav. The company is looking for good angels and institutional investors with a media/tech focus.
In the meantime, Ashwin and Abhinav are ringing in their seventh year as business partners. So are they encountering the seven-year itch yet, we ask. Abhinav laughs and says: “Not at all. Ashwin loves machines and I love people, so we bring complementary skills to the table and have a shared passion for building value for our customers. I believe that ideas don't take you to places, people do, and cannot say enough about the importance of having a good team. I’m looking forward to taking the Pollseye journey with Ashwin."
App (http://pollseye.com/ )
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