KarmaCircles is positioning itself as an open platform to find skilled or accomplished entrepreneurs, request an online or offline meeting and then thank them for their time and advice and pay it forward. The platform currently claims to have about 3,000 experts on the platform who provide advice pro bono.
‘Office Hours’ is a popular concept in western countries, where successful entrepreneurs donate their time and provide advice to upcoming entrepreneurs. With many Indian and Asian entrepreneurs having achieved mainstream success in the last few years, it could gain popularity in India too, if done right.
KarmaCircles was founded by Deepak Goel in 2015 and currently consists of a team of seven. Deepak was earlier the Co-founder and CTO of Packback, a Chicago-based startup that was funded by Mark Cuban and other angel investors. Prior to that, he was the CPO at IndiaHomes, where he built and led the product management, marketing and engineering teams. He is also a graduate of IIT Delhi and has an MBA from Haas School of Business.
KarmaCircles has employees in Delhi(India) and in the USA. The startup initially started out as a web-only product and recently launched a mobile app, to go after the ever-growing smartphone market.
The startup is currently focussing on its mobile app as it believes that smartphones will be the future going forward. But it is not abandoning the web version either. Marketing Head Karandeep Dang said,
Though mobile is our focus, we are in the process of revamping our website to provide a similar experience on the web. We are actively marketing the product through our own networks and reaching out to corporates and alumni networks too.
The startup has raised a round of angel funding and is currently looking to improve its product further to gain traction. It is an open marketplace and free for both experts and advice seekers. The startup plans to keep it that way for at least one more year and then monetise through different channels. Currently active on Android, it plans to launch the iOS version by the end of March.
Users need to sign up on the platform and provide some details about the sector they work in, their skills and credentials and select how many people they wish to interact with on a monthly basis.
Post that, advice seekers can search for experts they wish to connect with based on keywords, specific skills, groups or location. Once they identify an expert, they can request for a meeting, and share their profile with them. Experts, on the other hand, need to provide details and select their areas of expertise, so that their profiles pop up under relevant search results.
In the next stage, advice seekers are given the option to either ‘pay it forward,’ or send a Karma note to the expert who helped them, after the meeting. After agreeing to the terms, the meeting request is sent to the expert, and the advice seeker is informed how far in the queue he is for a meeting with that person. Once the meeting request is approved, a chat window opens up between the two users and they can decide upon the time and place for the interaction.
Talking about the process, Deepak added,
After a meeting, the advice seeker is supposed to send a Karma Note to your ‘Karma Giver’.This is not feedback, but more of a thank-you note for the time that was given to them. You also get the opportunity to endorse the Karma Giver for up to three skills.
The app relies on gamification to encourage users to interact with each other. Karma Points determine the reputation, and a user gets 10 points when they receive a Karma Note for a meeting and two points when they send a Karma Note to someone. The goal is to grow one’s ‘Karma Network’ and leverage it whenever one needs help.
Make and track introductions- Users can make introductions for advice-seekers and experts that they already know and are connected to. The ‘connector’ can then track the status of the ‘Karma Meeting’.
Karma Feed -This feature allows users to monitor updates across the KarmaCircles platform. Users can also post a query on the feed and request the general public for help.
Groups: KarmaCircles allows users to create and join groups based on their companies, alumni networks and also based on their interest areas.
Privacy - Messages between the advice seeker and the expert are kept confidential and is only visible to both participating parties. The Karma Note that one sends to an expert though is visible on one’s profile, but users can hide it if they wish.
The KarmaCircles app is well-designed and built and makes good use of colours and templates. The features of the app are self-explanatory but it includes a ‘How to Work’ section for users who still have doubts.
I found the most success by searching based on keywords and skills and got many relevant search results as expected. The concept of ‘paying it forward’ and sending ‘Karma Notes’ adds a layer of professionalism and courtesy to the whole process, and makes setting up a meeting an interesting task. Users can also reschedule meetings easily through the app’s in-built option.
Including an in-app leader board for different skills could help create a competitive rivalry among experts and also help advice seekers reach out to the best possible experts. A user’s bio is taken from their LinkedIn profile directly, so allowing users to modify or edit their profile information may be useful.
KarmaCircles is an interesting app that makes social interactions with professional contacts more seamless and can be considered as a ‘WhatsApp for professionals’. While off to a good start the platform’s success will hinge on its ability to maintain a supply and demand gap between advice seekers and experts. With an experienced team and a founder that has worked across both India and Silicon Valley in the USA, KarmaCircles is an interesting value proposition for advice-seekers and experts. It will be interesting to see how they grow the platform and how they go about monetising it in the future.
App: Karma Circles
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