This article is sponsored by Microsoft.
Running business sprightly
Zainab runs a boutique in Hyderabad with a 22-member team. While most purchases happen in-store, it is word-of-mouth publicity that drives the walk-ins. She also has clients overseas, and the entire transaction (except payments) happens over WhatsApp. Zainab says, “I even use Facebook extensively to update product catalogues. Most of my customers keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates.”
Zainab also uses other social media channels like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Pinterest to keep her customers updated. But, she had always felt that unlike the big brands, her presentations lacked a degree of professional appeal. As a small-time businessperson, she couldn’t afford big budgets to create publicity collateral. But since she discovered Sprightly – an app for digital-content creation on phones, that’s no longer a problem. She says, “I create the product catalogue and update it on my social media pages. I have even uploaded it to my iPad and show my collection with pride to my customers, whether in-store or online.”
Sprightly has been developed by Microsoft employees to help businesses like Zainab’s to quickly create marketing and promotional content such as e-cards, flyers, and catalogues, and even share them on social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook. The app, which caters to small-and mid-sized businesses, makes it easy to create professional-looking content on a mobile device. Explaining how the app is different from many others in the market, Mahesh Sridharan, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, who worked on this project says, “Sprightly is quite unique in its creation flow, choice of output, and the ability to quickly recycle existing content to create new ones.”
Just a month after its release, Sprightly has clocked over 10,000 downloads. A rating of 4.3 on Google Play Store and positive feedback are testimony that many people not only use the app, but also find it helpful. At the moment, it’s an Android-only app, but the team plans to release it on other platforms in a few months.
Leverage your network with Connections
The team that created Sprightly has also developed the Connections app. Be it friends, family, customers, vendors or suppliers, the app lets users manage and organise contacts on Android phones.
Connections helps to capture and present important information at the right time so that you can be organised and prepared. It includes features that let you note down information you want to remember about a contact right after meeting them or calling them, set reminders for each contact so that you get timely reminders, with accurate information on exactly whom to follow-up with. You can also view the last note you stored before answering someone’s call. Among a host of cool features, the app lets you categorise contacts with tags for easy search, or add pictures from your phone gallery so you have visual notes and reminders, and much more.
Since its launch in December 2015, the app has been downloaded more than 15,000 times, and the numbers are growing every day. Among the hundreds who have benefited from the app is Satish, who sells computer hardware through his offline store and through popular online market places such as Quikr and OLX. Like any other small business owner, he often receives enquires about prices or discounts over the phone. He negotiates and closes these deals. But before discovering Connections, he would write the relevant information such as prices or customer details on pieces of paper, which were discarded after the transaction was closed. He naturally faced a problem when a customer called back, and he did not have any record of the previous transaction. This meant having to start the deal afresh. Today, Connections has helped him centralise all the information. More importantly, he gets a pop-up with relevant information when a customer calls him and he is able to deliver a superior customer experience, helping him run the business more efficiently than ever.
Swadheen Shukla, who was part of the team that developed Connections, says, “In a business context, managing contacts and establishing a strong customer connect is a key requirement especially for small businesses. And Connection simplifies this for you and lets you do it on your device, without the need for expensive software or infrastructure.”
Being productive on the move has never been so easy!
Kaizala is a productivity chat app that's been made to help users, who are always on the move, keep track of items and other team members. The app offers both group and private chat support.
A key feature is that it lets you share or request location updates, which is extremely useful for a team where most team members are constantly mobile. Another feature allows users to share photos with location information. Users can also create, assign, and track the status of jobs, capture the availability of team members for meetings or other purposes, and even share attachments.
Shweta runs an NGO aimed at educating children from poor socio-economic background in three cities. One of the key tasks for her team is to enroll volunteers from corporates who can teach children on a regular basis. However, her schedule involves a lot of travelling and she often doesn’t have time to draft pitches to be presented to corporates. At such times, she finds Kaizala extremely helpful. She uses Kaizalas group chat feature to assign tasks to her team and track the status of work done. “This helps to avoid the constant back and forth on mails and at the same time keep the entire team updated,” she explains.
Another interesting feature in Kaizala is ‘Bill Submit’ which allows users to capture and share photos of bills along with related information so that they can manage bills even when on the move. (Frequent travellers can now breathe easy!)
Kaizala even helps to keep track of your external partners and customers and manage your everyday business by bringing all your communication to one place via chat. And with this, it takes productivity of SMEs to the next level.
By establishing a connect with people – your team, customers, partners – Kaizala helps you make the most of everyday conversations. More importantly, Kaizala doesn't need a computer, laptop or server. Just download the app on your phone and you're ready to go! It also works on 2G connectivity, and is completely free. Released in February 2016, the app has earned a commendable rating of 4.8+ on PlayStore.
If you are an iOS or Windows user, you;ll be glad to know that the team is working to make the app available to you as well.
A Microsoft Garage initiative
If there is one common thread in all the apps (apart from the supercool features and the potential they offer), it is Microsoft Garage. This unique incubator was set up to help Microsoft employees launch experimental, consumer-focussed apps faster and gain customer feedback on them. These apps, developed and released under the Garage brand, reiterate Microsoft’s continued commitment to innovation.
Now that you know more about these apps, it’s time you downloaded them!
Alternatively, you could also download the apps by sending an sms – Get App to 56060