Magic happens when young graduates get together. Former IIT-IIM graduates Chetan Patil, C V Karthik, Rohit Harlalka, Sriram Sekhar, Madhvendra Kumar and Jeet Kumar where staying at the same society in Thane, a suburb in Mumbai, when they realised that their corporate jobs did not complete their lives. So, Sriram — the common connect between the six of them — got them to play snooker in the evenings, which perhaps was the most significant thing for the founding of their startup. The snooker and evenings spent got the group thinking and, soon, they were brimming with ideas.
In 2013, these individuals decided to do something together, after all, because they had jotted down over hundreds of ideas over their snooker games. Some of these ideas discussed were in the consumer retail space; they wanted to start a car care franchise, an international ice cream chain and also a private label branded electronic goods distribution play. In August 2014, all that changed as the quit their corporate jobs to become entrepreneurs.
“Two years since we developed three products, sadly closed one, changed the strategy from B2C to B2B for another, and we’re currently working on Truple. It’s been a roller coaster ride,” says 31-year-old, Madhvendra, Co-founder of Truple.com.
They started with a product called ‘servein60’, where they became a service provider for services like plumbing, electrical, carpentry, yoga and photography. While working on servein60, they realised that the barrier to scale – in terms of huge labour cost ‑ was a manpower intensive business. They switched the model from a consumer business to a B2B model, where the platform became a marketplace model called Getblu in May 2015.
This business today generates Rs 12 lakh annual revenues. However, the team was keen to start something that could scale instantaneously. After a year of hard research Truple was born.
The birth of Truple
Last October, the co-founders realised that social engagement could be a big business in India. Truple, which was born this January, solved the problem of finding help for needs that require engagement between people. Say one likes weightlifting, he/she can connect with another person, around the corner, with a similar interest.
“We realised that social engagement has infinite market potential. It is very difficult to estimate the market size, but India has a huge potential,” says Madhvendra.
Globally, there are 1.7 billion monthly active users on different social networking platforms and it is estimated to grow to three billion by 2020. In India, there are more than 200 million social media users, with 70 percent of them being Facebook users.
“We decided to get into this space as all the current networking solutions are about I, me and myself. In today’s digital world people are independent, but not necessarily inter-dependent; hence they are connected and not engaged,” says Madhvendra.
Existing social networking solutions versus Truple
- They are used by users for self-promotion; Truple is designed to be used for sharing.
- They help people manage connections; Truple helps people manage engagement.
- They make people independent; Truple makes people inter-dependent.
The co-founders have invested Rs 15 lakh and have a small seed round (undisclosed) from one of the angel investors who also invested in Infibeam and Pay1.
Technology is already enabling people to engage with each other. However, most networking platforms promote connections and do not close social engagement needs. Truple uses technology to enable people help each other mostly by meeting and engaging with each other.
The business model
With the median age being 27, there are at least 600 million people below this age group in the country and engaging with each other — based on activity — is going mobile.
The business works on a freemium model where there is a basic and advanced feature. The advanced feature is paid for and also has paid promotions by local businesses and individuals. The company has opened the platform for ad revenue too. The team believes that each of the sources will get activated after they have achieved a pre-defined target. The company will activate the freemium model when they have use base of 1,000,000 daily active users.
“These businesses need to scale rapidly and will need to spend large amounts of money. It depends on how quick they could get customers to sign up and use the platform,” says K Balkrishnan, Co-founder of Exfinity Ventures.
The company’s competition — in a similar vein — is startups like Meetup, Affimity, Nearfox. All these companies are in their early stage and not many have figured out a business model around social engagement business.
At present, there are 2,000 users with less than a month old public beta version with users from USA and Canada (40 percent), India (33 percent) and rest-of-world (27 percent). With limited users in the initial days of building the business they have a problem of fulfillment of user needs. “However, based on genuine user feedback, multiple ways of user engagement are in development phase, which includes passion based professional networking and enhancement in messaging,” says Madhvendra. It is too early to discuss the revenues of the company.
“This applies to any startup, know your market and test it. The next thing is, it has to scale up fast,” says V Ganapathy, CEO at Axilor Ventures.
The Truple team strongly believes that social interaction other than networking online — with friends and family — is very important. Hopefully, they become the platform for social activities. Their journey has just begun.