When Pooja Bhayana and Sahil Dhingra met for lunch one day, little did they know that their casual conversation would sow the seeds for an entrepreneurial venture. Sahil was discussing how he was disappointed with the tablet that he had bought. Hearing that, Pooja suggested that Sahil barter the tablet for some goods with friends.
Sahil in no time fell in love with the concept and the duo stumbled upon the idea of Let’s Barter in September 2015.
We started with a website but quickly realised that most of our members were using the platform on mobile and found it tough to use the website. Moreover, we started as a Facebook group because we didn’t have much capital to invest, and this seemed like the perfect medium through which to converse,” reminiscences Pooja (25), an alumnus of Management Development Institute of Singapore.
Let’s Barter has so far engaged 183,000 members and claims to be the world’s largest community for barter on Facebook. Initially, they approached a few friends who were interested in the concept to join the group. Sahil recalls that in the first four hours, the group managed to attract 5,000 members.
Bartering goods and services
Let’s Barter allows users to barter across many categories like electronics, books, gaming consoles and, especially, services. People can also barter their passes and last minute tickets to events. Talking about the value the platform offers, Pooja mentioned that Let’s Barter provides people an alternate avenue for used goods rather than selling them for very low prices on classified sites.
The startup enables the audience to meet each other, barter within their radius and see the products before bartering.
One needs to upload a picture of the product/service and add a description. Users who are interested can connect through a safe in-app messaging centre or comments on the Facebook group. They have also built their own content management systems to ensure that the conversation pertains to barter only. Customers can use the in-app chat feature to avoid sharing numbers with other users and getting spam calls. The app is available for both Android and iOS.
Their marketing activities are restricted to events, campus engagements and giveaways to increase organic outreach. Let’s Barter recently organised an event called Book Barter Social in association with Truly Madly.
Backing from friends and family
After two months of operations, the overhead expenses seemed to be unmanageable. This propelled the duo to raise a small round of funding from friends and family in December 2015. Apart from the money crunch, they also faced challenges in reintroducing the age old concept and convincing people to adapt the same.
They recently launched the app, which has witnessed more than 1,000 downloads. The app helps users upload products, with additional features like mutual friends and an in-app chat.
We took time to understand what the audience wanted and then built a highly intelligent app for them to use and love,” says Sahil (24), a graduate from IP University.
Recently, Let’s Barter India raised an undisclosed amount in an angel round from Scale Ventures and Sanjay Choudhary of Crowdinvest. The funds will be utilised to scale up across different cities of India, educate the market about tech-enabled bartering and build strong tech and marketing teams.
A brainchild of Nilesh Rathi of the Rathi Group of Companies and Rahul Narvekar, ex- CEO, IndianRoots, Delhi-based venture capital firm Scale Ventures invests primarily in early-in-revenue startups.
On the investment deal, Rahul said,
I have known Pooja and Sahil since I was a part of Innov8. I had attended Let’s Barter’s event in Chandigarh and realised that the venture is scalable and has potential in India. We feel that the startup is niche but will connect with the youth of the nation as it follows the very unique model of barter. We will suggest some ideas to Let’s Barter to scale their business by indulging in meaningful tie-ups with e-commerce portals, restaurants and dating sites.”
Currently at the pre-revenue stage, Let’s Barter going forward will introduce a freemium model, where some premium features will be paid access only. These features will include boosting of listings, specified search via area and subscription to notifications for a specific product or service.
The startup will also be working to introduce Let’s Barter currency to help barter across categories. The currency will be in the form of coins, which users can buy if they don't have other products or services to barter. According to Sahil, the major traction of users comes from Jaipur, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. He sees huge potential mainly in the tier II and III cities of India.
Based out of Delhi, Let’s Barter has a team of four members and is planning to create a presence in South East Asian markets over the next few years.
The vision of the company is to be the platform for C2C exchanges and used goods and promote barter of services,” says Sahil.
Competition in the space
The internet revolution has brought the years old concept of bartering back into the mainstream. Net4Barter claimed to have pioneered the Indian corporate barter industry way back in 2000. BarterDaddy has a wide range of advertisements for exchange and lists products across categories, which include automobile, business and services, electronics and computers, home and furniture, mobile and tablets and real estate.
Jaipur-based Faida.com, which allows users to buy, sell and exchange items, has so far listed 35,951 items. Also active in the space is Adalbdal.com, which allows you to upload stuff that you don’t need any more, find stuff you may need, and meetup and exchange.
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- Content management systems
- Rahul Narvekar
- Internet revolution
- Samsung Innov8 Smartphone
- Scale Ventures
- Let's Barter
- Management Development Institute of Singapore
- IP University
- early-in-revenue startups
- Rathi Group
- Barter System
- ecommerce portals