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Startup Santa, here goes the customers' Christmas wishlist

Vrunda Bansode
25th Dec 2016
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Hello dear startups,

Here is your customer again. I wrote to you at the beginning of this year trying to express what I really need from you – the consumer Internet startups. I am still the same – the prototype urban woman customer with spending power and digital devices at fingertips, and hoping for startups to make her life and environment better.

vrunda

Some water has flown under the bridge this year – some of you did not survive to see the end of the year, some of you have changed track and some are persistent in their efforts to woo me and my friends. Kudos to the tremendous effort by all of you – I admire the hard work, tenacity and dedication you have shown.

Some of you are lofty dreamers and that tempts me to present my lofty wishlist to you as a customer. Call it a fanciful Christmas wishlist if you will.

Online grocers

Do you know what really is my pain point in grocery shopping? For ordering I have myriad options to choose from – go to the store if I have time and a group of friends willing to come along for a trip ending with a cup of coffee, friendly neighbourhood grocer who delivers on demand with a quick phone call, and of course you are there too.

My real pain point is figuring out what to buy, how frequently and keeping track of the stock. No one is really helping me there and the grocery shopping list clutters a big part of my brain. Can you solve that please? I hear about IoT here, IoT there, everywhere. Why not in my kitchen?

How about a smart grocery shelf that has designated drawers (removable and washable of course) for specific items and a sensor for each drawer that communicates with your app when the stock goes below some minimum weight? That way I don’t need to track what’s getting over and keep a list. You will know exactly what I need and you can just deliver once a week everything I need in one scheduled trip!

Very soon you will be able to predict and plan demand patterns, delivery schedules and your cash flows. Efficient for you, great for me and I won’t ever leave you because my shelf talks only to your app! Wouldn’t that be cool?

Maid services

I am still waiting for you to make my maid your employee and provide me a reliable service every day. Please make her a worker in the organised sector with attendant benefits – she really needs it. Just like the food delivery and cab guys, please give her a smart device that tells me if she is at work today, if she is already at my neighbour’s place, and all such helpful bits of information that help me plan my day well.

By being an organised sector worker, she can become a valuable part of the economy in so many ways – health insurance, her identification documents, bank accounts, her inclusion in the financial system – it’s priceless. And the convenience of paying digitally in the days of demonetisation – even more precious! You will actually create a valuable impact rather than just offer me an on-demand cleaning service that I might use only sporadically.

E-commerce fashion sites

For me, you are an online mall minus the excitement and brightness of the physical mall, minus also the movies, popcorn and minus the food court. And I can’t really have the social experience of shopping that I enjoy so much – friends to provide instant feedback outside the fitting room, browsing the new arrival racks, fawning over pretty shoes lining the walls, trying out stuff before buying and discovering something unexpected. I find that some of you – especially the horizontal aggregators – have very little sense of fashion. You might think tech and discounts are answers to everything. They are not!

In fact that is true for so many of you in every sector – from agriculture, food, healthcare, education, to emotional wellness and more. Put the heart of business back where it belongs. Tech, app, funding and growth hacking are not answers to everything. Winning millions like me over is what you need to do. Tech might enable you to do that, but we don’t really care what tech/tool/hack you use as long we like you. And we like businesses that know us and care for us.

Like an online medicine ordering app that will also remind my ageing parents through the day to take the right medicine at the right time and let me know when they miss. Like a fashion site that understands that a 40-year-old needs things that are different from what a 20-year-old needs and shows me the relevant ads on Facebook. Like an app that reads out the text received automatically when my phone is on 'I’m driving' mode and also conveys to all callers that I’m driving, thus keeping me distraction-free and safe – maybe my navigation app needs to have this feature too!

How do you find out what I really need and wish for, what I am ready to pay for? You live in your own echo chamber called startup ecosystem. Will you please step out of there and walk in my shoes? Will you talk to me and listen? Maybe you can try including the likes of me into your startup panels and pitching contests once in a while. You never know what you might discover.

Yours truly,

Customer-in-waiting

 

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