Bengaluru-based IamHere aims to connect people and resources locally; individuals and businesses show up on the map and can connect through chats, stories, and events.
Guitar teacher, yoga guru, verified plumber, nearest mechanic, closest NGO…whatever you’re looking for, IamHere is there for you.
Naren Kumar, Deepa, and Rajesh, former BITs alumni who worked in corporate world for 15 years, realised they could use their software experience to solve the problem of hyperlocal discovery and collaboration for hobby, interests, and business.
“We provide ‘location as a platform’ for people to use the way they want to use. It’s like how Google provides search as a platform or Facebook offers social media as a platform,” says Naren Kumar, Co-founder of IamHere.
The app works across Bengaluru and lets you specify who you are - tennis player, gamer, dancer, foodie, a doctor, designer, or fitness trainer. People looking for others with similar interests will show up on their map and they can get connected through chats, stories, and events. The network connects only your neighbourhood, but if you open the app, in the office, for example, it shows up a new network in that neighbourhood.
Naren, who knew Deepa and Rajesh from BITS, continued to work on several projects even after they finished their engineering course. Naren went on to work for Cisco and Schneider Electric, and was part of the founding team at 2020 Imaging. Deepa comes with strong product management experience at Amazon, Redbus, Groupon, and Zoomcar. Rajesh, a technologist, had led products from scratch in startups and enterprise-level deployments at Oracle, Juniper, and Fiorano.
“We decided that I will jump in first and so I did. Over the last one year, we have put together a top-notch core team – with people from Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Micromax, and Accenture. Some of our friends helped us get the prototype up – these are stalwarts from companies like Nokia, Deloitte, and Myntra,” Naren says.
IamHere unifies different hyperlocal discovery needs on to a single platform. Their biggest USP, the founders claim, is their user experience - anyone can create his or her profile and identities in less than a minute on the app, and could get a ping in the second minute from somebody like-minded nearby.
“All this is with complete privacy and anonymity. No information is shared between two users until they choose to share,” Naren says.
The trio realised that different apps solved discovery needs for specific interests, say dating or music, but there was an opportunity to solve all interests. How? Google tries to map places, but individuals cannot find people on Maps. Facebook has people, but doesn’t let you find someone nearby to play a game of cricket with. WhatsApp is limited to people on your contact list. There are specific apps/sites that connect sports lovers, fitness enthusiasts, doctors, etc.
“Each of them, no doubt, is doing a great job in their own space, but, as a user, I would prefer one place for my hyperlocal needs. IamHere is doing that by putting people on maps, based on their hobby, interest, or business,” Naren says.
The company started with an investment of Rs 10 lakh in the last quarter of 2017. They have 20,000 users on the platform now.
Their first set of users was friends and friends of friends. Once they had about 1,000 members, they opened it up to the people of Bengaluru.
“We partnered with World Bank for a conference to enable discovery and collaboration among delegates. We partnered with events like Sunday Soul Sante and enabled hyperlocal discovery of businesses and people within the event. We partnered with institutions like Ramaiah and enabled mutual discovery among students. We reached out to small businesses and got them on to the app. We are now partnering with NGOs to run their location-specific social campaigns,” says Deepa, Co-founder of IamHere.
IamHere is also enabling the social sector and small businesses. The app will, after Diwali, launch the largest aggregation of NGOs in the country during Daan Utsav, in partnership with Guidestar India. This will enable people to know where the nearest NGO is, the cause it is working for, current campaign(s), how they can visit/ donate, and much more.
“We have always wanted to make it easy for people to find and connect with NGOs. People would give their money, material, and time so much more if only they could see NGOs nearby, like cars on the Uber app or restaurants on Google Maps. When we saw IamHere, we knew it could be the start of a revolution in the social sector,” says Pushpa Aman Singh, Founder and CEO, GuideStar India.
The app intends for small business to be discovered by not just consumers, but people who would also want to be distributors of local brands. In the first year of operations, IamHere is testing this model and does not want to comment on its operations.
Nitin Kora, a cancer survivor and a strong advocate of natural oil, is a leading distributor of Seeds2Oil, a cold press oil machine manufacturer. By enabling hyperlocal promotions for him and helping him hire sales executives, IamHere claims to be helping him grow his sales.
“IamHere has helped me in not just local business promotions, but also in hiring sales executives within different localities. I must admit we have been able to increase our sales," says Nitin, Proprietor, A2Z Solutions. The signups are free for business; they pay for the promotions (the founders did not disclose pricing details).
The business model
IamHere aims to make money from hyperlocal ads and promotions that either happen directly on their platform or are aggregated from external platforms. For example, a designer can run a campaign for nearby entrepreneurs with a 20 percent discount. A gym can plan a campaign with membership discounts for fitness enthusiasts.
The company did not want to reveal revenues as this is its first full year of operations.
IamHere’s technology is based on some of the latest available in the industry. They partner with Google for Maps and Amazon for Cloud. The technology is a software stack; the infrastructure is in AWS and the front end app is designed in computer languages like Java or Python.
The other popular apps in this segment are MagicPin and Klozest. They have raised money, but not broken even so far.
The next 18 months
On the marketing front, the company is going pan-India with Daan Utsav (Joy of Giving Week) in October. They are enabling the complete Goonj campaign across 10 cities on the IamHere platform. People can find the nearest collection centres on the app, and drop their donations. They have signed a MoU with Guidestar India to map 10,000 NGOs across the country that will be running year-long campaigns, events, and donation drives on the app. The founders have also signed a MoU with iNurture, an education company that makes people employable, to build collaboration among students from the 100-plus colleges iNurture is working with.
IamHere aims to expand across major cities in a year after getting their model right and raising some angel investments.
India has not been very kind to hyperlocal discovery. Hyperlocal startups like Loquery, LocalOye, and many others shut shop because of revenue generation issues and low margins.
V Ganapathy of Axilor Ventures, says, “Hyperlocal has always had trouble scaling up. Nevertheless, if entrepreneurs can figure out how to scale their hypothesis with paying customers, there is a business case.”