Contact Diaries, an app which is your personal concierge
Joining the ever expanding and increasingly competitive market of mobile applications is Contact Diaries. A free mobile app service that offers its users all kinds of information related to entertainment and shopping within their city.
Join YourStory.in as we discover Contact Diaries through Pavan Hemdev, co-founder, sharing his experiences starting up in this space and the idea behind this venture.
Tell us something about your initiative. Where and when was it established?
Contact Diaries is a smart, informed Mobile App that helps you stay ahead when you’re on the move. A personal concierge!
This concierge doesn’t wear a black tie. Nor is he found only in 5-star hotels. And he certainly doesn’t expect a tip for services rendered. But he does have all the info on the exciting, most happening spots and offers in the city – and maps with explicit instructions on how to reach them! You don’t have to accept his recommendation about the quality of the hotspot – genuine consumer reviews are provided!
Be it movie or play timings, fine dining or night clubs, the best spas or parlors, dance classes, exclusive shopping and outstanding offers, the location of your closest florist, or even emergency services, Contact Diaries will enlighten you quickly, efficiently.
It took almost a year to gather the information and develop the app for Blackberry and Android devices, but today Contact Diaries doesn’t just have a comprehensive list of 2250 restaurants, 700 movie halls and art galleries, 15000 + shops and every other business in Mumbai – chemists and colleges included, it has relevant user reviews so you can make an informed choice and even tracks your flight status. It is available for FREE from www.contactdiaries.com/download.html or from the BB App World or Android Market respectively.
How did you come up with the idea?
I’ve grown up studying technology and was always excited about the boundless possibilities of smart phones. The idea germinated in late 2010 when I returned from London and wanted contact details and directions to all the new places that had opened up in Mumbai. I always had to refer to friends for recommendations or open the newspapers to view movie timings. From then on, its been a very exciting journey and we have been able to add many more features which would help our users.
Could you tell us something about the creators of this app?
Raunaq Hemdev: Co-Founder
After Graduating from Thadomal Shahani Engineering College in IT, Raunaq Hemdev joined JP Morgan where he looked after the Derivative Market for two years and completed his CFA level -1. Later, he decided to join the family business – export of fashion accessories to top retail stores in the US and has brought tremendous energy and growth to the company. Raunaq Co-founded Contact Diaries and serves as the company’s Business and Product development head. Passionate about social welfare, he rendered voluntary services to ADAPT (school for the disabled).
Pavan Hemdev: Co-Founder
Not your average Tech Junkie, Pavan Hemdev holds an Msc. in Computer Science from Oxford University and is also a published author. Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, he returned to India to Co-Found Contact Diaries and presently serves as its technical head. Prior to Contact Diaries, he worked at Acturis, where he concentrated on providing Business Intelligence to Insurers and served as a Technical Business Analyst. Pavan is passionate about solving the problem of illiteracy and plans to open a school in the future. He is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Mumbai.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is very exciting but at the same time full of ups and downs. Since college, we always dreamt of starting a technology company together and today, we are very fortunate to have realized our dreams. Contact Diaries is driven by the passion of using technology as an enabler to offer services which were otherwise not available on the go and to change the relationship dynamics between business and consumer.
I love the line quoted in ET Starting up – ‘There’s No better time in starting up than Now’
What kind of challenges did you face while starting up?
The hardest part of starting up is starting up itself. Every entrepreneur goes through the impossible decision of ‘Shall I continue with my professional career or risk it for this great idea in my head?’. Once you get past that stage and start concentrating on your idea, things simplify. The next road block we hit was in gathering the right team. As a start-up, it is very important to have colleagues and employees who are driven by the same passion and see the start-up being a huge success. Even today, we spend a considerable amount of time in selecting the right candidate. Building the right work environment is key to retaining your employees.
There are similar applications in the market? How do you address that?
There is always going to be competition in every market, we take that as a healthy sign. A wise man once told us it’s better to know who your competitors are than to be in a no-zone space. Contact Diaries is currently focused on Mumbai and we aim to provide our users with the highest quality content about the city. The user onterface is simplified and enjoyed by all. Most of our data is verified to ensure a hassle free experience. In addition to an artificially intelligent search engine and the latest technology, there are several other features, many of which are personalized and are about to be rolled out soon that will distinguish us from similar players in the market. We believe this will be the decade of smart phones. Hence we are primarily focusing and putting all our expertise on developing the best mobile application for India.
What are you plans for this application in the future?
There is still a lot of work to be done. Ideas are limitless and look very promising. Going forward, we would like to launch on other platforms and devices like the iOS, Windows and Symbian. The next logical step would also be to expand geographically at a comfortable pace to ensure the high level of user satisfaction and quality content. However, the new social and communication features are what the team at Contact Diaries is really excited about. Although, these may take some time, they will most certainly add a new dimension to the product.
What kind of response has it generated?
Contact Diaries was launched on the Blackberry platform in October, 2011 and in December for Android devices. The response garnered through word of mouth has been tremendous and we actually haven’t spent any resources on marketing. What’s really kept us going is the high percentage of daily users. The vision is not to rush, but to build a reputation of unshakable credibility and trust. It’ll be exciting to see what the New Year has in store for us.
What is your target group?
The app is free for one and all but given the initial response, the application is very popular amongst the 20-30 year old age group.
How does your revenue model work?
We are currently looking at generating revenue from value added advertisements, premium profile listings, deals and events. The advertisement platform deployed is quite sophisticated and allows our clients to target the right audience. We are also working on different revenue streams such as m-commerce and a few new concepts.
What about your capital? Were you bootstrapped or sourced funds from elsewhere?
We are currently bootstrapped and have been able to run efficiently through automating most of our processes. However, going forward we will be looking at raising capital.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
“From the latest restaurants and movie timings to the hottest events and offers, Contact Diaries is the simplest way to stay ahead… on the move. It is your friend, to show off to your other friends. You rely on it for your spa appointment and even emergency services. Our users love this application because it is so easy to use and helpful to all.” say Raunaq and Pavan Hemdev.