Annkur P Agarwal is the Founder and Editor of OnlyGizmos. He writes here about an interesting startup that allows customers to manage warranty information.

Launched on 5th June, Warrantify is an attempt to digitize all paper receipts and warranties from your purchases. An average consumer today has more gadgets than ever before: a smartphone, laptop, camera and if you include all components you purchased when assembling a PC or home appliances, the list can be pretty long, and managing their receipts and warranties, a challenge.

The service aims to be a digital repository for all your purchases making them available via an online dashboard. At the same time Warrantify manages sales and claims for the retailer, giving them an online dashboard for their customers. The dashboard keeps all purchase receipts i.e. bills and warranty cards, allowing users to initiate a warranty claim with a click of a button on the dashboard.

Founder Haritash Tamvada is initially targeting online shoppers, allowing the generation of a Warrantify account for shoppers on the fly. For offline transactions, a proof of concept is in place. This solution either directly adds the receipts and warranties to your existing Warrantify account or SMS’ the login to a new account that is created automatically for the consumer at the Point of Sales.

Business Model

Warrantify charges its retail network partners a transaction fees, i.e. a fixed amount for each consumer electronic device sold or a flat yearly fees depending on the situation. It also allows Ad inventory in the consumer dashboard. The company has a database of what a person is buying and from where, and allows targeting information for advertisers comprising of retailers / manufacturers. On their website, they claim that “Warrantify.com provides SMART analytics concerning purchase activity, price point, timing, and competitors, etc.”

Challenges

Warrantify is a useful concept, but is the solution really a vendor solution? We have seen companies like Apple who ask no questions when honoring a warranty claim. You can claim a warranty at any partner service center across the globe, since they already have a log of when the product was sold and when the warranty expires. But these may be exception, for companies relying more heavily on 3rd party distributors and a dense retail chain, tracking warranties appears to be a challenge. From my retail days I can recall that some companies had a simple 15 month rule: the warranty on a product is 12 months for the consumer, but it’s 15 months from the date they shipped the product to the retailer or distributor, thus accounting 3 months for sale cycle. So a product shipped in Jan 2011 has warranty cover until March 2012. Stores in US are already emailing receipts instead of giving a hard copy. I doubt if retailers in India would need a 3rd party solution for the same.

Expecting retailers & manufacturers to share the failure rate of their products, purchase history and consumer data with a Warrantify, even with all the privacy protocols, doesn’t look like a workable model. Though I remain positive about a paperless revolution.

I don’t consider paper warranties to be a big issue. It’s something manufacturers and large retailers have to incorporate into their systems, not a third party. But if Warrantify get all leading players to use their backend, it would be miraculous. Given the international presence of these companies and diverse retail practices, I doubt if that would be very easy.

Suggestions

For Warrantify to succeed with its current model, it would need a major tie-up from manufacturers of electronic products and give a solution to retailers, online or offline. Given the cut throat competition in consumer electronics and razor thin margins, I wonder if companies would pay a part of their revenue to just digitize warranties by a third party. It’s also not possible to get all retailers to put a digital system in place.

I would suggest giving users a simple interface to store purchase information, come back when a warranty needs to be claimed. Give them a easy access to nearest service center and if the product happens to be out of warranty, give them an alternative place to get the product repaired. Give the consumers all sorts of third party offers and services, right from 3rd party repairs to buy back offers helping them upgrade their electronics. Or perhaps just sell them extended warranties, either from a manufacture or a 3rd party again. Extended warranties are expensive, and manufacturers might be willing to share a cut for selling extended warranties. Additionally, it would be better if companies let users check their warranty status by just searching their product serial no on Warrantify, without having to make an account with the site.

(c) Annkur P Agarwal.