NowFloats is a location based mobile service which looks to provide relevant and contextual information to users based on their current location and time. The app is currently available as a free download on Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8 with an iOS version expected in the future.
How Does It Work? When we checked, we noticed that the app auto-detected our location and offered three types of content – user thoughts around our location called as ‘Floats’, a marketplace which offers deals around our location and an event section which lists all the events happening around our location. (We tried the app on Galaxy Nexus running on Android 4.2.). The app also allows one to edit their current location or increase the place radius.
One can tap on the user thoughts section to browse through various thoughts around their surroundings. By default, the app shows text updates but one can also view images for that location by tapping the image section. One can sort of up-vote these floats which is called as ‘Airing’ or down-vote floats which is called ‘Sinking’. One can also expand any specific float to open it in a dedicated page and comment on it or share it via email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter.
Similarly, one can tap on the market section or the event section to browse through various listings, sort them based on various parameters related to the section or share it via email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter. The company also points out within the app that it plans to introduce additional features like saving a specific deal to their Inbox or adding a specific event to their calendar in the future.
Adding Floats: One can also signup for the service or login with their Facebook credentials to add floats to the platform. One can tap on the compose bar in the homepage, modify their location (if necessary) and share text or images to the platform. All floats are public at present but the app indicates that the company is planning to introduce a private floats mode, shortly.
Content Partners: NowFloats has partnered with several partners to offer content. This includes Burrp for local events, MeraEvents for corporate events and conferences, BookMyShow for movie tickets, EmployeeStreet for meal discounts (Hyderabad only) and MyDala, TimesDeal, Upto75 and DealDrums for online deals. The company is also sourcing location data from Google to show nearby places in the market section.
At the time of writing this article, we noticed that the app offered only a few deals on its market, although we are not quite sure if it is due to lack of deals in our current location. On the event front, the app however offered a significant number of events to us, although a majority of these listings were movie listings from BookMyShow.
Onboarding Local Businesses: Besides the app, NowFloats also allows small and medium businesses (SME) to set up a website and regularly update it via SMS. The company had partnered with Gupshup to offer this service in June 2012. NowFloats also claimed that these messages will be available as search results on various search engines. The company currently offers various plans starting at Rs 2,000 going up to Rs 12,000 per annum for the service.
Metrics: NowFloats claims to have 85 paying SME customers and four premium customers, with each merchant receiving around 100 visits per week. The company claims to be generating a total 22,000 visitors at present and generate revenues of around Rs 2 lakh per month.
In June 2012, NowFloats had received $30,000 grant from Microsoft for securing the top place at Microsoft’s BizSpark startup challenge. The company was also a part of the first startup batch which graduated from Microsoft’s Azure Accelerator last week.
On Scaling The Business: NowFloats stated that they are looking to grow sales through real estate agents and talking to various associations to run initiatives to get these businesses online. The company is also looking at partnerships with various communities. Besides this, NowFloats also has something called Floatexchange, through which it offers deals on its platform to other channel partners who are looking for deals.
Hindi Support: NowFloats stated that its platform supports UTF-8 encoding, so businesses can type in Hindi on their websites.
On Competition: When asked how they are different from the Bangalore based hyperlocal startup Localbeat, NowFloats stated that LocalBeat is primarily a consumer service which focuses on news while NowFloats is a hyperlocal content discovery service which focuses on user thoughts. Besides this, NowFloats also pointed out that the mobile app is just one of the channels through which it offers content to users. NowFloats stated that unlike one of its competitors JustDial, the company allows local businesses to update their sites and manage it through live content, since these businesses own their respective subdomains.