Mohammad Imthiaz founded Y2CF Digital Media 2010 after leading telecom services operator Bharti Airtel’s non voice business for seven years. The Gurgaon-headquartered company’s first product, hoppr, a location-based service, was launched last May. Just a month after the service was launched, Bharti SoftBank (BSB), a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and SoftBank Corp, picked up a 49.74 per cent stake in Y2CF with an option to increase its holding up to 60 per cent in tranches over a three-year period, according to Medianama. In the past 12 months, hoppr, says Imthiaz, has racked up more than 4.5 million users and nearly 10,000 merchants. The numbers beg the question: what’s the fuss all about?
This morning I decided to give hoppr a spin and found myself facing a mildly vexing problem. I had to decide on throwing good money after bad coffee either at a Barista or a Cafe Coffee Day outlet, both just a few steps from my home. After picking the lesser of two evils, I settled down at Barista, and dispatched an SMS saying ‘Barista’ to the toll-free shortcode 56660. This is how you ‘check in’ when you are at a restaurant or cafe or spa that has a tie-up with hoppr. I was a full 12 minutes into my coffee when I got a message from hoppr — “You checked into Barista and got 1000 pts…”.
So, here’s how hoppr works. If you are using the SMS-based service, you need to register your mobile number and then simply check in to hoppr-enabled places the way I did and accumulate points. At the end of every Sunday, users with the most points get a chance to win rewards. You can also use the same SMS service to check for special offers and redeem discount coupons on the spot. The coupon code will be delivered to you via an SMS or will be available in the coupons section if you are using the Android app.
Location-based services free of device dependency
Since its launch in May last year, hoppr has experienced 90 million check-ins across the country, says Imthiaz. “When we started out we began with the premise that we wanted to do something for brands and wanted to use mobile as the medium. The question was how one could offer relevance, information and interaction. The answer was location and that was the starting point for hoppr,” he says.
Location-based services by itself is not a new concept. Foursquare, the New York-headquartered company founded by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai, has been around in the space since March 2009. The difference between hoppr and Foursquare is that while the latter largely focuses on smartphones and apps-based access, hoppr can be used on any kind of mobile phone because of its SMS-based feature. Given than simple feature phone still far outnumber the smart phone users in India (there are an estimated 44 million smart phone users in the country) this makes sense.
“We’re trying to build applications that actually sit on telecom networks and sniff out locations. Our service has no dependency on device. It is exactly the same whether you are using a simple feature phone or an iPhone,” explains Imthiaz. The company has ongoing partnerships with most leading telecom services operators including Vodafone, Tata Docomo, Idea and of course Airtel.
The company is not focused on revenues in a big way at present, but currently gets a share of telco revenues from discount coupons that are used by consumers at hoppr-enabled retail outlets. In the long term it expects to derive the bulk of its revenues from merchants, who currently use the service for free. As its user volumes grow, data analytics based services for merchants could become a significant revenue stream.
(c) StartupCentral 2013.