“Smartphones are the best way to reach the masses to create an impact,” said Madhav Krishna, who founded WhatsApp API-based gig workers hiring app Vahan in 2016. Its clients include the likes of Zomato, Swiggy, Uber, Dunzo, and Lalamove.
Krishna, who worked in the tech start-up space in the US for seven years, returned to India to create his own. He started a platform by building a virtual English teacher integrated into WhatsApp. “When we realised that sales cycles with vocational training schools —our target customers — were too long, we decided to work with employers, such as Uber, Flipkart, and Club Mahindra. These companies
have a large distributed workforce and are unable to train them at scale. Moreover, since attrition is so high, firms don’t want to invest in training their workers.”
Instead, Krishna found that recruiting these workers was a much larger problem for these companies.
“Job seekers simply message their phone numbers on WhatsApp. Our artificial intelligence-driven bot then initiates the conversation with them, recommends jobs and then lets them apply for the openings,” he said.
Vahan claims to have more than 1.3 million job seekers on its platform and have placed 23,000 of them. Employers pay the start-up a subscription fee per qualified candidate.
Some of its investors include Gokul Rajaram, who built AdSense at Google; Minal Mehta, the head of product at YouTube; Sanjeev Agarwal, the former global head of product marketing at Google; Mekin Maheshwari, the former head of engineering at Flipkart; Vir Kashyap, the former co-founder of Babajob; and Y Combinator.
“Being a part of Y Combinator summer camp has given our company a lot of global exposure from investors as well as potential customers,” said Krishna.
Vahan plans to expand its product offerings beyond on-demand and delivery jobs to add more user-preferred categories. “In the long run, we will also become a demand channel for financial services such as loans and insurance,” said Krishna.
News, classifieds go hyperlocal
Jani Pasha (left) and Vipul Chaudhary
founders of Lokal
English-speaking users in India have access to better internet products for essentially everything — jobs, classifieds, e-commerce, finance, and education. On the other hand, there is lack of quality internet products for non-English speaking users.
To reach out to them, two IIT alumni — Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary — in 2018 launched an app called Lokal, a content platform that delivers local news, classifieds, and information in Telugu in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Lokal boasts of having more than 1 million active users in 18 Telugu-speaking districts and claims to be growing 27 per cent month-on-month over the past 10 months.
“Our app is bigger than the largest-circulated newspaper in 11 districts. We are planning to launch in two more states soon,” said Pasha, whose maiden attempt at creating a start-up, along with Chaudhary, remained ineffective.
The duo had tried to develop a news
aggregator app, which presented news
events in the form of a timeline. “Not many people were using it. We built the product without speaking to the users,” said Pasha.
Lessons learnt, they went back to the drawing board and started interviewing users to understand their reading habits. One of the insights they got was when they met a group of journalists in Pilbhit in Uttar Pradesh, who were selling local news
in the form of videos on WhatsApp.
“Then we started a WhatsApp group in a small town in south India with 10 people, and hired a journalist.” In seven days, the group grew to eight, and “we figured out that local news has value”.
In May 2018, the start-up raised an undisclosed amount from venture capital firm India Quotient, which helped the local news platform evolve. “What we do today is we deliver three things — local news, local classifieds, and local information,” said Pasha.
The start-up has hired freelancers and on-ground journalists who get paid for the content they post on the platform.
Classifieds for jobs, wishes, matrimony, and real estate — user-generated content moderated by the team — are hyperlocal and get published in the local language.
The third category is the happenings in the area like temple timings, day’s events in the town, and phone numbers of local hospitals.
According to Pasha, the start-up is currently not ‘“super-focused” on revenues.
From (hair) loss to gain, in a click
Hyderabad resident Anudeep Reddy was suffering from hair loss during his college days. He tried applying oil, cosmetic products, and even bought a laser cap that cost him around Rs 1 lakh, but in vain.
After he moved to the US for higher studies, he saw people using medicines for hair loss, while in India, most fall prey to inauthentic products. “It occurred to me that there should be a trusted player in the market where people can get their hair loss treated,” said Reddy, who built start-up Nonu Care to sell hair loss prevention kit.
Nonu Care, which went online on July 20, connects people suffering from hair loss to doctors online and provides them with medicines. Now, all that one has to do is to go to the website, place an order along with photographs, and fill in a questionnaire. A doctor reviews the questionnaire and prescribes a suitable treatment. His comments will be available in the user’s account, said Reddy. He started building the start-up in March with Rs 35 lakh his parents gave him. Meanwhile, Nonu Care obtained licences and, a month later, applied for Y Combinator’s summer programme.
“Y Combinator helped the product launch quickly, thanks to the feedback we got after running brief campaigns,” said Reddy.
Nonu Care has 650 subscribers so far, and the doctors it has hired work case by case basis.
The hair kit contains two US drug authority-approved medicines, which include natural vitamin chocolates and medicinal herbs, to stop hair loss. The products are recommended by more than 1,000 doctors in India and the US, its website stated.