I can safely say that an entrepreneurial journey is quite lonely, and be absolutely sure that you like an idea enough to set aside a good part of your future life dedicated solely on making it work.
Brief about company, offerings and foundation of the company
LoReMo is a smartphone-based application that is specifically designed to be an innovative approach towards Customer Loyalty and Engagement for merchants. The innovation of the application is rooted in the way it makes use of smartphone platforms and Software as a Solution (SaaS) to deliver a much better experience for customers, while merchants get an incredibly easy, non-intrusive and hassle free program to sign-up with.LoReMo (the company) was born with the idea that we needed to bridge the gap in the customer engagement space namely “the lack of a platform for merchants to connect directly and effectively with their customers through a medium that is non-intrusive and pushy”. After 4 months of prototyping and preliminary analysis, the company was formally incepted earlier this year. Currently, we are a 4-member team and looking forward to scale up the development and sales functions of the company.Anirban Majumdar and I found LoReMo Solutions India Private Limited in January 2012 with the sole objective of developing a product and solutions around customer engagement and Loyalty and Rewards. We saw a definite opportunity in the customer loyalty and engagement space because most of the existing programs were still entrenched in legacy systems, without any significant innovation.Mobile phone is one device that people cannot live without at all times and we wanted to make use of this as a mode for better engagement.We did our market surveys, bounced the idea off a lot of people and then began to work on developing the application.The development started in January 2012 and by April 2012 end we launched in Bangalore by partnering with 7 outlets (mainly restaurant and coffee shops)
Most critical decision
Till date, by far the most critical decision was whether to take the plunge into entrepreneurship or not. Giving up a well-settled work environment and a fat salary cheque was not an easy decision. Coming from a family where most of them have worked either in a public sector or government firms; garnering support from them is quite a challenge. It’s difficult to find acceptance until and unless you are a proven entrepreneur.But then the drive and passion to do something worthwhile and make a difference never really felt satisfied. After taking the plunge, the kick and love from your work will see to it that there is no turning back into the normal mode.
Best company I admire globally
I admire Facebook (the new kid on the block). They challenged the all so mighty Google in the Social Media space and are continuing to expand their reach to put some more industry leaders out of their comfort zones. And the best part is they are doing it at an amazing speed.
Some of the difficulties faced while building product/ solution
All the spaces (mobile app development, Customer engagement, Loyalty and Rewards etc.) we were entering were new to us. But we felt sure that the nature of the problem we were attempting to crack had a lot of potential.On the technical side, building a consumer facing product and that too for the smartphone platform required some grueling back-to-programming-school hours initially. But there haven’t been any showstoppers as such.Currently we are also working hard to solve the puzzle of understanding customer behavior and improving customer engagement based on the data we capture and extending personalized services.
Unique about my way of motivating troops
Getting the right people in, trusting them and their abilities to deliver value for the company and then giving all the freedom and space to prove their mettle is my way of working closely with my team. Micro management is something that I love to stay away from on a conscious level.Everyone in the team is made to realize how interlinked the success of LoReMo is to his or her contribution. It’s not really easy for them to come to terms with that at the start, but in a month or so, each of them is usually “owning” a critical function, which inculcates in them a sense of unparalleled responsibility.Besides, having a culture of complete transparency has worked very well for us. It saves us a lot of time, as we don’t have to answer/resolve individual concerns, while the team members don’t waste any time getting entangled in webs of misinformation.
Experience of reaching out to potential investors
We have been contacted by couple of VC firms, even before we needed funds. We are still putting our business model in place and once this is through, we will approach potential Angel and VC firms. We are on the look out for partners who can help us grow with their guidance rather than help us only with the funds and then stay away.
Way of choosing my people
This is always a challenge and we are still finding the best possible route or process to crack talent hiring. But once in, the best mix of the quality of work and the atmosphere we provide will be the right nurturing to these new members. We make it clear to every new member of the team that, win or loose, success or failure, the learning will always be the takeaway from LoReMo. This has been our approach right from the start and so far it has been working out. We will also be devising ESOP options to reward high performing team members.
The challenges and lessons learnt to get first customer
The first customer is always a challenge. We started off with a free 3-month pilot phase and merchants were more than willing to sign up for this. Delivering the promised value is a given, but showing value above this and getting merchants to switch to the paid up mode was a challenge we faced and continue to face. But we learnt the hard way that without merchants putting their skin into the play by paying, the solution would always be “A nice to have” solution .
My role at different dimensions as the company evolved
In a startup, there are no defined roles for individuals. Everyone has to be willing to take up multiple responsibilities. I have been from the tech and implementation background, but now have scaled up to take care of sales and marketing, operations, finance and much more. This is also the case of my co-founder Anirban Majumdar.
As a leader how I make sure that I am connecting the right dots
I wish there was a process or a rulebook to achieve this. But unfortunately there are none. The key is to trust your instincts and back yourself to do it the right way. There will be a lot of noise around you from people telling you what is right and what is wrong. Just watch out for those right signals amidst all the noise. And it’s very important to connect with other fellow entrepreneurs. There are some critical and wonderful lessons to learn from them.
Risks involved in business and way of addressing
Currently smartphones are widely used by people in India to access social media like FB and twitter, chatting and messaging, gaming, and calling. Indian consumers are not used to the idea of using a smartphone as a medium of engagement. There’s a definite change required in the user psyche. We’ve tried to effect this change by incentivizing almost every aspect of engagement between the user and the merchant through the app. We understand that the Indian population is quite sensitive to the “biggest bang for buck” sentiment, and have tried to tie it into the app at every level. Another risk we’re facing is the low penetration levels of smartphones in India. We believe this is a transitory phase, since almost every credible source of phone purchase data reflects that the adoption of smartphones is experiencing a strong rise. By 2015, smartphones will constitute about 15% of the 700 million handsets owned. However, for the short-term of the next 2-3 years, we’re planning to introduce a limited experience but functional version for feature phones, besides being available on all smartphone platforms.
Different actions if I rebuild my company from scratch all over again
Currently there is nothing that I would like to do differently or rewrite something that has already been done. Time will prove if there is something that I/we should have done better as an individual or as a company.
Advice for fellow entrepreneurs
I personally believe in what Paul Buchheit had to say about advice – “Limited life experiences + overgeneralization = Advice”.But from my collected experiences of setting up LoReMo – I can safely say that an entrepreneurial journey is quite lonely, and be absolutely sure that you like an idea enough to set aside a good part of your future life dedicated solely on making it work. And yes, once you’ve been consumed sufficiently in truly building something from scratch, there’s a lot of joy in looking back at it all.
Three big lessons/ mistakes encountered while building company
The 3 big lessons that we’ve learnt along the way are –1)Focus on devising a really cost effective approach for the first year or so of executing the business model. The entire product experience might feel a bit incomplete or vulnerable, but make sure that the cost doesn’t play spoilsport in scaling up the product in the initial days.2)Keeping a strong communication channel between all members of the core team is incredibly important. We were at times so engrossed in our spheres that we would hardly get much time to understand the different aspects to the product. Soon we realized the toll this was taking on our ability to collaborate seamlessly. Ever since we’ve been very particular about sharing data through collaboration platforms, task management applications and regular time-outs.3)Getting the first set of employees is a very involved process – we were really clueless about recruitment beyond the job portals. We quickly learnt how ineffective all of them are, as well as all these new recruitment services which “claim” to know how to solve recruitment issues for startups. What we’ve figured is that references through personal and professional circles work the best. Have a very easy, effective and time efficient filtering process like an online test, or a relaxed 30 min chat at a café (if possible). And finally, visit tech events to popularize your product so that interested people can notice you.
Motivation and Drives factor
Striving to improve LoReMo even by at least an inch a day is what motivates me. Leaving a mark in the customer engagement space with our solution and in the process creating value for all stake holders is always of prime importance for me.