From across the table at a Coffee joint in Central Bangalore, Arjun Zacharia, 31, and Praveen Rajaretnam, 27, are reeling off surprising facts about women in Bangalore. Their recently acquired knowledge of technology and popular culture– information gleaned from meeting hundreds of girls– is scholarly.
Sample this: There are more than 80 models in Mount Carmel College where some of the prettiest women in town go to school, a lot of young women swear by their Blackberry phones even if the outside world thinks that Blackberry is dead and Whatsapp is all over the place, women aged around 30 and above spend more on fashion than others and they have high end smart phones.
That’s just a small bit of their recent discoveries.
For the last few months, these eligible bachelors have been courting some of the most fashionable colleges in town. But not exactly for the same reasons one would assume. Praveen, after a stint in McAfee, the anti virus company which was acquired by Intel Inc, and Arjun, on his second entrepreneurial pursuit, have been building a social shopping platform which helps people on the network discover some of the “coolest” and most fashionable products from the offline world. Ankit Sabharwal, 24, and Soumen Sarkar, 27, are also part of the team.
The team has been to flea markets, college festivals, the fashion institutes, malls and markets to get early adopters on to their social shopping and recommendation platform, called Wooplr. Since coming together in 2012, the team has built a destination which now has hundreds of users including top fashion bloggers, some great brands and users looking to discover interesting things to shop for.
In January last year when Wooplr wasn’t ready yet, the team put up a stall in Jyoti Nivas College in Bangalore and asked girls to post photographs of their fashion accessories, things they liked and stuff from their wardrobe on Wooplr’s Facebook page. “We were just testing the concept then,” said Praveen. Wooplr received close to 200 photographs and reached 5,000 fans on Facebook in a few weeks. Soon, the girls were posting photographs on their own and talking about it to their friends. The network effect was beginning to kick in.
The next stop was Mount Carmel College in Bangalore and Soul Santhe, a flea market. “We asked people to click pictures of their favorite finding and post it on Wooplr and were amazed to see how many of them liked to share pictures of their latest acquisition or find,” says Praveen.
Wooplr then signed up some of the top fashion bloggers and influencers on to their platform and went to the National Institute of Fashion Technology where students were happy to share similar pictures. The ones with the most popular posts got an invite to Wooplr, where they’d be able to hobnob with top influencers.
“Everyone was eager to share,” says Arjun. “They even suggested enhancement to our site to make it more user friendly,” he added. After all, it isn’t very often they get to talk to the best in the fashion industry.
What came out of all this? A neat website which lets you sign up using your Facebook account or with your email and discover some of the coolest stuff in town. It then lets you click pictures and post it on to your social feed with details such as the shop from which you bought it, price and brand. Others on Wooplr can see your recommendation, “love it” and comment on it. If you feel compelled enough, looking at a recommendation, you could walk into the store and buy it.
The site lets you share and discover shopping finds in fashion and other categories such as food and home decor. You could share it with friends for some instant gratification, organise the things you love, follow influencers and others who you think great taste. The site is beautiful with a pinterest like look and feel and its easy to use. The pictures that have been uploaded on the site are of great quality so far and it feels like the online equivalent of flipping through a fashion magazine. The team has also launched an Android app which is in its early stages. One hopes that the Android app lives up the the standards set by the site. The Android app, which is in beta now, really needs to get faster as well as smoother and a better user experience. Hopefully by its public launch in March, it will be up to scratch.
We loved the team’s approach and the site. Its got tremendous potential and it isn’t very often that one comes across a startup going about customer discovery and acquisition with textbook clarity. Not only does it bridge the offline and online world, its crowd sourced and has major revenue potential if it gets to a fairly large user base. Brands would kill to get in.