NowFloats team (From left) Nitin Jain, Neeraj Sabharwal, Jasminder Singh Gulati and looking for prospective clients at Chhattarpur flower market in Delhi Photo: Vivan Mehra/www.indiatodayimages.com
The Facebook page of NowFloats has 1,648 likes and a few interesting comments. Recruitment firm Datum Recruitment Services says NowFloats has enhanced its visibility, which has led to an increase in traffic on its website. A fashion boutique posts that it has received several enquiries in the past one year. Illumination and water effects company Team Water Works writes that they can update their website easily and post pictures taken immediately. There is also Dr Sita Bhatt, a homeopath from Bangalore who runs a clinic called Sai Kripa Homeo Clinic. "I get three-four customers every week who tell me they found me online when they searched for a good homeopathic doctor in Koramangala," she posts.
AREA OF BUSINESS: Website+SEO
YEAR OF INCORPORATION: 2012
COOL QUOTIENT: Gets you a website in 13 minutes flat
What is NowFloats up to?
The Hyderabad-based start-up has taken an old idea but packaged it with all the modern technological trappings - it is in the business of providing small businesses websites and apps and one can get a website up in just 13 minutes using SMS to communicate. Besides the speed and ease of getting a website up, the company also provides automated search engine optimisation (SEO). That is NowFloats' secret sauce and helps small businesses get discovered.
See Pictures: NowFloats helps you get a website in 13 minutes
"Pick up a phone, send three SMSes (FLOAT to 56767878 or 09246462616) and we can give you an online presence. The fourth SMS onwards, is content for the website," says co-founder and CEO Jasminder Singh Gulati, popularly called Jas. "Over the next few weeks, you will know what sort of people are coming to your site and what they are searching for." The website is pre-built and the design is standardised. The first SMS asks for the name of the business, the second for its address, and the third SMS prompts you for a URL.
Gulati, 43, has always been associated with the technology industry, having worked with TCS, Microsoft and Computer Associates, mostly in software product roles. The company has three other founders - Ronak Kumar Samantray, Nitin Jain and Neeraj Sabharwal. While Samantray and Jain were Gulati's colleagues at Microsoft, Sabharwal has a background in advertising.
More than a company providing websites to businesses, Gulati would like to think of the company as a "local discovery platform" that also enables a customer to quickly create, update and manage content. All these require technological innovation and the company has filed for six patents. Four of them are around SEO platforms, built in-house. "There are millions of websites but are they visible on Google? How can local businesses be discovered much more than any other business online? The SEO is the differentiator," Gulati says, emphasising the company's value proposition.
The biggest factor in SEO, he adds, is being able to update the site with relevant content. And NowFloats allows a customer to do that even without any Internet connection. Take the example of Dr Sita Bhatt. She became a customer a year ago and has since been regularly updating her website through SMS. "It has given me a lot of flexibility. If there is a virus going around, I update on the symptoms to watch out for and what to do about it," she says.
Dr Bhatt pays an annual subscription package - the company's yearly charge ranges between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000. The SEO is part and parcel of every package but customers can pay more if they want more fancy stuff like apps.
The company acquires customers through various channels - it has a direct sales team of 25 people and depends on channel partners such as Microsoft and VeriSign to direct customers to the company. Customers, of course, can go directly to its website or download the company's app.
NowFloats already has 10,000 customers, ranging from apparel stores to electronic and mobile shops to food and beverage places and spas. It has hit a run rate of Rs 10 lakh a month. "We will close 2013/14 with close to Rs 1 crore in revenues from under Rs 10 lakh the year before. We should break even in six months," says Gulati. The company is funded by Mumbai Angels, Bloom Ventures and other individuals. It has raised $280,000 in all.
NowFloats does have competition - any developer can create a website. And there are multinationals such as GoDaddy that provides marketing tools and search engine visibility. But the start-up has been able to remove the entry barrier - technology can intimidate small businesses and here, one can get an online presence even without requiring a personal computer, let alone the Internet.