With so many new ventures coming in the hyper-local space, the latest one joining the bandwagon is Near.in based out of Gurgaon, India. The company raised $280k in its initial round of funding from a marquee set of investors. The company launched operations in Gurgaon in December 2014 with diverse set of local service professionals across Home Needs, Health and Wellness, Events and Skills – covering over 100+ services needs.
In Conversation with the founders of Near.in about their journey so far.
Q1.Tell us a little about Near.in and your personal motivation for starting this business.
Near.in is an e-commerce platform for services. We are working to make buying services as simple as buying products.
The biggest motivation for starting this business is that even doing basic day-to-day tasks in our country is a big hassle. It is surprising but getting a seemingly simple thing done like getting your AC repaired or say finding a keyboard class for your kids is still something that takes hours of effort. We decided this needs to change and hence we started Near.in
Q2.Can you give us a rundown of how it works?
We enable you to check upfront prices from your nearby service providers and book them at the tap of a button. There is no need to talk to several providers, haggle over pricing, etc. You can simply book over a 1000+ home needs such as
· Getting your AC serviced
· Booking monthly Yoga sessions at home
· Get a two-hour magician service for a birthday party
· Rent a projector for a day
· Book a vocal music class for your kid, and several more
Q3.Who are your key stakeholders and how are you offering them value?
Our key stakeholders are our service partners and our users.
Our service partners are individual professionals such as a guitar teacher, a physiotherapist, a home bakers, an event planner etc. They currently only rely on word of mouth for generating any business which is highly unpredictable. We give them an ability to generate sustainable business. In addition, our model is completely pay per performance – i.e. we only make money when our providers make money.
To our users we offer ultimate convenience to compare prices from different providers and book all their home related needs from a single app.
Q4.What is Near.in ’s biggest achievement to date? How did you go about accomplishing this?
Over the last few months, we have built the largest catalogue of standardized services. This offers our users an unparalleled bouquet of services across their various needs. This required a multi-pronged approach in working with our users and providers to arrive at standardized services, their scope and the corresponding pricing. This is an ongoing activity which requires insight into user requirements and provider readiness.
Q5.What has been your biggest set back? How did you deal with it?
The services market in India is very disorganized and faces lots of issues around reliability, trust, availability etc. During our journey we have seen and experienced a number of issues around these. Having said that, by learning from these experiences, coupled with our focus on quality providers, strong emphasis on customer wow, and ongoing coaching to providers has enabled us to create a superior experience for our users and earn their trust.
Q6.Could you shed some light on the technology and tools used to build Near.in?
Q7.What is one particular Marketing Tool which you swear by in your business, that has never failed you?
I think the biggest marketing tool is the growth engine we have built from our user referrals. Our happy users are the ones who are spreading the word about our service and we are getting solid high quality traffic. This has worked really well for us without fail.
Q8.What are some the current trends you see in the industry?
Currently there is a lot of activity in hyperlocal services space. It is a market opportunity of over $100bn that is completely disorganized. We see there will be multiple companies that will be created in this space pretty similar to how the product e-commerce evolved.
Q9. There are definitely a lot of companies similar to Near.in floating around right now. What are you doing that differentiates you?
We are taking a significantly different approach than the other players in this space. Their current models are focused on simply generating callbacks from multiple qualified vendors for every user need. The challenge with this is that the user is bombarded with phone calls, has to haggle on prices and still is left with no recourse if the vendor did a poor job.
Our goal is to enable end-to-end transactions online. We do not connect users with vendors but instead we create services as a standardized SKU (like the product e-commerce) wherein we enable users to view different providers with prices and an ability to book the service online itself.
Here’s an analogy of what’s different in our approach: Say if you are trying to book a hotel, one approach would be to connect with 3-4 travel agents who can then possibly find some options for you. The second approach could be to simply see all the details of the hotel upfront online and book it. While others are taking the former approach we are taking the latter.
Q10.Where do you see Near.in in five years?
We want to impact the lives of over 1 million service providers within the next 5 years.
Q11. Do you plan to adopt a “Marketplace Model” giving customers the choice to book their chosen vendor?
As a matter of fact we are probably the only player that is doing this currently.
Q12.Any advice for startups trying to make it big or join the On-Demand space?
Trust and Quality are very important and play a critical role in the success of an on-demand services startup both of which would take time to build. Anyone planning to enter this space should look of this as a marathon rather than a sprint.
You can check their website here.
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