NearU acts like a smart partner: Hemanth Meka Rao
NearU acts like a smart partner: Hemanth Meka Rao

While the market is clustered with assist pricing apps, helping customers grab the right offers presented by the online marketplaces, Mumbai based start-up NearU has launched a ‘vendor to user’ mobile app. The app assists the consumers with the discounts and offers made available by the offline retailers in the traditional offline marketplace across seven metros in the country. The app has 7000 retail vendors operating in multiple categories and spread across 20,000 outlets pan India. Acknowledging the functioning of the app, brain child and CEO of the venture Hemanth Meka Rao spoke to

What inspired you to launch location based mobile app for discovery and deals?
It all started innocently when my wife and I were having dinner at a restaurant and I paid by credit card. When I walked out, I realised that another credit card had a 10 percent off. I thought to myself that wouldn’t it be nice if there was an app that curates all the deals and offers at the location I’m present.
From that, it just grew and I started observing that it’s more than just credit card deals, its sales, happy hours, and more. And as we understood the space more, we realised how difficult it was for retail stores to get users through the traditional marketing channels like flyers, hoardings, print, radio, TV ads, emailers and sms that were either too expensive or ineffective. We observed and studied that there has always been an unwelcomed gap, can also be termed as, miscommunication, between vendors and consumers (Particularly escalated by the arrival of ecommerce websites/Apps). The objective of NearU is to highlight the availability of offers in retail outlets.

How NearU app acts like a mediator between vendors and consumers?
There are vendors who are looking for the right consumers and there are consumers looking for the availability of products on discounted prices at retail outlets. It’s a simple app that uses the online to offline utility model with bringing the online app users to the offline retail market. The vendors can easily showcase their offers and deals at one place and the users can be guided to the retail store through the app. 10K active users a day connect to the App.

How does this app guide it users in the journey of online to offline while encouraging them to go the traditional way of shopping of touch and feel factor?
The merger of availability and awareness! People usually are not aware of the availability of offers and deals around them in retail outlets, assuming that the best deals are only available on eCommerce platforms. NearU acts like a smart partner and gives the best assistance to the users at no cost. The app helps consumers with where to shop, where to save money or what places to visit. With features such as category wise view, map wise view and brand wise view, it has become simpler for the users to save time and money. It lets you explore all the retail brands of your choice and helps you to avail all the deals at the retail outlets with just a click.
Offers and deals kept aside, everybody loves and prefers touch and feel. That’s the basic human instinct that the ecommerce platforms cannot cater to. NearU acts as a platform for the users where they can get both, deals information with touch and feel at the retail outlets where they visit to redeem those deals. 

For retail brands how does the app facilitate sales promotion and retail marketing activities at their outlets?
NearU has planned many co-marketing and co-branding campaigns with many retail brands that are already on the app. This will initiate BTL events which will be held at the outlets of the brands. NearU will promote the same on the app and also distribute coupons and installation based marketing at the outlets. At times when a brand does not have any offer to market, the marketing team of NearU consults them and strategises, constructs and structures an offer or a promotional activity, which they can list on the NearU app. One of those marketing activities can be sales promotion activity at their outlets which can either be planned at the outlet or promoted on the NearU app.

How many retail brands in different categories do you have onboard?
We are spread across clothing, accessories, food and beverages, electronics, hotels, automobiles, health and beauty, entertainment, home and living and more. NearU has its presence in 7 major cities- offers being Pan India. NearU has 7000 retail vendors spread across 20,000 outlets pan India.

While number of consumers opting for e-commerce apps is increasing, how was the initial response for NearU?
Users between the age group of 15-25 are loving the app, mainly due to amazing offers being shown on one app, store space being less and battery usage being minimal. The App is phenomenally low at 2.9 MB. We have seen tremendous increase in installations during the sale period and we hope it continues. User engagement is on a high too. We are observing Offers Views and Click on a daily basis by unique users. From the vendor perspective, huge brands are coming on board with exclusive offers and we provide them monthly analytics of views on their offers and outlets.

How did you fund your business?
The proof of a good idea is not one where you can invest money, but where others believe in what you’re doing. So, when I approached family and friends to invest, with little convincing, they came onboard and funded the entire venture.

What is your current market presence?
NearU has offices/Teams in 6 cities. However, our network of vendors, offers and deals are in 30 cities in India.

What are your future expansion plans? What would be the investment?
Our goal is to be in every city and town in India where a retailer needs a customer. We want to be that bridge. We also want to offer not just better deals to customers, but even a better experience than an ecommerce site. We want to get the product you want on NearU delivered to you in hours by the merchant, rather than wait endlessly for an ecommerce site to deliver it to you. Once we feel comfortable in our growth, we would plan an expansion outside India. The investment is not much as we run a very lean operation.

Any plan of approaching for next round of funding? What would be the amount?
We have started approaching investors for the 2nd round of funding. We aren’t looking to raise too much as we believe in keeping our costs low and giving maximum return on investment. So we’re looking for 500,000$ - 1 Million$.

What is your opinion of start-ups coming in the vendor to user space?
I think it’s a cluttered area, but at the same time an astonishingly vast space. Cluttered for those who coming in without the right vision. Unfortunately, they are plenty. They are looking at creating the present hype, the instant news without focusing on the long term goals. Startup apps should be able to define their positioning in terms of providing real value to Vendors and Users that would last for years and years to come.

What is your current turnover and what is the target for fiscal 2016-17?
We have not started charging merchants as we are first focusing on the user and merchant experience and low cost acquisition. However in the next 3 months we will be starting that process and hope to achieve the cash flow positively in this fiscal.

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