Advertising and marketing is evolving at a rapid rate. It progresses from such a dynamic field to newer forms, and the advent of social media has opened doors of possibilities for marketers to target a new audience in ways never thought of before. Word of mouth remains the best and most convincing form of advertising today. Not only is it cheaper than hiring celebrities, but it ensures a one on one targeting, and let’s customer database do the advertising for themselves. Working on the same principle, the good folks at FamousEnuf have launched the first platform in India where you can post real reviews of things you’d normally try, from food to services to start-ups. There’s finally a way to utilize that social media fame to yield actual benefits – from a beer to a discount coupons and so much more.
The way it works is simple. All you need is 300 friends or more on Facebook for you to register. Once you select a product or service to review, post a genuine review of the same on your social media, and then check your dashboard for rewards. The system works brilliantly for you to utilize your social media fame as well as get neat rewards for the same. We had an exclusive chit-chat with the founder couple, Rachita Pandya and Aditya Shah, which might just revolutionize the way we look at marketing and the power of social media to generate rewards. Here are some excerpts:
What was your educational background and working experience? When did entrepreneurship strike?
We have known each other for over 15 years now, have been childhood sweethearts and recently celebrated our first wedding anniversary.
Rachita pursued her PGP from the Indian School of Business (Class of 2015).
We are both Electronics and Communication engineers from Sardar Patel University and have pursued a management post-graduate course , Global Innovation Program, from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Work Ex: We both have worked as software developers in Tata Consultancy Services right after under-graduation.
Aditya then moved to his family business of circus management and OOH advertising and played the role of Chief Strategist for a couple of years. He then moved to Bangalore and worked as Head – Business Development with a start-up, Giftxoxo & Frogo.
In the meanwhile, Rachita worked as a Brand Consultant and a Brand Strategist with a renowned 360’ marketing communication firm, Cognito India. She has experience in handling accounts of brands of the like of Sony MIX, L&T and Mahindra and Mahindra. Post-ISB, she got placed in a Bangalore based start-upthrough campus placement and worked as Business Manager in Special Projects for over a year before taking the plunge and starting up FamousEnuf.
Entrepreneurship involves risk taking and many times puts one in a situation where they doubt themselves. To have a partner who believes in you, no matter what, is a boon we as a couple are blessed with. You can’t have a clone, and it is rare to find that someone special who not only complements you but also brings out the best in you. It feels great to have that someone. In each other, we see our alter egos, someone we can share risks, fears, responsibilities, triumphs and everything in between.
What was your first job, and how well did it pay?
We both got placed in Tata Consultancy Services through campus placement after graduation. It was a decent paying first job. Not pay scale but the immense learning opportunity that the work presented led us to make that choice. Again it wasn’t the money that prompted us to leave TCS. It was the hunger to do something different, to be independent and to carve a niche for ourselves.
How was the idea of your startup conceptualized? What is the need you are addressing in the market?
Today, more than ever, it is no longer about communicating to the consumer but it is all about communicating with the consumer. The most significant change of the past few years has been that of the consumer taking complete charge. Digital technology era has opened up a two way channel for consumers to talk with, to and about their brands. It’s no longer a one way street.
A connected consumer behaves very differently and brands recognize that. Moreover, consumers are relying more and more on peer reviews. With start-ups like Tripadvisor and Zomato validating the popularity of peer reviews, brands need to tell good and positive stories about themselves to be told by people who matter to the consumers. And these people are no longer the celebrities in the conventional sense. According to Nielson, 90% people trust recommendation from peers over celebrity endorsements. That is telling, isn’t it?
Having worked on sides, brand as well as advertising agency side, we understood the importance of crafting the right message that connects with the audience. As consumers, we are constantly bombarded with forced ads. There is so much clutter! Even so, with consumers relying more and more on peer reviews and social media platforms at the fore, consumers today are more vocal about their likes and dislikes. They are more equipped to display brand loyalty today.
But brands are at a loss to identify brand loyalists. Not only that, they have to deal with a plethora of advertising agencies and struggle to craft the right message and share content the audience will love.
FamousEnuf offers a solution to all these problems. There are 3 cogs driving the wheel of FamouEnuf – crowd-sourced UGC (user generated content), word of mouth and barter.
We thought why not de-centralize this huge and scalable advertising market. How great it would be if the consumers themselves create and promote campaigns for the brands they love.
Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, because it is not advertising. It is giving an honest opinion. And what’s more is that brands can recognize these brand loyalists and barter their own products for these campaigns. Paper currency is so yesterday, we say. Social currency is in. Use your social currency and barter it for awesome products. Which goes on to say, now your Facebook posts can get you awesome branded products. Plus, now brands not only identify and reward brand loyalists but also convert them to brand evangelists. This creates enormous value for both brands as well as consumers.
Brands also get access to a dynamic self-serve dashboard where they can scout through users, based on the number of people they can reach, previous campaigns etc. They also get a detailed engagement report on how the campaign is doing.
Is there a story behind the name of your startup?
Yes, we firmly believe that today, because of the power of social media, we are all micro-celebrities. An average Facebook user has about 300-350 friends and the inner circle of influence has grown to 100-150 for everyone. Which means, users are in a position to influence that many more people. People in their social circles believe in them, think of them as a “knowledgeable” friend or someone whose choices, opinions they admire and follow.
So, FamousEnuf, asks the pertinent question to all social media users – Are you Famous Enough (Enuf) ? To be able to steer thought and action in your circle and be the brand ambassador for the brands you love.
What is your business model?
Brands pay us per campaign.
We are set to launch our Android mobile app in the next 7-10 days. We recently wrapped up a private beta with one brand and 30 users, which gave us a decent taste of the market and also gave us more confidence to go to market with blazing horns. Our users are typically active social media users in the age group of 18-35 and all brands who want to advertise!
Have you raised any funding so far? What are your plans to use this funding for?
We are currently bootstrapped and in conversation with some investors. We will use the funds to build technology, build an excellent team and scale across platforms and geographies.
What was it that attracted investors to your business according to you?
Today it is all about automating activities and driving engagement. How to make lives easier for users. How to involve community to give inputs. We are doing exactly that. We are shifting the power from a few powerful players to the community at large. User generated content is king. We are tapping into the creativity of the masses rather than just the classes.
This process of automating advertising by crowd-sourcing campaign creatives and promotion in an organic way, evoking only natural behaviour on both sides is what is most interesting about FamousEnuf.
We are to advertising as Uber is to cabs and Kickstarter is to fundraising – shifting the power to the larger community. We are the only customer focussed platform. No influencers, no celebrities, no advertising agency. A pure platform for people like you and me, to share and spread the word for our favourite brands.
What is your office culture like?
We have a lean team of four right now. We are in the process of hiring. We believe, have less but have the best of the lot. We are on the lookout for people who are self-starters and bring value to the table not only for the company but also other employees.
Our office is in our apartment currently. We have an Xbox gaming console attached with a home theatre system. Us being foodies, you will always find something to munch on readily. It’s a very warm and cozy place where employees feel welcome and at home and are offered an environment that encourages them to put their best foot forward.
We are both fun-loving people and believe in work hard, party harder. So, from impromptu de-stress trips to a gaming session, it’s all a part of the FamousEnuf culture!
What has been your biggest challenge since its conception? What is your personal style of addressing the challenges you faced?
Social media is changing so rapidly from introducing new features to changes in how users see content that we have to be quick enough to keep pace. Being flexible is important but at the same time it is important to also maintain the core essence of FamousEnuf. That is challenging.
As with all start-ups, we too face new challenges every day. Some big enough to rattle us and some small enough to be solved in a jiffy.
For all challenges, though, between the two of us, we have a system. It is like playing chess. You take stock of all your options, calculate the impact of consequences for each, and make the best move with the knowledge and information you have at the time being.
We have known each other long enough and have solved many real life challenges together to come up with a new game plan when things go awry.
How do you see the growth scenario is this business? What do predict for the future of your business?
The business opportunity is huge. With close to INR 17 billion spent on social media marketing alone, we now see brands willing to spend more than 15% of overall marketing budget on social media which earlier used to be about 3-4%. This shows a shift in the preference which is hugely because social media platforms are strong, powerful platforms where users speak their mind. Social media marketing is increasingly becoming the preferred choice of CMOs.
There are about 200 million social media users in India, of which 130 million are on Facebook. With about 60 million daily active users, India is poised to become the country with the largest number of Facebook users.
Today when the average time spent on Facebook has increased to 40min, we see a trend that is not only here to stay but transcend to a level where these communities become our first avenue for discussions.
Users share minute and personal details on social media. They connect with like minded people, they connect with friends and family. This is the Age of Social where engagement is at its peak. Here are communities that are built based on real emotions, real thoughts and real opinions. Not based on borders or race but only real connections. And this is exactly what we are trying to do with FamousEnuf.
Without any hand-matching from our end, scaling opportunities are huge. Think of this as a dating platform for brands and consumers where they can court freely, easily and with the ones they like. FamousEnuf is a global product. This really works across any platform and essentially anywhere in the world.
What changes have you experienced in your own self since the day you started the business till now?
We used to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle with a cushy, very well paying job which demanded almost fixed working hours and offered weekends off. We could afford to sleep in till late on the weekends or do a TV series marathon. It’s very different now. We wake up early on all days of the week , burn the midnight oil and work through the night, become thrilled if we get to watch an episode of the latest GOT season per week and are cautious about our spends.
But, that is not to say we aren’t enjoying life. The morning after the last day at job, we woke up with the most wonderful feeling – the feeling of being the founders. The joy, excitement and pride that comes with running your own start-up and the hunger to innovate and disrupt over-compensates for the so-called sacrifices.
We firmly believe what we are doing is going to change the future of advertising, the way brands advertise and the way consumers absorb ads. With bringing back barter and encouraging word of mouth, we know this is the future and we are en route to creating it.
Would you be interested in using your social media power to write reviews in exchange for goodies? Let us know in the comments on our official Facebook page Entrepreneur India