With e-commerce picking up pace in India, more and more consumers are complaining of poor physical retail experience. Brands often lament the poor feedback they receive from customers. This is widening the divide between brands and consumers, but as Albert Einstein once said: ‘In the middle of diffi culty lies opportunity.’ Kiran Rudrappa, Founder and CEO, GladMinds seized the moment when he teamed up with his partners to set up his venture, a new-age connectivity solution. IMAGES Group talks to Rudrappa about his innovative business platform.
Brands, through the years, have gone through a constant change in innovating retail experience with fancy interiors and unique product offerings. However, very often consumers complain of bad shopping experience leaving retailers puzzled. It was either the selling point or the after-sales services or the loyalty programmes that figured as key problem areas. According to Rudrappa, the Indian retail industry has been going through a lot of ups and downs in the past few years. “Retailers went through recession and then innovation. They went through a political shift and the digital revolution. The industry has undergone an onslaught of emotional waves. Some retailers are happy, while others are going through hope, anxiety, anticipation, caution, anger, frustration and so on. So if you look at retailers today, they are a lot more prepared than how they were a couple of years ago. They have also realised that they need to be innovative and analyse things clearly in order to emerge winners.”
E-commerce has posed a great threat to physical retailers, who are constantly trying to create new ideas to bring back dissatisfied customers to their stores by offering them a better shopping experience. Rudrappa finds the platform of business does at times differ between small, medium and large retailers. All segments of retailers would have to continuously re-invent themselves in every momentum with a lot more personalised service offers.
Having faced constant struggles with after-sales services in his personal life, Rudrappa, armed with his years of experience in the RND technology industry, started GladMinds in 2013, with the purpose of creating a cloud-based platform where a brand and the consumer can connect with each other. Rudrappa is confident about targeting a turn-over of Rs. 5 crore in late 2015, as the company is already clocking a little over Rs. 2 crore in March 2015. The golden opportunity of working with a big brand during the company’s inception provided Rudrappa and his team the perfect opportunity to device a platform in various ways as per the requirements of their clients.
He explains: “This lack of connection had left us with an opportunity. We are a technology space where we have made a cloud based-platform where the brand and the consumers can get connected with each other. Once a connection has been established, a brand can offer various services. At the same time, as a consumer I can put my products on a platform and have the brand validate it and accept connections. This gives an opportunity to provide infinite services.”
Composed of three partners – Pradeep Barghav, Naveen Shakti and Ravindranath – the GladMinds team is constantly trying to create new ideas for the customers.
GladMinds handles clients from the automobile and consumer durable industry. In retail, the company targets malls and standalone outlets. GladMinds offers a platform where a connection can be made through the mobile phone and the internet, which in turn opens up infinite possibilities. According to Rudrappa, the consumer can be anybody from corporate, individuals or even communities. So, when the brand immediately accepts the customer, it also validates the product purchased by the consumer, thus establishing a constant link between the two. This also allows communities to get established creating wish-lists, clarifications and other possible exercise promotions.
Consumers, therefore, are automatically connected with the brand the moment they make a transaction following promotional materials, coupon offers and all other activities that actually help the brands to understand the needs of their valued customers. This also helps brands to upgrade their services to their followers. So, when the brand validates the customer, it can also customise loyalty programmes to them.
On a larger scenario, the customer ends up on a broader community that in turn helps to promote the brand, such as weekend activities, hobbies hosted by the brand, etc.
Rudrappa further explains: “We have a way of filtering out customer problems so that brands immediately get to know them. It is not necessary for the customer to explain who they are or provide a customer ID number; all they have to do is inform the kind of product that they have to the brand. We make sure that the end consumers are brought into their system. Once this connection has been established, the various services that can be implemented are left to your imagination.”
Taking the scenario of automobile industry, which is one of their primary segments, GladMinds offers solutions in order to provide automobile consumers with additional services. Rudrappa says: “Typically, we offer three services once a consumer buys a two-wheeler. We provide the customer a booklet along with coupons, which can be availed at the service centres. Through GladMinds, consumers do not have to hassle with physical coupons and papers for servicing. As for the brand, the biggest advantage is that they can immediately figure out who their customer is. It is a highly customised service for the brand. We definitely do a bit of customisation but otherwise there is a standard platform for every business. Retailers find this technology useful as they use it to get valuable feedback and surveys.”
A customer is able to give feedback at any point of time and also gain access to the brand’s offers and promotions. The technology at GladMinds also helps the consumer to develop their profile so that the brand can serve them better.
For instance, a mall can provide information such as available parking space to their regular customer.
He further explains: “The e-platform has been highly consumer-centric and innovative. We will soon launch our loyalty programme, where we plan to connect electricians and plumbers so that the customer can reach out to them depending on the service required for the product at any time. We bring the electrician as they get an incentive from every customer loyalty programme. It is a thin layer that connects everybody together.”
Rudrappa points out that even as a consumer one can witness the evolution of communication in the market. He finds no difference in market communication scenarios in countries like the USA and India, as service is the primary concern to retain customers. Today, the Indian market has limited communication with brands whereas the community of consumers and brands have grown drastically along with a huge gap. Engaging the consumer and the brand in constant communication is a herculean task.
Loyalty programmes are created in order to attract consumers to the brand but they also find it too much of a hassle to accumulate loyalty programme cards or discount point cards every time they go shopping.
He says: “There is a lack of consumer-centric platforms, where consumers are imbedded into the system voluntarily.”
Smaller retailers would find it expensive to adapt to a complex communication technology solution.
Says Rudrappa: “We can bring a small retailer to the level of a medium or large retailer. So the scalability is easier and cost effective. Bigger brands offer loyalty programmes through large retailers but our technology offers smaller retailers to provide such a platform. Retailers, otherwise, do not have a platform that can be subscribed to monthly.”
Though Rudrappa finds his business platform more suitable to Indian players, he acknowledged the fact that it will have to be tailored for the international market. He explains: “Electronic products are at a low price in the Indian market but when you take these products to an international market, it will require stringent quality requirements. The product design becomes different.”
Targeting retailers who are early adopters, Galdminds will be working closely with the brands. Rudrappa points out that the typical Indian businessperson is usually hesitant to adapt to new ideas and would prefer consulting through previous test cases, records and results before taking up the product. He says: “We look at people who are willing to experiment and who are ready to be innovative. In turn, we understand their business and their channels.”
Rudrappa plans to market aggressively through digital media and take part in events in order to reach out to his target audience.
Rudrappa is aiming to take GladMinds into the international market, like South-East Asia and the USA this year. He concludes: “We have been focusing on India but in 2015, we plan to look for retailers in other countries. We already have one of our services deployed in Nigeria.”