While there is a growing craze of discounts and deals for offline retail on the web mostly around group buying sites, there are some startups trying the offline model to promote offline retailers. BubbleCards is one such startup based out of Pune.
Bubble Card is a discount card that can be flashed at an affiliate retailer to get 5-25% discount. Bubble Card is currently available in Pune and can be bought from partner retailers at Rs.50 for a 6 month validity. There are about 150 retailers accepting Bubble card now and about 500 cards have been sold till date. Each retailer is offered Rs.5 as commission for selling the card.
The best thing about Bubble Cards is that there is no hassle of swiping, collecting points etc. With most loyalty cards programs by the time one reaches redemption levels he is probably going to gift it to grandchildren or the returns are so negligible that one wouldn’t take the pain of carrying the card every time. Though the problem of not tracking / no accountability may actually become a pain for them to get organized retailers to buy into the idea.
Here’s an interview with the 23yr old founder Ashutosh Mahajan who did all this fresh out of college as a sole member in the team.
1. How much time did you take to sign up these 15o retailers?
I just passed out of engineering from Pune in 2010. But I have been working on the idea from a long time, the R&D part. I started working full time the day my college ended. At starting, I had convinced the retailers with just a sample card. I got some 100 shops in about 45 days, with others who intended to join after I launch it. But now with all the printed material/website/Facebook, the conversion ratio is 95%, which was earlier around 60-70%.
2. What revenue model are you looking at?
I charge the customer Rs.50, as an introductory price right now, which may be raised upto Rs.100-200 soon, though people say it should be >=Rs.300.
Signing up for retailer is free. I also provide certain value added services like bulk SMS, Email, promotional activities in college events, ads on print material, website, Facebook, Twitter etc.
3. Do you think 5-20% discount is good enough to attract people?
Bubble Card can be used any number of times.The card is transferable, anybody can use it. These are the key advantages. If one gets 5-20% discount every time he visits the store, on everything he spends for, his investment is covered in 1-2 deals only.
4. What if the retailer refuses to accept the card?
Till now, I have got not more than 2-3 cases of refusal, the only reason being, some new staff who was unfortunately not aware of Bubble card. For that I have put up Sodexho like stickers at every shop, which show the Bubble card discount. Also danglers, flexes, boards, posters to increase visibility.
5. How does Bubble Card really add value to the ecosystem? Retailers could give the discount even otherwise.
Retailers do give discounts, but to regular customers only, or who bargains. Bubble Card creates a platform for retailers to promote their offer. Best eg. CCD Gang Card, total failure, the only reason was they could not promote it. Signing up for Bubble Card network is always easier than investing in their own loyalty program.
Bubble Card comes in a pack like sim cards, with the logos of my affiliates on it. Along with the card, I provide a directory of member shops with their address & numbers. It’s easier for customers to locate the shops. And a customer acquisition form for database, which is another valuable source of revenue.
6. For an organized retail how is the discount accounted in the books? What is the tracking mechanism?
I have not put up any tracking mechanism yet. Once the card is sold, I have done my business. But the card has an ID, which the retailers note down for accounting, crude method. But later on, barcode is the solution.
I have got Subway, CCD giving 15% off and some multiplexes in Pune as well, which are on hold due the same problem.
Final words :
Right now I am badly stuck, totally out of funds, overloaded, demoralized by most of the people, but still it’s the belief in the idea that is driving me.You know, a typical crunch period for a startup.
So what do you think of the startup and the founder? If you are in Pune do let us know how easy/difficult it is to get a Bubble card and use it.
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]