Techiexpert Team has bough one more exclusive interview with the Co-Founder & CEO, IamHere, Naren Kumar
What problem IamHere is solving?
Technology today does the great job of connecting us with people across the globe, but it falls short of connecting us in our neighborhood. www.iamhere.mobi is an AI-based hyper local social network to discover, connect and engage in the neighborhood for hobby, profession and social causes.
Background of founders?
Deepa, Pratik and I know each other for many years now. Post BITS Pilani, I spent a long time at Cisco, both in India and the US before coming back to India to pursue my MBA from ISB Hyderabad. I later joined Schneider Electric in a leadership role and took a startup business unit from 0 to $10 mn in 3 years. Post that, as founding member at an IoT startup 2020 Imaging, I took the company to $1 mn revenues in 2 years before starting up IamHere. Deepa, a BITS Pilani graduate as well is a product management expert from Amazon, Redbus, Groupon and Zoomcar. Pratik is a technologist from Nokia, Samsung, LG and most recently led the technology in a security startup, VirSec.
The journey behind IamHere idea?
When I first went to Mumbai post my MBA, I was lost trying to find like-minded people near me. I am a guitarist and when I tried looking for musicians near me, I could not. Even simple things like finding company to go to the gym, playing cricket or finding my school network near me were all pretty challenging. Ironically, when I was vacating a house after 3 years, I found out that my neighbour was actually a fellow school alum. That sparked the thought that there is a problem to be solved here.
When I discussed this with Deepa, she also narrated similar problems she had encountered. But coming from a product and a business background, we decided to do a market survey. We surveyed 500+ people across social spectrum and asked them about the biggest problems they faced in their everyday lives. Interestingly, 80% of them mentioned about some problem related to location. Thus was born the idea of IamHere. IamHere provides “location as a platform” for people to discover and connect in their neighborhood.
What is the USP?
In the neighbourhood, it is not the name that matters but what you do matters. That I am a guitarist matters, that I am Naren is secondary. The blogger persona of mine is completely different from my guitarist persona and both of these are again different from my entrepreneur persona. This is where we fundamentally differ from other social networking platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. People interact through their Avatars on IamHere and that provides a natural security as well to the interactions. IamHere allows the creation of Avatars on the map, and people can discover and connect with Avatars over an interface of chats, stories and events.
Early days struggle?
The biggest struggle was to put in the initial team that could build the product. Everybody talks about wanting to be part of a startup, but the decision to leave high-paying corporate jobs and actually move into a startup is easier said than done. We kept losing month after month before we could get the prototype built. But when the prototype was ready and we had a couple of Angels who were willing to back us up, we slowly started coming together. While hiring remains a challenge even today, our struggle has shifted to the market. How do we acquire users in the most efficient manner? How do we keep them engaged? How do we reach a stage where the platform just spreads through word of mouth? We are taking it on one battle at a time.
We are funded by Angels in the US who have led business and technology in companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and HP. We recently won Elevate 2019, a Govt grants and mentorship programme for startups. We are in discussion with a few VCs for our growth plans.
We are 60K users in Bangalore with 30% monthly, 15% weekly and 10% daily users. We have aggregated 100K businesses and 10K NGOs across the country. We have partnerships with platforms like EventsHigh to aggregate events across multiple cities.
To us, user experience is key. Because we are a neighbourhood collaboration platform, user experience for us does not stop within the app. We want the app to just be the starting point for social interactions in the neighbourhood. We want people to meet, we want them to do activities together, we want them to host events, we want them to come together in solving a civic issue, we want them to promote their businesses to the audience in their neighbourhood. This is where we will be focusing on going forward.
As far as the technology is concerned, we are working on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning based recommendation algorithms to give a wow experience to our users. We would be expanding to two more Tier-1 and two Tier-2 cities by the end of this year. We are planning for a vernacular app in the Tier-2 cities.