After you enter the third floor of Idea Action Building at KU School of Management(KUSOM), a crowd of around 15 youths working together like a colony of ants greets you.
Don’t get surprised, they are working together on a mobile app, that has recently been released targeting social media savvy urban youths, and SMEs (small and medium enterprises).
The app is none other than ‘Chitooo’ that has almost become a buzzword among Kathmandu youths recently. Glocal Khabar’s Basanta Kumar Dhakal had recently toured the place, and talked to the co-founders about the concept of the company, their plans, the future of the app, and more. This article tries to cover everything about app, and the young brains behind the company.
What is Chitooo? And how does it work?
Have you ever felt like you could know about the offers and deals in a restaurant or a shop before you enter? Or, do you operate a business and don’t have much idea on how to promote your offers among a wider number of people without doling out huge sum of money? You don’t need to worry about it anymore.
Chitooo mobile app has been recently launched in Kathmandu with an aim to improve the method of doing business by SMEs and engaging with customers, with new data-driven technology.
With Chitooo, you can search for deals, offers and rewards of various businesses around town, view their location, and redeem the deals by showing Chitooo Points while checking out at the Partner Stores, and enjoy the life with benefits by becoming more active on social media.
As of now, you can avail best deals from restaurants to clothing stores. You can have discounts and offers on food and drinks including coffee, sandwich, and chocolates among others from various restaurants and bars; have bike rental and servicing, buy clothing, join various entertainment courses like salsa dance and more. You can avail these services on points you earn from social media usage.
Knowing about such offers, are you now thinking using the app is a bit complicated? Don’t worry, it’s as simple as ABC.
Your goal is to increase the number of Chitooo Points. This can be done by posting your status on Facebook through Chitooo app. You’ll receive more Chitooo Points if you Check-in at partner stores, tag friends or post photos.
Chitooo seeks to establish a favorable eco-system for SMEs. Both users and the stores can equally benefit from this app. Users get more value, while SMEs get more customers.
The app is very interactive, and rich in features. It features details about all the partner stores including contact numbers, options to email, visit them on Facebook directly through the app, and find their location.
The idea of makers of the app is making people go to redeem the coupon after they generate points on the app. Their goal is to make the users to check-in partner stores. The same time you earn from check-ins, the partner stores will also benefit from promotions, a win-win for both.
The idea behind starting Chitooo
“There is a dilemma on SMEs on where to start on advertising and promotion. Almost no platform is available for small enterprises to carry out their business promotion and marketing. Most of the ads on Facebook are that of big companies. Even on online media, ads are mostly from big clients. SMEs are almost completely left-out from this process of business promotion,” shares Saujanya Acharya, the main ideator of Chitooo, adding, “We were not making an app actually, but just working to solve the problems of SMEs. It ended up as a mobile app.”
Their dream at the start was to build a place where there is free competition among SMEs for clients regardless of the marketing budget. “Why we visit a particular place does not just depend on coffee shop, but ambience, and various other aspects. The present technology can capture all the dimensions (through photographs), and theme of the coffee shop. Our app would go in that detail, enabling the clients to make a selection of the place they want to take service from, instantly,” says Acharya about the inception idea of Chitooo.
The users of the app need to be Facebook users. Analyzing your behavior, the app presents offers and options for you automatically.
“Facebook is currently the easiest platform for promotion for small businesses. And, the most important figure of most startups is their daily activities. So, these SMEs can benefit from user-generated content,” says Prachet Sharma, Chief Technology Officer at the company.
They are designing the app to be suitable for not only Nepal, but all over South Asia, Middle Asia, Middle East and other locations.
“Even in Dubai, known as a city of skyscrapers, there are places like Asan bazaar. We have been interacting with businesses there too for expanding the service,” shares Acharya.
The Journey so far
It has already been nine months since they started working on Chitooo idea.
It was completely a roller-coaster ride, from coming up with the idea, to launching the app, and seeing the people using their services with interest.
Started from just two co-founders: Saujanya Acharya and Aashwas Parajuli, a total of 15 youths are currently working in the company.
They currently have more than 50 partner stores inside Kathmandu valley.
Before the public release of the app, they had carried out alpha-testing among more than 500 students of KUSOM, just to check the stability of the platform. But they received an overwhelming response from the users. They received a huge number of redemptions every day in the duration. There was neither such large number of partner stores, nor big number of offers, but still they saw daily average usage of the app almost 7 minutes.
“The app really gathered a huge interest from beta users. As the businesses are also benefitting from the app, their response is also very positive,” shares Parajuli.
“You can use the points generated at one company, to redeem services at another company. It means, you are loyal to coupons, not a single business. It also increases competitions among SMEs,” says Acharya.
Working in a startup
Entrepreneurship is still not considered that well in Nepal, and similar is in the case of Chitooo makers. Their family and close relatives don’t take their work that positively. But, they are determined to move ahead in a direction they have chosen.
“I had an option to join a corporate house after I completed my business degree. But, you can only choose one among the two: name or experience. If you opt for a brand name, you surely won’t have much opportunity for your all-round development. But, if you join a startup, you get numerous of responsibilities. You get to experience a lot. The work is very flexible in a startup, unlike a monotonous corporate job. Thus, I chose a startup,” expressed Samayee Dhungel, PR Manager at the company.
“As there is autonomy, work is fun at the company, as is the ambience,” says Prachet Sharma.
“The only similarity in the company and traditional businesses is, there is structure on work. We want to achieve what they have achieved. All big companies were startups once. They achieved that because there is structure in their work. They deliver what they promise. In our case too, we document our work,” expresses Acharya on their working model.
“SMEs still don’t believe in online marketing paying money. We have planned free service now just to ensure and make them aware that clients will also flow from this platform. After a certain duration, we’ll have paid plans to these restaurants,” says Parajuli.
They are still small now, but they are massively expanding around September-October, after a fund-raiser, and have already received some commitments for the same. They will be expanding to abroad first. After a short duration of expanding the business to abroad, they are planning to take the services to Pokhara, Chitwan and several other cities of Nepal.
Based on user analytics, they will also provide business analytics services to SMEs, on which area is better for what sort of businesses, or where to open new branches, etc. “Such information become valuable to SMEs. We’re planning to increase the level of engagement with such various plans. These will be paid plans,” says Acharya.
“We want to be the champions of SMEs’ growth. We want to be by their side when they are trying to grow. We want to be such a platform SMEs consult when needed to take big decisions about their business expansion or promotion,” Acharya expresses the long-term vision of Chitooo.
“In a duration of two years, we could be probably seen expanded to all the countries we are targeting: South East Asia, South Asia, and The Middle East. We want to bring SMEs from these countries to online platform,” says Parajuli, adding, “Generally, SMEs can’t afford latest technologies, or understand the techniques. We want to be that platform which SMEs can use to simplify operations and growth.”
To the aspiring entrepreneurs:
“To start a startup company means having the capacity to learn and unlearn things,” says Acharya.
Similarly, Prachet says, “Start only if you feel like starting what you are going to start. Start only if you really believe on what you are going to do, and can dedicate yourself 24*7 on your startup. After you start, focus on your product, team and your business with a determination.”
“To start, you not only need an idea but a passion and team as well. So, you also need to build a working team first, and trust your team members,” says Parajuli.
“Don’t do it like a project. If you feel like leaving your company after getting a job offer in a handsome salary, don’t startup. Instead, join a job from the beginning. Also, don’t jump into starting a company without a little bit of job experience,” shares Acharya to the budding entrepreneurs.
Startups for a better Nepal!
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal