Startup Saturday: The app that got Pune networking over food

Vijay Kapse had spent more than 14 years on the street selling additives. “I used to go to different cities, travel through various industrial hubs, IT belts etc. During these tours I noticed a few problems. One was food. The company gives you a food allowance but ordering for a single person means too much food. Moreover it is not economical for a junior executive.

“The second problem was what to do with your time. You may have your next meeting in three hours. Why go back to the hotel and sit there, why not meet up with someone with whom you can network, get contacts, learn about the industry or simply know more about the city?,” said Kapse.

This was in November 2017. Kapse came back with these ideas and felt that an app would be the best way to solve the food wasting and networking issue.

With the help of his co-founder Renu Deshpande, the duo worked on the app concept. They hired a company in Ahmedabad to develop this app.

“We put in Rs 20 lakh of our money to develop the app and also do some marketing,” he said.

The app aims to connect people who either want to share a meal or simply network.

Explaining the concept, Renu said, “Say you are travelling and are in Pune for some meetings. You finish your first meet at 11 am and the next one is after lunch at 2 pm. What will you do in the interim period? Trudging back to your hotel room would be a waste of effort.

“If you are registered on Meetroz, you simply have to check the people who are already registered and see whom you would like to meet up with. You can put out your request to that person. If there is no response in five to ten minutes, then you look for someone else. If that person responds then you can chat up and decide where you want to meet. You may or may not share a meal that is up to you.”

EARLIER, SHARE A MEALS

On March 19, 2018 the duo had the app ready which they called Share A Meals.

“First of all we had to make people aware of the solution which we did via digital marketing. We put in ads on Facebook and Linkedin,” said Renu.

The kind of advertising helped generate some interest.

“We got 4,700 followers on Facebook and a few hundred more on Linkedin. At least 5,000 people downloaded our app,” she said.

Though it seemed that the everything was smooth going, the duo learnt quickly that it takes much more than just technical solutions to build a business.

“We quickly understood that people were associating our Share A Meals app with some kind of social service, or a non governmental organisation NGO). The idea behind share a meal was not just that but also about networking,” she said. So they changed the name to Meetroz.

With further communiqués across various social media platforms, they thought that they had solved the problem. It was not to be.

Renu noticed that people who were sending requests were mostly male and receiving them were female. Meetroz was getting confused with a dating app. “This was not right. We had to again work on this,” she said. This meant going back to the drawing board and figuring out a way to tackle the ‘dating’ problem.

“We developed a questionnaire of 10 questions that would at least give us an idea of what the persons are seeking. So far this has worked. However if there are further problems we have a strict policy. Any complaints will have the person removed from the app and this will be made known to all,” said Renu.

Meetroz had initially launched across the country. “But soon we realized that this would cost us an arm and a leg. So after the first few months we moved our solution to apply to Pune only. As of now we are

Pune specific. We will use our experience here to understand and fine-tune our service. Also, the cost of marketing all over the country is currently not possible for a small startup like ours. Earlier we were spending Rs 1,50,000 compared to Rs 50,000 per month now.”

Prasad Chavan, a student, who has used the app said that he is impressed by the app and the idea behind it.

“A friend told me about this app and I thought why not try it. Primarily I have used it to share a meal. I’ve met up with a few people and shared some snacks with them. It’s a nice way to make new friends. Some of the people I met were people who were involved in different businesses. They connected me to a few people who could be my mentors.” Chavan said that he aims to set up his company in the future.

First Published:
May 11, 2019 14:42 IST

Source: Read Full Article