In today’s fast paced world, a major source of dissatisfaction for people is excessive queuing and waiting at public places such as banks, hospitals, restaurants. There is no investment on technologies to give a robust platform, which can provide real-time updates about public places. Queue management in India is completely unorganised, non-receptive to technology and a low margin business for “software solutions”.
This led to the formation of Sminq, a mobile platform for queue management and a source of real-time updates. After successfully tying up with doctors of 150+ clinics in Pune and having a user base of 500,000+, Sminq started World’s Places - Live Now app. It allows users to update about places being crowded to products not available, long waiting time at restaurants, government offices, popular monuments, your favourite celebrity being sighted nearby, etc. It makes your wait 100% transparent, without you having to be physically present to hold your spot. It also provides quick real-time updates about activities going on in your neighbourhood. Sminq provides its users the ease to check status of their service before making their plans in advance.
Sminq is unique in ways such as it blocks incessant trolling (all information disappears after 24 hours), freedom to access information when you need it, and no abusive/bad content is entertained on the app. In addition, this app does not consume much space and data on your phone. Nothing gets saved or automatically downloaded in your phone if you use this app to check or post about a particular place.
Sminq was started in 2015 by the trio Shachin Bharadwaj, Santhosh Nagarajan and Sheldon Dsouza, who previously worked together in the successful food-tech venture TastyKhana.
In an interaction with TNM, Shachin Bharadwaj, co-founder and CEO of Sminq discussed various aspects including how the app came about, challenges while creating the product and salient features among other things.
Here are excerpts from the interview.
Why did you make the switch from food-tech venture TastyKhana?
When we started with TastyKhana.com, we were one of the earliest entries into the food-tech vertical. We ran the start-up successfully and after it was acquired by FoodPanda, we wanted to solve a problem in a different domain. This gave birth to Sminq, our entry into the real-time information of places around you.
When and how did the idea for Sminq come about?
The idea for Sminq came in around 2015. The idea cropped up when I along with my co-founders Santhosh Nagarajan and Sheldon D’souza were contemplating different ideas for starting a new venture. The eureka moment occurred when my wife was pregnant and there were regular visits to the hospital. During our visits, we had to wait in long queues with long waiting hours even after taking appointment. The problem was similar when we went out for shopping – we were not sure if the product would be in stock, what would be the parking situation or what kind of rush will be at the store. These problems gave rise to the thought that there is no real-time information of places around you, something that you can check before you step out to get live information.
What is the entire concept of Sminq?
Sminq initially started with pilots at a bunch of places like salons, spas, restaurants, banks, retail stores, clinics and service centres. We tested these places for first six months (from June 2015 to early 2016). In 2016, we decided to first get one type of business right and then scale to other verticals. Accordingly, we zeroed in on the doctor vertical. From 2016 to mid-2017, we focused on a solution to give users live information of waiting at doctors’ clinics and helping them take a spot remotely. This continues to be operational in Pune, Mumbai and Nasik at 150+ premium clinics and has a user base of 500,000+.
The success of the health app got us to execute on our original vision of live information of every place in the world. In April 2018, we launched our global app Sminq – World's Places, Live Now. On our platform, you can get real-time updates on places being crowded to products not available, long waiting time at restaurants, government offices, popular monuments, your favourite celebrity being sited nearby, etc. Sminq is a community driven platform where users post real-time updates and those who are using the platform simultaneously get to know about what is happening. Our platform is unique in its own way as all the updates are live and short-lived. All the information expires within the next 24 hours leaving no scope for trolling and unnecessary data consumption.
How does the live queue update on the app work?
Eighty per cent of the queue updates are done automatically via the app. Our custom algorithm understands when the user walks in and walks out of a clinic and automatically updates the position in the queue. We also have manual override options which the doctor or the receptionist can use to update the live information in times of emergencies.
Biggest challenge while creating this product
Being a social network, getting the network right is the biggest challenge. To overcome this chicken and egg problem, we launched our Beta in Bengaluru, where we initially seeded relevant information from various verticals we plan to get into like Restaurants and Pubs, give real-time vegetable prices etc.
What kind of investment has gone into it?
Sminq has raised a seed funding of $1 million from Saama Capital and Blume Ventures. Further, we are in talks with other investors to raise more funding to the tune of $8 million in the future.
Is the app free to download? What is your revenue model?
The app is free to download and is available on Android and iOS. We drive revenues via ads and as we generate footfalls/traffic for businesses, we plan to charge them separate fees to get more traffic on Sminq.
How many places do you cover live?
It is a global app which can be used by anyone from anywhere in the world. In India, we get major traction from cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune. Moreover, from outside India, we have users from USA, Tanzania and Singapore. Close to 1 million users have tried the Sminq doctor appointments app. The World’s Places - Live Now app has got 50,000+ users in the last four months. A total of 22,000 unique places across 128 cities have gone live on Sminq so far.
Some unique features of Sminq
Who are your competitors in this space?
Though there are many players in doctor appointment space and local information services, there is no direct player that gives live information to the user. The information available on other portals does not provide a real-time peek into what is happening around you but on Sminq, you can easily get all the real-time updates including informative posts, feedback and even 15-sec videos.