Let’s Barter India: How this duo is bringing back moneyless transactions

What if you could get more for your product by bartering than by selling it?
Let’s Barter India: How this duo is bringing back moneyless transactions
Let’s Barter India: How this duo is bringing back moneyless transactions
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The only thing unusual about a few dozen people making their way to a popular pub in Bengaluru on Friday evening was that they all carried books, talked books and breathed books.

Organised by Let’s Barter India and TrulyMadly (a dating app), the Book Barter Social event held in Church Street Social saw around 50 people wearing name tags of their literary alter-egos, eagerly seeking out people with interesting books to offer them.

22-year-old Tanya Dubey says Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the shore’ was a hot favourite with many people vying for the single copy. She went home with ‘Look Who’s Back’ (a book in which Hitler rises from the dead in 2011), having happily bartered it for her copy of ‘Time Machine’.

Book lovers bond over barter and books at Book Barter Social

Schoolmates Pooja Bhayana and Sahil Dhingra founded Let’s Barter India in October as a Facebook group for close friends. The idea was to make a dent in a world driven by monetary transactions. But four hours and 5,000 members later, Pooja saw serious potential in the idea of value-based moneyless transactions. The Facebook community is now over 1.7 lakh strong with electronics goods, books and service barters the most popular.

As admins, she and Sahil screen each of the 80-90 posts that are put up every day. "60-70℅ of them are barter or partial barter posts. The others are pure selling posts, which we don't allow on the group," she says. Partial barter occurs when one of the parties has an item of lesser value, and offers money to make up for the shortfall.

Although culture of consumerism is a major problem, Pooja says that their main focus is to promote the concept of barter. On many listings, the first comments often enquire about the price, rather than offer an item for exchange. "It's difficult to keep track because much of the information then moves to inboxes and personal chats," admits Pooja.

The team launched a website two months ago, but are focusing on developing an app which will allow users to post items along with a picture and description. The idea is to work on the "perceived value" model. People can enter the value they think their product is worth and will get barter suggestions of similarly valued items filtered by location and category, explains Pooja.

Barter India’s five-member team – including two marketing professionals and a web developer – practice what they preach. “Startups never have money,” laughs Pooja. That’s why, Let's Barter India’s team often barters services as well. For instance, in exchange for using Innnov8 co-working's space in Delhi for an event, the team did social media marketting for the company. 

But they also took the concept forward by organizing an event in February for the barter of services. The Delhi event saw over 60 startups from fields such as digital media, app development, outreach programmes, PR, and marketing. “More than 30 barters happened that day,” Pooja recalls happily.

So far, Let’s Barter India's revenue stream is limited to advertisements and their services, to providing a platform to promote bartering. They had a friends and family contribution around in December 2015. Pooja says that they plan to introduce a free-mium model (where some features will be made exclusive and require payment) in the app after studying the initial response. The team may also expand to logistics such as providing pickup and delivery.

“It all depends on how people like it. We make a market and then create the product rather than the other way around. That’s what we will continue to do,” insists Pooja.

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