A smart personal assistant app that can help you with all your reservation services and keep you on track. Startup Dunya Interview Series with Sirisha Gondi, Co-Founder & Director, WooBloo Services Pvt. Ltd.
WooBloo is an interesting name. How did you come up with it?
We explored a number of names with our branding agency but they sounded very cliched and didn’t convey our product effectively. That’s when we decided to go the route of Lexicons (framed words) and created WooBloo.
‘Woo’ is an English word which means to “please someone” and ‘Bloo’ is a Cartoon character which is an imaginary friend who’s always there for you. Hence the word WooBloo came into existence. It means:
“We are like your imaginary friend who is always there for you and to help you!”
When did WooBloo’s journey start?
We flagged off our journey in December 2017.
Who are WooBloo’s founders?
There are 3 of us, Rahul D, Lakshman Sandeep and me. Rahul manages business strategy and finance. Lakshman manages operations, marketing and new product development while I manage HR, PR and administration.
How did the Founders come together to start this venture?
Rahul and I were in the USA for a good part of 12 years and when we came back to India, we found that today’s conveniences are all available at a click of a button by means of Mobile Apps. However, there was one entire generation who were left behind during this mass adoption of technology. They were the non-tech savvy Baby Boomer generation.
This was very evident when our parents and in-laws were dependent on us for most of their daily requirements. That is when we reached out to Sandeep (who also happens to be my brother), so it’s all within the family 🙂 All 3 of us together started WooBloo with a vision to make Personal Assistant services available to everybody so one need not depend heavily on their kith and kin to get their work done.
What is the connecting thread that keeps all of you together as a team?
Although the three of us are family, once we reach the office, we are 3 individuals who focus solely on our assigned work. We keep it easy and light and work professionally. So it becomes easy for our team to also work with us.
Innovation and improvement is something we always believed in and that has kept us going for the last 2 years along our startup journey.
How does WooBloo work?
WooBloo believes in providing convenience to its customers. We released an all-in-one mobile app which was very simple and easy to use because we also wanted baby boomers to be able to use the app.
One can submit their request by choosing services across various categories such as cab bookings/movie & travel ticketing/grocery & medicine delivery/home services and so on. This request is then handled by a Real person (Your Personal Assistant) who then ensures that the work is done as per the customer’s requirements. We wanted it to be as simple as one asking their kith and kin to do some work for them.
The more one uses WooBloo, the more customized our service becomes as we are able to get sufficient information about our customer’s likes and dislikes.
For eg., while booking a cab, we see the patterns in our customers’ behavior – some like to do pre-booking, some don’t want to share cabs, others are very cost-conscious. Our homegrown Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) helps us to tailor our services as per their individual needs.
What kind of payment options do you provide?
Customers can pay for most of the services either using online payment options (debit/credit cards, net banking, UPI, mobile wallets, etc) as well as through COD (Cash on Delivery) for almost all the services that they utilize.
As far as WooBloo’s monthly subscription goes, we provide only online payment options and for the non-tech savvy user, we have the option of sending payment links through SMS for their kith and kin to complete the payment on their behalf if they wish to.
Who do you think will help influence your customers’ decision to register with WooBloo?
It is very important that WooBloo is viewed as a Personal Assistant for all age groups and not just for baby boomers. Having a PA at your service will be useful in various kinds of scenarios when we do not have the time to toggle between multiple apps.
That said, we need early adopters (millennials) to try our service and recommend the same to their parents. This will ensure that they can be stress-free in their daily routines / busy lifestyle because there is someone else who can take care of their parents’ or grandparents’ needs.
How can a customer sign up with WooBloo?
One can download our Mobile App from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store and sign up for our services.
How are you planning to expand your services?
We had successfully launched our Mobile Apps in January last year and now plan to launch IoT based hardware devices for extending our services beyond just a mobile app. We are launching two devices to the market:
- WooBloo DASH – Dedicated Assistant and Service is Here
This product is once again for the elderly generation who do not want to use smartphones / not comfortable in using even a WooBloo App. This is like our age-old Bell Desk where our IoT powered device will place a request in our systems when one clicks on the button. The PA will then reach out to the customer either on the landline/mobile number that they have saved with us during registration.
- WooBloo SMASH – SMart voice Assistant and Service is Here
This product is for the millennials and Gen X who would like to have a multi-utility product similar to a smartphone. Our SMASH is power packed with features such as built-in voice assistants like Alexa, Projector for viewing your favorite multimedia on any wall, Bluetooth pairing with music and phone calls capability and last but not the least – one can also reach out to their PA by clicking on a button which is part of the device.
Are you planning to offer your services outside Hyderabad?
It is always important for a startup to validate their idea and also test their product in a smaller area and this was the reason we did not venture outside Hyderabad as yet. With the launch of our IoT based products, we would be expanding our services to all the major cities of India.
How do you differentiate yourself from others offering similar services? Existing Players like JustDial, Sulekha, etc – There are quite a few mobile app-based services that are very vendor-centric / service provider-centric because they get paid by the businesses for listing on their platforms. They act as a Lead Generation engine for those businesses and provide the customer information to multiple vendors. This means that customers will receive multiple calls for obtaining the same service and it could get annoying for the most part. However, the advantage to the customer is that the information is provided for free and the customer ends up paying only for the service.
When it comes to WooBloo, we are on the opposite end of the spectrum. We work for the end user (our customer) and so we ensure that our customer is not troubled by multiple vendors.
For example, if our customer is looking for Pest Control services, with our partnership with Urbanclap, we are able to get the best deals for our customers and pass on the information only to one vendor.
If any discount is being offered by a partner, the benefit goes directly to the customer. We don’t take any commission or charge our vendors.
This means that we are NOT at our vendor’s mercy and ensure that the customer ALWAYS receives the best service provider. Of course, this also means that the customer needs to pay us a convenience fee because we are working for them.
Simply put – “WooBloo is for users seeking convenience and not necessarily the cheapest option for their service.“
You have partnered with the Telangana government. How did this come into effect?
WooBloo is a part of the first cohort in WE Hub (Women Entrepreneur Hub) which is a women-only incubation centre, an initiative by the Telangana Government.
We are one among the 26 startups incubated in WE Hub. The startups were shortlisted among 250 applicants after multiple rounds.
How does your team provide service to your customers?
In a typical call center, there are multiple people handing different services. However, in our call center, the same person does all the bookings for a customer. Only if they find that the customer wishes to speak with someone in a different language, they switch the call to a different person.
Our customer service agents understand when to do an escalation. We try to provide high-integrity solutions to our clients.
Who gave you the initial launchpad?
We are a bootstrapped company and have been supported by various partners notably Ola who believed in our concept and were ready to partner with us on the technological front.
Where do you see yourself 3 years from now?
We hope that within 3 years, WooBloo would have reached every household which has millennials, kids and our beloved baby boomers. Their virtual Personal Assistant (PA) should be WooBloo.
What kind of support system will help launch your company to the next level?
Any startup requires support in marketing and brand awareness because the more people know that such a service exists, the more people will try to utilize it and subscribe to the services.
Also, we are actively looking for investors who can support us in launching our IoT products to the market as the Prototypes are now already under testing.
Any takeaways for other women entrepreneurs?
“As a woman entrepreneur, if you go with an open mind, you can learn a lot even when you make a mistake. Struggles are similar for both men and women. Have a lot of celebrations for even the smallest of achievements. This will keep you motivated. And work on a lean model – fix it, be focused. You need to set monthly or quarterly targets (not just the long-term ones). Targets have to be reached so you need to work accordingly.”
“It is good to have a moonshot vision, but there has to also be a shorter vision.”
“Collaborations with other startups helps you to, scale up quickly. For example, while providing hyperlocal services, it doesn’t make sense for us to have our own fleet. It is better to partner with others who provide those services and have an existing say in the market.”
“The pie is huge, make yourself stronger.”Sirisha Gondi, Co-Founder’s Advice