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Rizwana Iqbal

Rizwana Iqbal is an Economics graduate and a former investment banker, now making a mark in the technology startup space. She is a writer, movie buff, football fanatic and singer from the heart.

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Smytten – Bringing a Premium Experience to the Indian Consumer

In April this year, the firm had secured an undisclosed amount as funding from Rajan Anandan, prolific angel investor, and Vice President and Managing Director of Google, South-East Asia and India.

Launched by ex Unilever and Google executives, Siddharth Nangia and Swagat Sarangi respectively, Smytten is enhancing the way India’s consumers discover, interact with, and purchase premium products and services. With its strong focus on curation, Smytten addresses individual needs of consumers and also help brands reach the right consumer.Smytten is currently available on iOS and Android platform and soon be launching their web version. Smytten had raised an investment of $200K from some very reputed industry veterans late last year as a seed capital. In April this year, the firm had secured an undisclosed amount as funding from Rajan Anandan, prolific angel investor, and Vice President and Managing Director of Google, South-East Asia and India.

In an interaction with Rizwana Iqbal, Siddharth Nangia, Co-founder of Smytten, shares details about the company.

1. What gave you the idea for Smytten?

As someone who spent more than 15 years in various regions outside India (Middle East, South East Asia and Europe), I felt a huge lack of quality of service for consumers in the premium space in India. Swagata, too, saw a need to provide quality service to high end brands in a crowded and cluttered digital space by building a dedicated platform to reach and engage the premium audience. Stemming from this need gap, we formulated Smytten’s mission, which is to be the “bridge to luxury” for Indian consumers. Our model is to provide the target consumer base an opportunity to discover premium products, thereby providing a more engaging experience to them.

2. And how did you come up with the name 'Smytten'?
The name Smytten is a play on the word Smitten. We wanted to get rid of clutter for consumers, who are flooded with a lot of information, and bring them fewer but relevant items for their lifestyle needs that they will be ‘smitten by’. Also, we are the two-way channel of communication for consumers, where they can directly interact with brands and experts for any sort of query or advice.

3. Can you explain how you sieve out a genuine customer base for premium products?
Smytten is an invite only platform. So when a user sends an invite to their friends to join Smytten, deep profiling is done before allowing them to access the app. Once in, the consumer has the luxury to discover, try and buy premium products. The app platform is already equipped with an intelligent predictive behavioural model that decides the user’s interest and affinity continuously and curates the products in the feed accordingly. The product is built in with a native advertising engine that pushes content ads in the user feed in a non-intrusive way to achieve maximum user relevance and value for our partnering brands. All of this drives high customer engagement.

4. What sets Smytten apart from other players in the online premium e-commerce segment?

Despite the huge market for premium products and services, the information available is fragmented, interaction with brands is sub optimal, trial avenues are limited, and the sector has massive consumer trust issues due to counterfeit products. Smytten solves these challenges and offers what consumers in this segment value -- one stop discovery, free trials for experiencing the brands, and recommendations for making purchasing decisions. Further, our personalization features, made possible with our backend algorithm, and our focus on analytics, allows us to curate offerings for consumers as per their individual preferences. Smytten’s differentiation is its heavy focus on curation, offered by very few platforms in India. The company caters to individual consumer needs, helping them sift through the information overload and in the process connects brands with the right audience. We have both B2C and B2B sources of revenue, which are growing consistently.

5. What are the major challenges that you faced or are facing?

Many exciting challenges have come our way including convincing our families, getting together the right team, sourcing funding, unlearning some of the learnings and getting the right set of brands. Our experience and network has helped overcome most of these challenges.

6.If not an entrepreneur, what would you be?
Difficult question to answer. We always wanted to be entrepreneurs. Actually we had thought of starting together something 7 years back but after thorough research dropped that idea as it was a bit early for the market. Being an entrepreneur was always on the cards. If we had not been smitten by Smytten, we would have continued to work for our respective firms: Google and Unilever.

7. What can we expect to see in the future from Smytten (as a company) and from you (as an entrepreneur)?
We are working towards being the de facto platform for premium consumers in the lifestyle space in India. The short to medium term focus will be to add more categories and have more consumers before we start expanding outside India. Also on the product side, we are already working on advanced machine learning algorithms and AI enabled chat bots for a more immersive consumer experience on the platform. We are going to leverage technology to find additional sources of revenue beyond advertising, especially in the areas of direct consumer engagement for brands, market research and analytics.

8. How has the consumer feedback been?
One of the biggest pain points in the service space, especially in a market like India, is the lack of customer service. We want to change that. Every customer touch point (from UI to the way any complaints are handled) is an opportunity and as we build this organisation, the “voice of customer” is the most critical element for every decision taken not only by the founder but by every team member. During this journey of the last 10 odd months, we have learnt a lot from customers. We have received a lot of positive feedback (some very detailed ones as well), which has motivated us to keep doing the right things and at the same time has helped us identify areas for improvement.

9. Which has been the most rewarding moment in your journey of building Smytten? In 5 words, define the culture of Smytten?

Though we have worked for 15+ and 10+ years respectively, the last year at Smytten has been the best of all. Right from working with young, smart enthusiastic team players to making many new friends from brands to wearing multiple hats in a day - every moment has been rewarding. As a result of it, we don’t want the day to end but once that happens we want the next day to start early. And when we hear positive reviews from customers it just makes our day. The culture at Smytten can be defined as being open to ideas / feedback, being fearless to speak up even if it's a mistake, learning with every experience, respecting everyone and enjoying every moment with the team.

10. Which is the one value in your firm that you are proud of and which value you still wish you could instil in your employees?
One value that we are very proud of is honesty. Whatever one does if, he is not honest with it, results will never be sustainable. Our team is very young and we keep telling them to be positive in all situations as the world is not perfect and hence, challenges will keep coming.

11. What is the craziest thing you have done?
Till few months back (not now), my wife believed that leaving a well-paying job in London to start a venture was the craziest thing ever.

12. If you had a week with unlimited money what would you do?
A large part of it would go to girls’ blind schools and old age homes as I have strong associations with them. The rest will go for a ‘Smytten experience’ and we will ensure that every team member gets one.

13. What are you afraid of?
Not afraid of but the biggest challenge is to develop capability (system and people) to meet expectations of all our customers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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