With over a decade of experience in the digital industry, Bhavna Lalchandani in February last year launched CheersOye!, a social payments and gifting platform. The company recently launched its key product CO! Money – India’s First Lifestyle Wallet – which is a blessing amid the demonetization situation in India. The product was launched last month in its beta version for their privileged customers.
Having worked with companies like AC Nielsen, Johnson & Johnson and Pantaloons, Bhavna became a part of the ShoppersStop team when it was launching its ecommerce website in 2007, at a time when the industry was taking baby steps in India. She has worked for 6 years at Yahoo, handling Media Sales and as Lead-Analytics.
SheThePeople.TV caught up with Bhavna to know about her venture. Excerpts from the interview:
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How did you become an Entrepreneur?
Coming from a business background, it has been my dream to become an entrepreneur and make a difference in people’s lives with innovation.
What’s the concept of ‘CheersOye!’ and what’s your vision behind it?
CheersOye! has launched CO! Money, which is India’s First Lifestyle Wallet facilitating Offline to Online payments and gifting at physical as well as online stores across Lifestyle genres such as F&B (dining out, lounges, bars,etc), Health & Fitness (Spas, Gyms, Beauty Salons, Healthcare centers), Travel & Entertainment (Theme attraction parks, Movies, Concerts, Plays), Gourmet Foods (Godrej Nature’s Basket, Big Basket, Food Hall), Events (Xmas, New Years, Holi Party, Bollywood Events, etc), Fashion Shopping & Accessories, & Retail Merchants.
CO! Money strives to be the No.1 Lifestyle Wallet, facilitating payments worth above USD10Bn across high-end lifestyle merchants.
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Customers can make payments across any of the genres with CO! Money or even send gifts to their friends in a jiffy through the offline and online Merchants listed on CheersOye!
Customers receive instant personalized gratification for transacting via CO! Money, based on big data, analytics and algorithm that is built to capture a customer’s preferences, spending habits, geo-location, average ticket size, etc.
Your future plans with ‘CheersOye!’?
CheersOye! started in Mumbai as the pilot city and have on-boarded multiple merchant outlets in just a few months. We soon plan to expand our presence across India and get 500K+ partner merchants on board across various lifestyle genres.
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Also, with demonetization, we would like to contribute our support to the government and facilitate payments within these lifestyle genres, which are overlooked and remain untapped as of today. Eg. If you go clubbing, there were lot of cash transactions happening earlier, which will now stop and hence ease of use and seamless transactions during the peak hours in clubs, restaurants, spas, etc are very crucial to ensure good customer experience. Thus, lifestyle wallet is the way to go.
What market gap are you trying to address with your venture?
Currently, the existing wallets are primarily used for utility bill payments, recharges and online shopping. However CO! Money has been launched to spend for activities such as dining out, clubbing, recreational activities such as entertainment, travel, spa, fitness centres, fashion shopping, events, etc which account for approx 30-40% of the overall customer wallet share. Most people indulge in such activities for de-stressing and having fun & social moments with friends and family.
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What makes you different from your competitors?
We help facilitate simplified payments across high-end lifestyle and hyper local merchants. So if you want to party at a club in your locality, you can now go paperless and use CO! Money to make any such payments or even split the bill amount with friends and make payments. Customers also get gratified with CO! Money as Cashbacks to be utilized for the next visit, which entices repeat customers at the Merchants. Our Merchants can also cross-promote to the respective target audience via CheersOye! marketing platform. We are also tying up with various banks in Tier-II and Tier-III cities to facilitate loyalty program for customers transacting via digital instruments.
How did you manage funding for the base operations initially?
Since both me and my co-founder had a very strong belief in the idea, CheersOye! was boot strapped and we invested our personal savings to initiate the operations. We have received Angel funding from very esteemed and influential set of HNI investors currently.
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What were the initial days like – what kind of challenges you’ve faced and are still facing as an entrepreneur?
It’s now relatively much easier to become an entrepreneur than in the early days, especially in the online space, it is in fact becoming increasingly difficult to filter out the noise. It is critical to not only hire quality talent, but to also build quality partnerships in a fledgling startup. The question is, how do you get noticed in the crowd and this challenge needs to be overcome by working diligently.
Bhavna Lalchandani, Director of CheersOye! on She The PeopleWhat are the skills you apply daily to make CheersOye! a successful venture?
The most critical skills that we apply on a daily basis as a team include Technical and Sales Skills, Data Analysis and Emotional Intelligence.
What are the biggest strengths of your team?
Passion. Problem-Solving. Smart Recklessness. Integrity. Complementary Skills.
One of the biggest mistakes I see many managers make is hiring their likeness, when in reality; they should be doing the exact opposite. When hiring new team members, I look for people with strengths that are the exact opposite of those they’ll be working with. For example, if a current team member is more creative, the person I hire to work with them should be more analytical in nature.
How the new digital India is helping your venture grow in the market?
Until now, digital disconnect has been a major challenge in India, as many preferred transacting in cash instead of making use of bank transactions and plastic money. With demonetization in effect, several digital payment solution providers have created innovative ways to attract new customers. We, as a company, have made a strategic decision to strive to build India’s best digital payments platform to offer fastest and seamless payments experience in the country.
Do you think the digital boom in India has helped women entrepreneurs rise?
Definitely, the meteoric rise of entrepreneurship in India is backed by the government’s commitment to enhancing the nation’s IT infrastructure. Digital India is an initiative launched by the Indian Government to help increase Internet connectivity in the country. India’s vibrant startup scene is producing a rise in the number of female entrepreneurs. This comes as the global gap between male and female entrepreneurs narrows: in 2014, the divide between male and female founders shrunk by 6%. This is particularly true in India, which saw 50 per cent increase in women entrepreneurs compared to the previous year.
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If you’re a woman looking to enter India’s burgeoning startup scene, there is no better time than now – whether it is an opportunity to start a business online, to develop a disruptive new business model, or an opportunity to better market your business by using digital marketing.
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What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into something?
Don’t be an entrepreneur if you can’t handle rejection. One of the toughest aspects of entrepreneurship is getting negative answers time and again. No, you can’t have funding. No, your business model doesn’t make sense. No, we don’t want to buy your product. But, “Every no gets you closer to a yes. It’s a number game.” The more ‘NOs’ you hear, the better. It means you’re out there pitching. So thank the person who said No and go on to someone else. Eventually perseverance and dedication will pay off, you will get a Yes! and the road to success will be carved out.
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