When Ankur Sharda hit 100,000 unique Australian visitors from Australian in total one day, he knew online shopping in Australia could ching a lot of cash registers (or is that wave a lot of digital wallets?).
No matter how the dollars are being spent, searching for goods can be an arduous process. How many people have pounded the pavement fruitlessly only to return with random items unrelated to what they set out to buy? I bet you could name a few. Shoppers lament the last-minute stress and often wish for a seamless way to peruse ‘all the things’ before setting out on a journey. Well, now it is here. Meet Tuggle. An online directory that lets you shop by brand, product, style, shop or description.
Ankur took some time out from his day at Sync Labs (make sure you say ‘hi’ and let him know how your shopping is going) to tell Leona D’vaz, the good, the bad and the challenging, of his startup so far:
1. How did you come up with the concept?
I’ve always had trouble with buying things – I like going to Bunnings, and used to like Rebel Sport. But everything else has always been painful. Especially shopping for clothes. It’s been at the back of my mind for a long time, I always thought someone would build this company and it would be a really big deal. But no one did.
I’ve had that feeling a few times before, in particular the restaurant reservations company Dimmi did exactly what I had been thinking back in high school. Actually spoke to VCs for the first time back then. The one who spoke to me the longest finished by saying, at the end of the day he couldn’t see why people would want to book a restaurant reservation online.
Finally writing some software and starting to build the company came down to me actually giving up on other things I was working on, and realising I should go back to Sydney and just focus on my “real” career. Then I realised I needed to dig out my suits. Then I realised my suits were pretty old school, I probably need to get some new ones, I had no idea where to buy a suit, and didn’t really want to make the effort – which led to me thinking, “dammit I can’t be the only one who struggles with this!” So I should just build this thing. If it works, it will be a big deal.
2. Have you come across any challenges, if so can you tell us how you navigated them?
The big problem is that this is a classic “chicken-and-egg” problem. How do you get retailers to sign up without users, and how do you get users to turn up with out retailers?
This took a while to figure out. My first idea was to offer a few free listings. My plan was to walk around shopping centres and talk to managers – it seems obvious in hindsight, but there is actually no one in the store who can make any kind of decision.
3. Why do you think Tuggle will help consumers?
People often want to buy from local stores, since they want to be able to look at and touch the product before buying, but right now there’s no easy way to know what’s available locally.As a result people like me, end up delaying purchases, simply not buying or trying to buy online. I think this is a loss for retailers and consumers.
Long term I think something like Tuggle makes it harder for a large overseas player like Amazon or something similar to walk into the Australian market with deep pockets and wipe out local retailers.
4. What has been the highlight so far?
Had 100,000 unique Australian visitors from Australia (started in Jan but traffic only picked up in Feb) and by chance 1000 unique Australian visitors a in a day for the first time on the same day. There’s hope, but definitely need to keep working and build it out to its full potential.
5. What are your next steps?
Firstly I want to bring on board a few more retailers and improve usability of the site for Australian users, then focus on building this up in the US, UK and Europe by the end of the year. Overseas it’s easy to sign up merchants and earn commissions from online sales. Based on my calculations that would make the whole thing financially quite comfortable. Then we’d be in a good position to ramp things up in the new year.
Longer term we want to sell monthly subscriptions for basic listing, along with making it possible for retailers to update their listing and add features and in particular show “live” availability of product quantities, sizes etc. I’ve got an algorithm that makes it possible to do this without needing to do a different config for every different in-store POS system.
Do you have a startup story you’d like to share? Got expert advice on an area people are struggling in? Contact Leona D’vaz:firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in our series.