The e-commerce industry in South Africa has experienced a boom since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Black Friday was no exception….
NowFloats is an ambitious startup coming out of India — with offices in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi — that wants to help SMEs across the globe get an online presence in the form of simple-automated websites. It’s created an easy-to-use platform that wants every kind of SME, from your local grocer to the barber, to get a stand-alone website with an advantage.
It’s essentially what WordPress, Wix and GoDaddy do. The trick that makes NowFloats exceptional, however, is that a website can be created (and maintained) using text messages or an app, in a matter of minutes — under 13 to be precise.
Furthermore, the smartphone app, NowFloats Boost (Android and iOS), allows for higher engagement and more control. Specifically, media can be uploaded, analytics can be monitored, business information can be updated, and so forth.
So far, NowFloats has been responsible for bringing over 12 000 small to medium sized businesses online, with most of them hailing from India and across Africa. Both regions are big on mobile yet are lagging behind with what the internet has to offer.
Another neat trick is that the NowFloats sites are all auto-SEO enabled. Businesses can easily update their websites which will help them get discovered by their potential customers based on location. This means that when people are searching for your type of business or associated product, your results will be boosted on Google.
The company’s goal is to bring all SMEs online — a suspected 125 million, to be exact — which has essentially been NowFloat’s raison d’etre ever since it launched in 2012.
“The idea emerged from the lack of contextual business data for a majority of local businesses whilst searching across the web,” says Karan Babani who’s NowFloats business development manager.
The group of co-founders, Jasminder Singh Gulati, Ronak Kumar Samantray, Nitin Jain and Neeraj Sabharwal, all have experience in IT, sales and advertising having worked with the likes of Microsoft, Saatchi and Saatchi, and Birlasoft.
NowFloats received a first round of funding last August from angel investor network Mumbai Angels and seed-to-early stage venture capital firm Blume Ventures. It’s also been featured as one of the startups competing for US$250 000 in the Microsoft Ventures Global Startups Day.
A NowFloats site created costs either 12 000 or 20 000 Rupees (about US$200-US$335) and looks like this, much like a social media profile page does:
This begs the question though, why would SMEs opt for one of NowFloats’ templates instead of creating their own Facebook page, Google+, or even a Twitter profile?
NowFloats offers a bunch of features that make it super easy for the website owner to maintain a presence online. First and foremost, your business will get a .com domain, the ability to handle thousands of email subscribers, and importantly improve its location based online discovery.
The idea for such a service emerged from the lack of contextual business data for a majority of local businesses while searching across the web.
As Babani pointed out, NowFloats employs low-tech input to generate hi-tech results.
For instance, SMBs on the platform can send text messages to their NowFloats websites, which become updates that are automatically SEO’d.
It’s features like these that simply removes the need for developer/designer intervention for updating or managing the website. “With regular and relevant messaging, a lot of our customers come very high on search results within their localities,” explains Babani.
This also means that, unlike WordPress or building a site with code from scratch, you’ll be limited to what the service has to offer. For merchants not too familiar with the online space, this might not be a problem.
The biggest challenge so far has been the environment. In India for instance, a suspected 9 million of these businesses don’t have internet connectivity and, in most of the cases — don’t even have a computer.
“Most don’t know where to start, how long it will take or how much it will cost. Most of all, a big majority of them feel they are not technically adept to manage something like coming online,” says Babani. NowFloats has taken it upon themselves to cater to a massive market by not only bringing Indian, and international, businesses online but by bringing them online with an advantage. Put nicely, Babani further explains:
“The internet is a democracy. So a grocery store owner’s site should be represented as well as a Fortune 500 company’s. We at NowFloats believe that technology, or rather the lack thereof, shouldn’t get in the way of businesses being able to use the internet to grow their bottom line.”