Crowd funding is not new to India. Before it became a buzzword and a means to an end mostly for film makers and entertainment projects on the web, you could very well say that crowdfunding goes way back to the founder of Reliance Industries, Dhirubhai Ambani. His first textile mill at Naroda near Ahmedabad in 1966, was crowd funded by the people of the state of Gujarat. Switch to present day and crowdfunding has become a major source of money, PR and a way of connecting like-minded individuals and investors to small startups (individual or more) and unique projects in almost any field via the world wide web. From short films to funding education for rural children, crowdfunding has evolved in many ways.
Jumping on this very bandwagon is Delhi based startup Helpost.com, a peer based network community based on collectively sourcing solutions for any problem under the sun with the help of its supportive community. Based on the #hashtags, it is a portal for help seekers and help providers. Founder Amol Goel , a marketing professional who has experience dealing with brands such as Audi UK and the Nottingham Forest Football Club, talks to Radhika Sharma about the advent of hyperlocal services, how Helpost was founded and its future.
Give us a little insight into the origin of Helpost.
Being a Marketing Consultant I had to constantly travel on projects, and often move altogether. Whenever I moved, I faced the same old problems of finding accommodation, electricians, plumbers, friends, interest groups, restaurants, etc. The only tangible solution was to interact with the local people of that city. And there wasn’t a one stop shop to reach out to them. A space where one could ask anything from the community and get first hand information. Hence was born Helpost, where one could crowd source information. Helpost comes from a Finnish word ‘Helposti’, which means easily. Hence Helpost- to make things easy.
Which cities are you currently available in?
Helpost is reaching out to 35 cities in 17 countries. Though Helpost Business Pages are only available in Tier 1 cities of India currently.
What is your curation process? How do you get businesses and individuals on board?
We have a back end team which curates all engagements to make sure that users get the best response in minimum time without having to deal with spam. Our on-boarding is fairly simple, you come onto helpost.com, you use the search bar to find what you need, if you can’t find it, you make a post for it, and let the people and businesses around you get in touch with you.
What are the categories that people post most about? Give us your top 5?
People have posted about all verticals ranging from jobs, product selling, opinion based, health care, local information inquiries, blood calls, social causes, etc. As we work on the principle of #Hashtags, people can use any relevant subject and post their query, look for a professional with that skill, or connect with a business with that expertise.
Top 5 would be healthcare, educational/career counselling, Computer/Internet Services, and Real Estate Buying/Renting.
What is your opinion on hyperlocal services of today?
I believe as a product and an individual, Hyperlocal services are one of the most important services for any industry to get into, and any consumer to benefit from. The technology to support hyperlocalism is now just a click away. Helpost is making services around you available to you with minimum effort and maximum reliability.
What are the safety procedures in place?
We have a team that checks all users and data for any kind of insecure activity. We also have a multi step digital verification, with OTP verification starting very soon.
Did you have to conduct a pilot program before the official launch? Could you share the parameters and the process?
We conducted a pilot program for almost 1 year. From Primary research into human behaviour and incentives to help, to testing the idea on 100 subjects. From our Beta testing we moved to creating Social Media communities, which instantly went viral with over 250,000 people following us.
What does the future hold for Helpost? Which cities and countries are you expanding to?
Knowing that there are people out there who could be doing so much better and bigger things, from getting better jobs to saving lives, only if the right information could be available to them and on time, and technology exists to make it possible, Helpost will keep working to make that possible. We plan to have Helpost Business Teams in all tier 1 cities of India by the end of 2015. We also plan to soon launch in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, USA and Australia.