Story of Circles: Part 1
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Like all startups, it started as an experiment to test our hypothesis (sorry not all startups do this which I think is a mistake). Our hypothesis was based on the observed behavior of students on IIM Ahmedabad campus who were going crazy over discounts on Zomato, Uber Eats, and Swiggy and around the same time Zomato Gold was launched.
Student purchase behavior is heavily driven by discounts.
To test our hypothesis we ran an experiment called Densiti and the hypothesis turned out to be correct. We did transactions around Rs. 12 lacs in 2 months time, which was great because we achieved this without creating any product. We tied up mostly with restaurants, and cafes for exclusive discounts for people on IIM Ahmedabad campus (students + staff) and signed up people who were interested in receiving these offers through Google groups. We received a lot of interest from IIMA community (almost 1/3rd of entire campus) to use these exclusive discounts.
But while all this was great our mentors asked questions like how will you survive or earn money at scale when Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, and Near Buy already exist. We honestly didn't have a good answer and were super disappointed that despite results being so good why don't they believe in the idea the way we do.
Meanwhile, we were following another startup mantra, "Talk to users, and talk more and talk as often as you can. Empathize with them and hear their story." During one of those conversations, we discovered that credit card based discounts are exciting but one needs to have all credit cards to avail these offers at different places. This insight led to Circles being born.
People want to use credit card based discounts even if they do not own it and credit card owners would be willing to help others in return for a small fee (token of appreciation).
We would like to express sincere gratitude to Prof. Saral Mukherjee at IIMA and Raghunandan G (co-founder Taxi For Sure). During Elephants and Cheetah class (even much after) both of them pushed, inspired and mentored us to pursue Circles.
Circles was a pivot from Densiti based on insights gained from the previous pilot. We again followed Lean startup approach. Tested out the idea without building the product, just using Gmail and excel sheets.
1. Create a mail highlighting the core proposition, get people to sign up
2. Create Database of credit cardholders along with which credit card, debit card and wallet each one had
3. Publicize and wait for people to get back to request transactions
4. Help users finish the transaction manually
Results were great but slightly less than the previous experiment but we still decided to pursue it because we observed that the latent user behavior existed in form of users trying to find credit cardholders in their friends and family circles and no solution existed anywhere in the world for this problem.
We ran the Circles experiment in the months of February and March 2019. With the help of CIIE (our incubator) and GC Mital Entrepreneurship Award 2019 at IIMA (huge confidence booster and helped us get our family support), for past few months we had been working on developing Circles Android App. It is finally out to face the brave new world and we are super duper excited.
With Circles you can find any credit/debit card or wallets, extremely useful for online travel booking or online purchases and credit card discounts. This is just part 1, we hope to keep posting story of Circles regularly.