Nowfloats, one of the graduates from the first batch of the Microsoft Accelerator program, enables Small and Midsized Businesses (SMBs) in India to establish an online presence simply by using SMS. The service allows Web sites to be easily updated by sending regular SMS and broadcasts the updates to loyal customers of the business.
NowFloats patent-pending technology ensures highest discoverability through intelligent Search Engine Optimization, one of which is Location-based SEO. The company informs that an update to their mobile app is in the works which would allow customers to create, edit, and update their Web sites.
The company notes that their mission is to bring the Indian SMBs online. There have been several initiatives in recent times by different players in the ecosystem like Google and GoDaddy to evangelize and enable the Web for this growing sector.
While there are over 47 million SMBs in India, a majority of them do not have a Web site. NowFloats is looking at the opportunity considering the fact that several business owners do not have Internet connectivity. Using a pervasive technology like SMS, the company believes that they've got a scalable and sustainable business.
When I tried to sign up, I sent the first SMS--FLOAT--to 56767878, and after replying to the follow up texts (it took me four SMS to furnish the required details), my new Web site was up in a little over 10 minutes. While the business would get a nice-looking site which they can update with regular SMS, the site would also be discoverable on popular search engines. Moreover, the customers will also get an SMS channel to stay connected to their consumers.
I concur that this service could be a great opportunity for local businesses like the neighbourhood salon, who can establish an online presence, and keep the patrons updated about latest offers and promotions. Easily maintainable via SMS, this would eliminate the need to hire a contractor to create and maintain a website. The service is available in three payment tiers starting at 5,000 rupees (US$80) per year.
Incidentally, while not in framework, the service competes with Facebook Pages. Several local businesses these days maintain a Facebook Page to stay connected with their customers. Of course, like I said before, the service would mainly aim to target business owners who are not online yet. Still, the discovery in search engines is yet another advantage. If I'm searching for a salon in New Delhi, NowFloats would make the business discoverable while the Facebook page would only be available to existing patrons and their networks.
According to a recent report by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in partnership with Google, Web-enabled India SMBs get around a 50 percent boost in revenue and profits. On an average, Web-enabled SMBs boasted revenues 51 percent higher, 49 percent more profit, and customer bases 7 percent broader than their offline-only counterparts.