Indian startup looks to make social marketing a culture

Pune-based ViralMint aims to help retailers boost their marketing efforts with the power of social, creating opportunities for brands to increase sales, engagement, and conversion.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

The connection between shopping and discounts has always existed and will be part of the future to come. Be it in the form of coupons cut from the newspapers or coupon codes you get today on a daily-deals Web site. The craze is totally maddening. The model of coupons was something very simple. It worked in the Industrial Age and it certainly continues to thrive in the connected economy.

With the Internet an instrument of momentum, it may seem that some companies like Groupon, LivingSocial, and ScoutMob will come to mind for most people with regard to coupons, but India isn't far behind either. With the advent of social medial and the rise of various brands spreading their reach across different social media networks, this is another era that is on the rise lately. ViralMint is one such company that's trying to change all of that.

Viral Mint

Few companies to date have used the concept of "social couponing" to its optimal levels and we have yet to see the rise in "social coupons" as such. In this post, I talk to Rohan Dighe, founder of ViralMint, a company that went beta just a few days ago. Based in Pune, the company comprises a team of young entrepreneurs who are trying to take social marketing to a different level.

Q: What is ViralMint all about?
Dighe: ViralMint is an onsite marketing product that mainly helps in acquiring new fans or followers, increase sales, improve conversion rates, and build engagement. Our idea is to help retailers and brands get maximum returns on investment (ROI) on their marketing campaigns using the power of social media, or simply via effectively utilizing word-of-mouth marketing. We have pushed two of our products--Viral and Referral Mint--to beta, and are currently doing several experiments in the social commerce space.
Who's Viro? Why did you choose him as your mascot?
As a marketer you always wish that someone could just work up magic and that your customers and sales start increasing, interaction and buzz levels start increasing, and more. We had a similar concept in mind and wanted to create that magical super-character who has answers to everything. He is the guy to look up to when you are in trouble. Since, the product was about adding a viral nature to marketing campaigns, there's no better name than Viro.
One of the main reasons of using a mascot is that it makes brand communication simple. Everyone can connect to that character. It's also cool, effective, and fun. Another important element is that 'superpower' conveys the level of impact that the product creates.
Lastly, B2B (business-to-business) marketing as we have seen is quite boring. We wanted to add some flavor to it and make it more interesting for everyone. Viro gives us the edge to do so.
What are the key differentiators of your product?
I think as a product we solve many complex problems including increasing sales, conversion and engagement, and using social effectively with one simple product. Most competing products are just focused on solving a part of the problem.
Our product also provides great customization ability. Mrketing campaigns are all about user experience and interaction. We make it very simple for our customers to customize the way they like it.
Lastly, there's "no IT", which means once you do a simple integration, there is no technology help needed whatsoever. The marketer can choose when and how he wants the campaign to run, the rules governing the campaign and more. It is a product aimed at product manager and marketers.
Why did you decide to launch ViralMint now?
Social media typically has been seen from a brand building and engagement point so far. Now that the communities have matured, and with millions of dollars spent in doing so, the next thing brands and retailers would want to do is to leverage their built-up communities and expect conversions.

In short, start monetizing their fan-base to get footfalls and drive more sales. We see ourselves as a product which will fuel this state and help retailers get maximum ROI on their marketing campaigns. In our opinion, this is the perfect time.
You've mentioned RedBus, Pepperfry, and Snapdeal as your customers. Any interesting insights you'd like to share from your business with them?
Earlier marketing campaigns these customers ran were solely to boost conversion rates or simply focused on getting people to buy more using incentives. Our product not only boosts the earlier initiatives but also adds the much-needed viral impact.
We generally see an increase of about 10-times in traffic, about 6-times increase in people opting up for the incentives, and about 2- to 3-times increase in net sales/conversions just from social media. 
I don't think the social coupon culture is big in the Indian market. What are your views on this?
Yes, you are right, it's not so big in India at the moment, but coupon culture is. We understand the opportunity and are doing our bit in fueling the growth. Social coupons and viral marketing are next to explode. We believe using word-of-mouth marketing with incentives boosts viral growth and impact. It is several times more effective than offering simple discounts. Indian market is a price-conscious market and the inherent social nature of people make up a perfect target demographic.
Our idea is to get brands to hide incentives behind shares and referrals, for instance, using social and gamification effectively for maximum campaign exposure.
What are your favorite features of your product and why?
That would be our activity feed, which shows what's happening with your campaign. I have tried several products while being a marketer and none of them reflects the buzz about the campaign. Right from day one we wanted to build a product which shows how your campaign is spreading virally, who are the top influencers, and so on. The customers can just keep staring at it and it's really fun to watch your campaign reaching out to so many people. You get a true sense of the virality. 
What's the culture like at ViralMint?
We're a team of young entrepreneurs passionate about social marketing and innovative product geeks who are obsessed with changing the state of the current Web. We believe in building stuff that matters, that solves a problems or makes someone's life simple. We are always on the lookout for newer problems and work toward finding solutions one bit at a time.
We have a very open culture as most startups do. We believe in innovation and by giving people time to explore their domains of expertise. Even though work is an integral part of our living and given that we pretty much spend most of our lives at it, we have loads and loads of fun. 
Who's your role model and why?
Steve Jobs. The main thing I admire about him is the sheer passion and his outlook toward life and technology, his vision to see things, imagine the future, and build on them as if they exist today. His attention to detail and the humanism that he brought to the world.

He not only built the amazing products we use today, he also went on to create the DNA of one of the most profitable companies in the world. His perspective toward life and living each day as if it's the last is deeply rooted within me, and is what keeps me going and giving out the best everyday. I would like to end with one of his favorite lines: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish."

Those interested can follow ViralMint and Rohan on Twitter.

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