Changing user behavior – Cardback

This time, we feature Cardback a Delhi based startup, focused on helping today’s retail consumers discover the best deals and offers available on their credit, debit, loyalty and prepaid cards across merchant establishments. Its first product, also by the same name, is a location-aware mobile app that is currently in public beta for Android and in an invite-only phase for the iPhone.

What inspired you to build such a product?
We ourselves have always been sensitive to saving as much as we can while spending. While faced with a peculiar challenge of figuring out which one of our cards is best suited to use at a particular place, we identified it as a business opportunity that could be addressed using modern day computational techniques and the power and ubiquity of smart phones. That was, essentially, the genesis of Cardback.

Who all make up the core team at Cardback?
Nikhil Wason and Nidhi Gurnani started Cardback in July 2012 after months of brainstorming on the fundamental challenge faced by today’s credit and debit cardholders. Engineers by profession as well as by passion, both Nikhil and Nidhi are technologists, but with a business sense. While Nikhil, a graduate of Columbia University, was previously working with Adobe, Nidhi contributed her bit to the Aricent Group for a while. The core team got expanded with Ankita Garg joining a couple of months later to handle marketing. Ankita, a social media expert, has in the past helped several start-ups acquire a considerable user base during their initial days.

Can you tell us a bit about your product roadmap?
We currently have an Android app, while the iPhone app is in private alpha testing. We made a conscious decision to focus our initial energies on Android, as India’s mobile user base is more Android-oriented. Since its beta launch in Nov 2012, we have analyzed enough user behavior on the Android app to make fundamental decisions on its user experience on other platforms. We plan to ship a public beta of our iPhone app in January 2013. Cardback for Windows Phone and Blackberry are currently under development.

One very important aspect of our future roadmap is to build a partnership with banks and other card issuers. Using our platform, they will be able to push their special deals and incentives to cardholders at the right place and at the right time. Meanwhile, they will be able to gather valuable analytics, which will help increase the repeat usage of cards issued by them.

What challenges have you faced in your journey so far?
The biggest challenge that we have to address is changing user behavior.  While many people today claim to be tech savvy and gadget comfortable, they’re still very averse to making changes to their credit and debit card usage habits. Even though they would be interested in discounts, they rarely remember they have several excellent entitlements by virtue of holding certain cards. With these cards, many discounts become their “birth right” or so to speak. Cardback provides them the tools, but those tools won’t help unless people make use of them.

As a mobile application, another major challenge that we have to face is discoverability. With millions of products out there on every mobile platform, it becomes very difficult to make users notice your app, even if it solves a genuine pain point.

Are you collaborating with other startups?
At Cardback, we do not believe in re-inventing the wheel. We realize that the challenge we are trying to address is so specialized and requires such clinical execution, that if there are specialists in the periphery zone who have proven solutions, we will happily bring them on-board.

We have recently partnered with dineout, which is India’s premiere restaurant booking service, to allow our users to make table reservations at their favorite restaurants through our application itself. Our application already helps users save money, now with this feature, they save time too. And they even get discounts with every table booking they make.

How would you rate yourself in terms of achieving the targets you set out to achieve so far and what are your targets for future?
Being engineers ourselves, we are very data driven in our approach towards everything. Setting targets and evaluating our performance is no different. We have defined metrics that we’re tracking ourselves against and so far we are very satisfied with our performance.

Qualitatively, we set out to achieve two things by the end of the year. First, technological proof of concept, and second, basic customer validation. We’re proud to say we’ve done very well on both those fronts and we will be starting 2013 with a brand new level of excitement due to these accomplishments.

For the near future, our target is rapid expansion of our user base and scaling our platform to support that rapid expansion. We will also be adding new and innovative features as we get our apps synced across all operating systems.

As a long term goal, we would be partnering with card issuers such as banks, as mentioned previously.

How do you cover the operational costs?
Cardback is currently being bootstrapped. Several investors have expressed a keen interest in what we’re doing and we are evaluating the right time (and the right investor) to infuse additional funds into Cardback’s mission.

Wishing GoodLuck to the Team!!