With over 1 million monthly users, Chennai-based Planhound will introduce new phone connections to the world of bill payments and recharges
When Chennai-based techpreneurs Jigar Doshi and Ankit Chhajer built Komparify four years ago, it was to solve a pain often experienced while using a mobile: deciding on a recharge option or postpaid plan. (Read more)
The online platform let mobile phone users select the best recharge or postpaid plan based on their usage. They had aggregated all the information available on the operator’s website and broke it down to display granular data about it. It was all fine till they hit a roadblock– how many customers actually monitored their usage?
“Not too many people even look at their detailed postpaid connection bill. Forget about getting them to come on our platform and manually punch in the numbers. This is when we got the idea of monitoring their usage via an app,” says Jigar, Co-founder, Cheeni Labs, the makers of Komparify.
At the #startup hackathon In50Hrs, organised by The Startup Centre in Chennai, Jigar and Ankit built the first prototype of the Android app Planhound. The app monitors mobile usage to give customers detailed statistics, including the number of incoming and outgoing calls, break-ups of local and standard calls, on-net and off-net calls, text SMSes and data usage.
Jigar explains how Planhound then suggests the best plan to the customer: “We have a web crawler that finds all the 15 Indian operators’ plans and displays them to the customer. The algorithm for Planhound then optimises the usage and makes suggestions based on the findings.”
Planhound works for all connections including mobile, data card and tablet plans. It recently introduced the same service for DTH (direct-to-home) plans and recharges as well. (Read here)
The current version of the app lets customers monitor and manage all the connections they own with live recharge and data balances. It also alerts customers about bill payments and recharge expiry. They app allows customers to use Ola Money to complete their recharges as well.
The app automatically detects all connections owned by a user, even if they were not recharged on the app or Komparify.com. It can also unify all the connections owned by a family on the cloud if they have Planhound installed on the devices.
“We’ve built Planhound to be more than just a recharge app; it is a smart assistant to do analysis and alert users when it is time to take an action,” adds Jigar.
Though the platform does not allow customers to directly purchase or pay bills on their portal, like PayTM or Freecharge, Planhound has tied up with telecom aggregators to make sure these transactions are possible.
One thing that this bootstrapped startup did not factor in was that some customers wanted to migrate to other operators when they found plans that were perfect for them. As the regulations for new telephone connections are stringent – KYC policies etc.— it is difficult for an online platform like Planhound to offer new connections as a service.
Though Planhound offers new connections for DTH, with a hyperlocal group of executives to do background verifications, simulating the same for telephone connections might take time. They have sold over 20,000 new connections across the country.
“We are going to start doing the KYC bit for new mobile connections in the future. In a quarter or two, we should be able to offer various connections on the platform, based on customers’ usage. Also, with the impending launch and growth of 4G in India and more users switching to faster connections, we will help people compare and buy these connections through Planhound,” says Jigar.
The app has crossed 2,00,000 downloads and has over one million monthly customers. It has two major competitors globally: whistleOut in Australia and uSwitch in the UK.
Apart from these, regular online recharge or bill payment websites like Paytm, Freecharge and EasyMobileRecharge also compete indirectly with this startup.
As per the latest data released by sector regulator TRAI, the total wireless or mobile connections stood at 973.35 million in April 2015 and is predicted to increase in the coming years.
India saw the fastest growth in new mobile phone connections, with 18 million net additions in the third quarter of 2014, followed by China with 12 million new additions, according to a report by Swedish mobile network equipment maker Ericsson.
According to another report by research firm IDC, the total mobile services market revenue in India is expected to touch $ 37 billion in 2017, registering a CAGR of 5.2 per cent between 2014 and 2017.
Apps like Planhound might help users pick the right plans and choose the most relevant operator for their needs. The most interesting aspect about this app is that the information from all the connections can be synced and available on one platform, with a single click pay/recharge option under each one of these connections.