hoomn: Hyper local and anonymous app that lets you ask questions to people around you

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hoomn is a startup from the German city of Stuttgart, also known for being the HQ of Mercedes. Their app hoomn, which has been quite successful in Germany since its launch 7 weeks ago, was recently launched in Mumbai.

hoomn lets users post their needs, questions and offers. These post are visible to others around them. You can post about sharing things, get local insider tips, or find cool events and parties. With hoomn, you reach the very people who can help you with questions that are highly local, too specific or very current to be solved by other web portals.

The app is free, anonymous and doesn’t need any signup.

Actual posts by few of the users

1. Anyone who wants to go jogging with me on Saturdays?
2. Suggestions on where to go partying with 2 friends next Wednesday?
3. My computer is has gone crazy. Any tips or a nice IT guy who can help
out?
4. Does anyone know a football club where beginners can join?

Techaloo got an opportunity to have a chit chat with Mr. Shahvez Akhtar, co-founder and Head of Strategy and Operations @hoomn. Let see what does he want to share with us?

Techaloo: How did this idea emerge?
Shahvez:
In December 2013, Tobias Schulze had the idea for hoomn on a business trip to Frankfurt. He was thinking about where he could have dinner that night and was frustrated by the idea of researching on TripAdvisor or Yelp and end up being in a touristy restaurant. Then it struck him – why can’t he ask a local who knows the city well?

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Many times people have questions that are highly local, too specific or very current and it is difficult to find useful answers with Google. Also sometimes, it’s better to have one answer from a local than go through the elaborate choices and reviews on websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. As there was no convenient way to do this, we decided to create a platform which gives people an easy way to ask locals around them.
hoomn comes from the German pronunciation of the English word “human” in order to highlight that the app is about connecting people who help each other.

Techaloo: How does it work?
Shahvez: The app functions like a public bulletin board with an integrated private chat. Users post questions or needs which are visible to others within a radius around them. By tapping on a post the user enters a private chat window where he can get in contact with the post creator. Chat messages marked by the post owner as ‘top answers’ are be visible to everyone, so that others can benefit from the answer. Since the app works anonymously and without signup, people can use it instantly after downloading.

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Techaloo: What were the reasons to choose India as next market after a successful business in Germany?
Shahvez:
India is a very interesting market. There has been tremendous growth in smartphones in the recent years which makes it very attractive for a mobile only product like hoomn. Another factor was the high market share of android in India since hoomn is only available on Android  at the moment (iOS is coming soon in April). Additionally, there are not as many interest based facebook groups for sharing things, asking questions, and so on. This concept is still not as evolved as in Europe, which makes hoomn a great solution for India. These reasons and the fact that I am from here is why we launched in India as our second market.

Techaloo: How are your studies at ISB, helping in shaping hoomn India?
Shahvez: 
My studies at ISB were a great experience and have been very valuable in shaping hoomn. I developed a strong work ethic there which is great because it prepared me very well for the long hours that are required in a startup. I learnt a lot about marketing and market entry strategies which has been very useful while launching hoomn in India. My time at ISB also allowed me to build a strong network in India which helps me connect to the right people.

Techaloo: What was your vision/mission while starting hoomn in India?
Shahvez:
Our vision is that in any city in India, you can get a tip from a local right away. So if you are looking for a cool place to hangout, a romantic dinner spot for a date or have any other question, you just ask hoomn and get an answer right away. We want to become a local search engine powered by the crowd!

Techaloo: Currently you are focusing on Mumbai, do you have any plans to expand the horizon?
Shahvez:
Our plan is to have an active user base in all the major cities in India within 6 months. After Mumbai, we will target Delhi and Bangalore. The strategy is to target specific locations at one point in time, build a user base there and then move to the next.

Techaloo: Indian audience is different from Germans, what new features you added to serve Indian segment specifically?
Shahvez:
The great thing about hoomn is that the content is generated by the crowd. So the app provides a very localized experience in every city. Therefore, we didn’t need to add any specific feature to serve our Indian audience. Nevertheless we always listen to our users and if users in India request for a feature, we will add it.

Techaloo: How are you different from other online platforms?
Shahvez: 
There are many online platforms out there but they are passive and you cannot ask a specific question. For example, if you want to know where to play football near your home you can’t really find the answer by searching on google. These kind of questions are too specific or local and to get an answer, you need to ask people around you. While interacting with a person, you can immediately clarify things, ask for more details, etc. That’s the cool thing about hoomn – you are actually talking to another person (and not to a machine)! You are not limited to wIndia_Triple_Screenhat is available on a generic platform.

Currently, the best way to interact this way is through local Facebook groups but usually these are only available at the city level. With hoomn, you can interact at the neighbourhood level. Users can choose a search radius of as low as 500 m for posts, making the content hyper local. Facebook groups are more suited for public discussions whereas hoomn is best for private chat. Another big difference is that hoomn is optimised for mobile usage in contrast to Facebook groups. This is a huge advantage which will become even bigger in future as the smartphone usage rapidly increases.

Techaloo: What hurdles did you face while starting?
Shahvez:
While starting in a new location, we always have to face the hurdle of getting a critical mass of users. hoomn works best if there are enough users to respond to the posts. To reach this critical mass, we have put in a lot of effort every time we launch in a new city.

Techaloo: How is the response till now?
Shahvez: The response in Germany has been very positive. People love our product and we have very active communities in the major cities there. The response in India has been good as well, however we are yet to find the sweet spot.

Techaloo: What are your plans for next 3 years?
Shahvez:
3 years is a very very long time horizon as a startup! The general strategy is to focus on one country, build a user base there before moving to the next. This is important because for hoomn to function effectively, we need a critical amount of users in each location. By 2018, we aim to have a global presence and become THE app for local tips and questions. No matter where you go in the world, you should be able to find the answer to your local questions using hoomn.

Techaloo: What will be your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Shahvez:
My advice for budding entrepreneurs is that they network with other founders and talk to them as there is a lot to learn from each others’ experiences.

For students interested in entrepreneurship, I would say discuss your ideas with others, find cofounders who are as passionate about your idea as you are, and bring it to the market. This is a great time for startups in India – the ecosystem is conducive, the market is huge and money is flowing. This is a massive improvement compared to what the indian startup scene looked like 3 years ago.

Techaloo: What do you think about techaloo.com?
Shahvez:
I think it’s a great initiative by you guys. It provides visibility for startups and at the same time inspires budding entrepreneurs.

If you need this app, you can download it from Google play store by clicking here

shahvez Meet Shahvez

Shahvez Akhtar is the Head of Strategy and Operations, a position he also held during his time at Foodpanda in the Philippines. He studied at
the Indian School of Business and has attended the Master programme in Strategy and International Management (SIM) at the University of St. Gallen. He is heading the expansion in India.

Meet the team

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Mohit Bansal(23) is B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India. He has interest in business and entrepreneurship and has published couple of research articles. He is also associated with various NGOs. He is with Techaloo when it was just in concept stage. The Techaloo site was not existing even then. Currently Mohit is working with Mu Sigma as a Business Analyst Profile.

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