Interview With Praveen Rajaretnam, Co-Founder At Wooplr

Praveen Rajaretnam who is one of the co-founders of Wooplr, a social shopping platform shares his experiences with Wooplr and the road ahead

Wooplr is a social shopping platform which makes shopping a Pinterest like affair, founded in 2011 by Praveen, Arjun A Zacharia, Ankit Sabharwal and Soumen Sarkar. I had a chance to catch up with Praveen to know about his experiences with the startup and what does he think Wooplr is all about.

Wooplr uses a Pinterest like experience hoping to help the Indian shoppers (main focus as of now are Women) and brands to connect and act as a user generated recommendation platform. Praveen thinks Wooplr is about helping people discover products from brick-and-mortar stores which if someone didn’t tell them about, they would not ever hear about them.

Currently, there is a lack of a platform where Indian shoppers can find genuine shopping/eating recommendations & share their shopping finds, or find out what their friends are shopping for and from where, or to find out about new, interesting products, stores and eateries by subscribing to taste makers outside their social circle.

The genesis of Wooplr

Thus was born the idea of Wooplr from the pain-points they had experienced themselves - “How do we find out about new products that we seem to be missing out on?, ‘where are the best shops in the city to buy certain stuff?, ‘what is most popular food dish at this restaurant we are trying out for the first time?

“We realized that we were limited by what our friends knew. And we couldn’t change our friend circles to find out about them. But, there are people who knew and could help us out with their suggestions.

We also realized that shopping - by nature - is inherently social. We would like to know what are our friends are buying. And where they are buying it from? And Shopping is meant to be fun. We like to go shopping with friends, try out new clothes and shoes, ask them for their advice. The joy and sociability of shopping was missing. And we wanted to bring that back.”

On Pinterest and Instagram

With visual platforms like Pinterest and Instagram already present globally, Praveen feels both the platforms do have a global presence but not in the Indian context. He feels Pinterest and Instagram partially overlap in content (but not in concept). And they largely remain irrelevant to Indian shoppers and foodies. They deliver content that is too generic.

To compare with the categories Wooplr focuses on, many products are from e-commerce portals which are not based here. And where Wooplr focuses on original content, Pinterest is all about pinning images through the web.

The business angle

With Wooplr working as a peer to peer network and not having a business context to it as yet, Praveen shares that there has been quite a bit of interest from home studios, flea market brands, SMBs and retail chains on the potential that the platform holds for their brands.

He adds that Wooplr does have a nascent business model in place for each segment and the  technology side of it has been developed and is in testing phase. They are finalizing the details with some businesses for  running Pilot programs scheduled to start early next month across Tier-I cities. This dry run will help Wooplr to get initial numbers and do some sample A/B tests to evaluate and fine-tune the business model.

The road ahead

Praveen also ensures that Wooplr will be more personalized for each user in the future, when they do plan to release their suggestion engine when their traction is high enough. The content will be algorithmically curated as per the user’s tastes.

The suggestion engine draws from the user’s Wooplr activity, location, social circle, Facebook likes and 15 other cues to accurately deliver the most relevant content from the right people at the right time. So, what I would be seeing on my Wooplr stream in a couple of months’ time will be quite different - perhaps a few custom-made musical instruments and some bobble heads of superheroes & TV show icons interspersed with recommendations of men’s tees and shoes! (I surely hope so)

About Wooplr being female centric as of now, Praveen does tell us that they will be adding more categories in time for more male centric options. Wooplr has seen an increase in the traffic from men after their public beta launch.

Good luck to Wooplr and team and hope they reach out to more and more shopaholics out there!

P.S. The article has been updated to list the names of all the co-founders of Wooplr.