For Vivek Mahaveer Jain, starting FlippAR meant reliving childhood memories. Though born in Bengaluru, he spent most of his childhood in Coimbatore. During school vacations, he would visit his native city and click tonnes of pictures, documenting the monuments, parks and other buildings. It was only in 2015 that Jain realised that these buildings and monuments were a potential business opportunity, particularly for millennials.
“Our target customers fall in the 16-24 age bracket who mostly like to take pictures and want to create memories,” Jain explained.
The startup, aimed at the millennial tourist, has developed an augmented reality app, called FlippAR GO, which throws up interactive and curated information about heritage sites and monuments as well as things to do in and around a city. It also provides a list of recommendation of local arts, crafts and culture. The free mobile application scans structures, uses images and object recognition and displays real-time photos from a database all populated with information.
Users can click images or take videos of these places and share them publicly as ‘Stories’ on the app. This allows other users to see the images or videos when a phone screen is pointed at a location. Users can also tag their memories to real-world objects.
The pivot and revenue stream
Jain launched the startup in 2016 and at that time, it operated on two business models—in one iteration, the app was aimed at tourists visiting Bengaluru, and in the other, it helped companies with brand engagements. However, earlier this year, Jain decided to focus solely on tourism.
“With brand engagements, we realised that messaging and communicating to users about the application was a bit of challenge. We then decided to pivot,” Jain explained.
The startup then developed FlippAR GO purely for consumers due to the demand in the tourism industry.
The app runs on a subscription model but Jain is also looking at other avenues to generate revenues such as content subscriptions.
“We generate a lot of content ourselves which could be used by different businesses. For example, if online travel service providers like MakeMyTrip are willing to do something in a city, they could subscribe to our app to use the content,” he added.
Jain has introduced another product called ‘Skope’, which is an AR social network platform where users can interact with one another and share pictures. The new product has a unique feature—users can add their voices to the pictures, besides tagging friends.
“Skope is a B2C business which uses location-based AR where people can post and unlock memories. Context is something that we are attempting to provide to the millions of pictures that people take,” he explained.
Skope is available on the Android platform and will soon go live on iOS.
Run by Movingup Products Pvt. Ltd, the venture currently employs eight people.
It competes with of London-based visual discovery app Blippar and also Facebook-owned photo and video sharing platform Instagram.
Prior to setting up FlippAR, Jain served as the chief executive at StrApp Busines Solutions, a web and mobile applications developer, for 11 years, where he drove strategic initiatives across a gamut of functions.
According to Jain, Gayle’s interest in his firm was a matter of pure chance.
“I met Gayle through a common friend during last IPL season in Bengaluru. I happened to show him what I was trying to do, which somehow fascinated him and within two months of negotiation, he came on board. We are trying to leverage Gayle’s popularity at the moment,” says Jain.
To launch Skope, FlippAR did a campaign with Gayle, which involved shooting an indoor video with him.
The startup has so far managed to raise $150,000 (Rs 99.3 lakh) from angel investors and is currently planning to secure $1 million in the next three to four months.
Besides these angel investors, the startup received a grant of Rs 5 lakh from the Karnataka government in March last year as part of its multi-sectoral startup policy. In 2015, FlippAR was selected by France-based NUMA for the first batch of its startup accelerator programme.
The startup is currently also working closely with the Karnataka state government on a pilot project, which provides virtual and augmented reality tours to 20 heritage sites in the state. It is one among eight Bengaluru-based startups chosen to help the state tourism department to create solutions.
“We are also in discussions with other state and international tourism departments to provide the same kind of facility through our service,” Jain added.