Q1. What is ListUp ? Why did you choose the name ListUp ?
ListUp is all about buying and selling used goods around you and we chose name “ListUp” because it was very appealing to the sellers as it was prompting them to list their products up. We searched many other names but this one was very particularly related to the sellers and almost all good apps (in this domain) always target on sellers, because demand is always there, just there is lack of supply, hence name should be more appealing to the sellers. ListUp is trying to make buying and selling a social experience. This will help people to sell their products easily because everything is now becoming social and till now buying and selling has no social, hassle-free experience available and therefore we’re trying to provide that.
Q2. What inspired you to setup ListUp ? How it is different from other used product sellers offline and online ?
I was earlier in Singapore. There were many apps for selling and buying, but there was one particularly good app called Carousell and this was very viral app there. So their engagement time was very high & people were using this app to discover good things around them. they were selling and buying lots of things every now and then and they were very happy with it. But when I came back to India I tried to look at things in this space & I found first OLX and Quikr, but when I used their products, they was not upto the mark & I was not very satisfied with their product quality. It was very tedious to use them & they were not very conveniently using the location factor. So lots of problems were there. Then Sumit and Pulkit, they also worked in Japan & they had seen Mercari there.
Mercari is also an app in the same space in Japan & it’s also viral there. So all these examples were very good and they were disrupting the classified markets all over the world so after taking inspiration from them & after studying the Indian market, we found that there is a huge need of an app like them with an Indian touch which can make the selling and buying experience very convenient here and that’s why we moved forward with it.
Q3. What was the major roadblock you faced while building ListUp ?
There were many. First of all, leaving a very comfortable paycheque giving job was a big roadblock. That kind of decision you can’t make overnight and then getting the right people. Like if you’re trying this kind of things (opening a startup) you have to be with the right set of people. So getting that kind of people was also a challenge. After that while starting up ListUp, I had a very vast experience in Back-end but a little experience in front-end. But I overcame that thing, because, I was always interacting with front-end guys in my recent jobs. I was always doing one or two small things in front-end then, so that was helpful. Handling a big team was also a big challenge for all of us.
Q4. What kind of technology or tools ListUp is based on ? and Why you choose that ?
We are using Ruby on Rails as the main backend framework. I chose RoR after lots of brainstorming & reading. I had experience in Java, PHP, Node.js, RoR frameworks from the past, but RoR dominated all of them because of it’s fast & efficient development cycle, availability of best talent in the field of RoR & if implemented carefully performance can be optimized as well. Also lot’s of open source documentation is available because of an active & large RoR community. As database we are using MySql. PostGreSql was also a good option, but we wanted to use Google Cloud Sql (a cheap, easily scalable & easy to maintain option). We are using Google Cloud Services (or to be precise Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Storage & Google Cloud Sql) as DevOps tool. I had prior experience with AWS, but before finalizing anything for ListUp I experimented with Google Cloud tools as well and found them to be a lot cheaper & easier to maintain than AWS, so went ahead with it. We are using Redis as in memory storage (for queuing various delayed jobs). We are using PubNub for messaging services & after careful & repeated implementation we are proud to announce that our chat implementation is as reliable as WhatsApp, Messanger or any similar chat service out there. Our frontends range from Android & iOS Framework to jQuery & ReactJs framework. We are using Asana & Slack for task & team management. So we are proud to say that we are using best suitable cutting edge technologies out there to meet our product requirements.
Q5. Is there any insurance of the Products brought from your market ? If not , What do you do if the product is reported as damaged as soon as it is bought ?
No, we don’t have any insurance, because we’re not at all involved into end-transaction process as of now. When we’ll introduce transaction process, we might introduce some kind of insurance there. But as of now we don’t have any insurance. right now we’re completely relying on the End-Users, we believe they can judge the quality of the product clearly and they can ultimately decide whether they should buy it or not. If a user found the product to be damaged, we’ve a help system in our app where user reports it and after that we consult seller to confirm whether this is a genuine complaint or not and if the response of the Seller is not upto the mark , we blacklist that seller from the platform or we take other actions of similar nature. When we’ll have transactional system in place, we might introduce some Escrow model from where money could be returned to the buyer & some action can be taken against seller. But as of now it’s just an overview, we’ve not discussed it in-depth. But that is one of the thing we’re continuously trying to introduce & improve.
Q6. Can you give a detailed explanation on how “Connections” work in providing better trust to sellers ?
That’s an important thing. Sometimes people asks us that why we need a Facebook login for a platform of buying and selling used goods and sometimes they ask the same questions you asked about how it brings trust to the end-user. But a very good example of this could be the Tinder app. Everyone uses tinder and uses Facebook login for that and on the basis of connections and interests you have on Facebook, people are suggested to you, and this is a very good and acceptable model, and this has worked in almost all markets. So because the whole world is moving towards social media and if you know a person on Facebook you’re more or less connected to that user & you know about what kind of that person is. So we thought that because this is a P2P or C2C (whatever you call it) platform & ultimately End-Users are Connecting with End-Users, it can be a good idea to leverage social layer. Also there is a known problem of lack of trust on such platforms because if someone is selling something and you don’t know that user very well, you are less likely to deal with him. Also in recent time people are not strongly connected directly & therefore it is likely that you might have 20-30 friend in real life but you may have 500-1000 friends on Facebook and you know them sufficiently well. So this can increase trust factor of users on the platform. So if you’ve 2 or 3 mutual friends or you are directly connected to a user on Facebook, you can trust that user to buy from or sell to. So this brings trust factor. For example if you see a listing & you see that seller has 3 mutual friends with you then you get a confidence. You can meet & talk with such seller and there will not be any risk, because your 3 friends are connected to that seller directly & if any problem will be there, you can always talk to those mutual friends. So it’s like there is a circle of people around you & you can always rely on them and that’s a very important factor.
Q7. What approach did you use to solve the problem of uploading & selling of fake products ?
As I said ListUp is very transparent so we want end-users to decide which listing is not good for the system and many other things. But right now we’ve an Admin panel at our back-end in the system which is handled by our team at ListUp. A very responsive team is there which always keeps an eye on the listings coming on the platform. If they found that any listing is violating our T&C then they take action against that seller. They notify the seller to warn them about the problem and ask to correct it or upload it again. and even after a lot of monitoring any fake listing comes on the platform, our users are very active & they report it to us & our team then takes action against that listing/seller. So all those kind of things are there.
Q8. What are ListUp’s future plans ? What locations would you be expanding your services to ?
ListUp has very good future plans. Till now we were only focusing on Mumbai, but we now want to expand to other cities as well. iIn Mumbai, a good healthy community of buyers and sellers have already been formed and we’re continuously growing here but other cities in the India are facing similar problems, so now we’ll be expanding to other cities as well. First of all we’ll be shifting our focus to Bangalore and New Delhi. Also there are lots of good plans in the space of technology as well. Till now the feed is not so much personalised , we want to make it personalised. Because if a user is continuously searching few categories of things, we should be showing items from those categories on the top. So we’re making a personalised feed for them. We’re suggesting better categories for the products. So, we’re introducing lots and lots of features & machine learning algorithms into the product so that it can help end-user to use sell/buy products in better manner. After that we’re also trying to make selling and buying faster and convenient. So that’s why we recently introduced “Social Layer” which will be helping people selling and buying a lot, it’s bringing more and more trust(into the system). So in future we’re also planning to introduce some kind of payment layer in our system. So that will also make the selling and buying process faster and smoother.
Q9. Since you’ve mentioned kickass team, how effectively does everyone co-operate with each other in working as everyone are experts in their domains ? Did you have any clashes between members ? if yes , who settles the arguments ?
Ya, we’ve always said we’ve a very Kickass team & we’re very proud to have that. And of course when all people are really good, some problems may happen. But we’re fortunate enough that such problems are very negligible even at this size of team. Most of the time everyone understand each other’s point of view and automatically things work in right direction. So just because people are very professional here, very rarely one of us(founders) need to interrupt, but that’s very-very rare and I am glad to say that till this point all people have worked together for the benefits of the company, for the benefits of the end-user and no major problem has occurred. So it’s good that everyone is working & everyone is giving their best for the brand, for the product & for the end-users. So we are lucky to have all of them.
Q10. Why did you choose to setup a venture that deals with used products rather than selling new products ?
As I said earlier that available platforms specially in the field of Re-Commerce (in this space) were not upto the mark and just because of that they were not capturing a huge chunk of the market. This market is very huge and they are just getting a small cent out of it. So, that’s why we thought that this is the good problem to solve. In E-commerce, really good people are solving the problems in really good manner. Amazon , Flipkart , SnapDeal is there. Good companies are there and they are giving their best and people are more or less satisfied with them. But in the space of used goods, hardly in India, people buy or sell used goods, because they don’t have any right platform for that. They don’t have the platform which can solve the problem instantly without any hassle. That’s why we decided that we should target this problem. Re-inventing the wheel will not help anyone so we thought we should try this space and we should solve this problem for once and all.
Q11. Since ListUp has a lot of transparency in it’s working , What’s your revenue model ?
That’s a very good point you made. ListUp is very transparent and we want the end-users to decide what they want and what is the quality and everything. You must be aware that on FB and other platform the content is totally moderated by end-users, so if a post is never marked as a violation of community standards, it is never removed. But if few people mark it as a violation, then Facebook takes the action. So we’ve also developed similar kind of resolution centre. Thus, if people report that this Listing is not upto the mark, we take action against it. We remove those Listings from the feed, we block those kind of users who are continuously uploading those kind of listings. So transparency is very-very important. And at the same time you might feel that revenue generation can be a little tough because right now we’re continuously telling buyers and sellers to interact with each other. But we’ve lots of other kinds of revenue models in mind. Like I mentioned there can be an escrow model which is used by Mercari in Japan, where buyer just transfers the amount first to the mercury and then ultimately when the item is received by the buyer and if the quality is good then only the money is released to the seller. This is one of the model. There can be many other models as well. Premium listings and all those kind of things are also there. So, we’ve at least 4-5 models in our mind and we’re continuously brainstorming on them as to which will be the best. So in the period of 1-2 months we’ll be releasing various features which will help us in generating some revenue. Right now most of the apps in this space are not generating any revenue but we’re way ahead of them and we’ll be soon monetising our system.
Q12. Can you describe the hardships you’ve faced and your journey from being a programmer to designing a product’s technology ? Any tips for the students on what is expected in the industry in the field of coding?
Ya, that’s a very good question. I just worked around 3 or 2 and a half years in various companies before designing the whole product from the scratch, before assembling a team of 20 people, before managing a team of 10 programmers, building a kickass product having 20000+ downloads in just span of 2-3 months with an strong rating of 4.6. So, that was very challenging for me.
I worked for 2 years in a multinational environment in a Japanese firm in Singapore. So, that helped me very much in bringing people of different origin, different city into one team on one platform and after that I worked for a startup for more than half a year. I worked in “The Porter” which is Uber for Logistics, that was a very good startup experience. There I learned how startups work, what kind of challenges are there in Startup. How you build a scalable back-end. Whenever you are designing a system, you keep in mind everything from back-end to front-end to machine learning. So all those kind of things I learned there. So it was very good experience there. Thus from all those learnings I was able to do all these things. I got the experience of back-end , Front-end as well as machine learning, so whenever needed, I decided the architecture in the right direction, as I understand the constraints of front-end, backend and machine learning. I was able to differentiate how web-frontend works, how Android or iOS front-end works. So, while you’re deciding the architecture of a big product, you need to consider everything, you just can’t blindly give weightage to front-end and decide how things will happen. Things will not work like that. You need to understand constraints of everything and that’s very important.
One very important advice I’ll give to fellow programmers is, ultimately if you work in a big corporation or you work in a startup, you have to understand the end-user’s needs & you have to put your legs into the end-user’s shoes and understand what they’ll like and accordingly decide and do things. If you cannot understand the pain of end-users, it will be very tough for you to design the right system. You’ll always design a more theoretical kind of system rather than practical solution to a real life problem. After that (I will advice), if you’re working on back-end, you should also take glimpses of other things like front-end and other other aspects of the system, because the system is very big and back-end is just a part of it. So, then, you can understand challenges of writing the very kind of APIs which you considered will help a lot in writing your front-end part. So you will understand that there were some challenge/risk associated with it in the back-end & therefore weren’t implemented in the way you desired. Also then you’ll be able to understand why things are not done in this manner or why things are done in this manner. Last advice will be that, generally, every startup or MNC will have an interview of Data Structures & Algorithms because that helps the people from company in knowing about you. Like Whether you can understand the problem deeply and solve it in the right manner or not. So keep practicing Data Structures and Algorithm for those kind of things. That is also important because sometimes you need to work alone & solve everything on your own without any help. So this kind of practice will definitely help you in that condition as well.
Q13. Having IITans , NITans and IIM guys in your team helps you in securing good funding ?
It definitely helps. Particularly in India, VCs have such mindset & I think there is nothing wrong in it. I’ll say this because lots of good companies/startups were built by guys from IITs, IIMs and NITs in the past years. So that’s why it helps you. But of course if the team is not very well aligned, like, if all the guys in the team are good at one same thing or no-one of them have knowledge of one required domains then it becomes difficult. But of course it’s a plus point having one or more of these guys in the team.
Q14. While pitching what most important things investors look at ?
This thing can be best answered by an investor, but still as per my observation, investors look for a big market and a very good team. These are the 2 most important things investors look for. Market should be big & it should be facing a real problem that you’re trying to solve. Many times people come to VCs or other founders & they try to artificially portray a problem. So it’s like they want to create an imaginary problem & they try to convince us that there is this problem and we’re solving it. But that thing will not work. Problem should be a real problem in a big market and the team should be very well to handle it. Thus I can say that good team and big market are two major things investors look at.