Fast-growing Bangalore-based company Playo wears its mission quite proudly – they aim to ‘bring back play in everyday lives.’
The company’s app is an all-encompassing platform that encourages users to build local communities for sport, organise games and matches and discover sporting facilities or new sports.
Launched in certain neighbourhoods across Bangalore four-years ago, at the end of the first year they had a user base of 20,000 but with accelerated expansion comes a mushrooming user base. Playo has now been downloaded over 1.1 million times and was awarded the Best of 2018 Apps by Google in India.
The company has raised a million dollars in seed capital and are currently doing a series A raising to launch in other countries. It is during this time we spoke to Playo’s CEO Gauravjeet Singh.
The press you’ve received has identified that connection between your app and encouraging fun and socialising through sports. Is that the community you’re looking to build through Playo?
Gauravjeet Singh: “The vision is to get people connected via sports. Fundamentally what we’re trying to solve is to get people to interact physically and we’re using sports as a medium to do that.”
We know all too well that we should be more health conscious, we work longer hours, have hectic schedules, sit in a lot of traffic, a lot of commitments which has made fitting in exercise and sport difficult.
GS: “We need to have a better work-life balance.
“We learned in school, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ That’s what’s happening to so many people in so many places, we get caught up in our lives and obviously we begin to lose health and happiness.
“You can look at treadmills, gyms, and exercise equipment and for some it can seem monotonous, routine-like. Something like a treadmill can feel like you’re working and that isn’t a lot of fun.
“In a funny sort of way we’re using tech to actually get people to spend time outside of tech.”
How does your company derive revenue?
GS: “We’re looking at four different streams, we have begun with two of them with another two still to come. Firstly its venue bookings, you can find available courts or pitches through our app and we take a commission from the partner venues. Then we have recently started to move into advertising on the platform because we have an highly engaged user base.
“Still to come, we’re looking at the cross-selling opportunities because we have users who are highly engaged and looking at what their needs are and understanding those needs to develop that funnel. Let’s say a user is using the app to play badminton, could they purchase a badminton racquet through the app? And finally we are looking at a subscription-based model, a passes and benefits program.”
There are other competitors in your segment within India, so what’s your point of difference against your competition?
GS: “There’s a few things, we founded a company like this is that we didn’t see any company successfully building a community like this.
“Secondly it’s allowed us to build a better product in terms of features, functions and getting a real insight into our users – their needs, what works on our platform and what doesn’t.
“For us to build a platform that is a community that enables services – we’re not a booking platform or an aggregation platform we strive to be a community plus a marketplace model so that’s what creates the entire stickiness and engagement of the platform.”
The tricky thing is maintaining stickiness on a platform like yours, a poor first experience or a lack of community and you can’t keep users.
GS: “That’s where we’ve got to be careful in what metrics are around, building in new regions organically to begin with, how many people we’re getting to play, how many groups are we creating and how many connections are we creating.”
User experience matters more than pushing the product out at scale. What’s your philosophy on user experience and why it matters?
GS: “Why it matters is not even up for debate. We’ve been able to grow because of our commitment to delivering an excellent user experience. Today about 60 per cent of our downloads continue to be organic, by word-of-mouth and search.
“How we do it is very important I think. What is important for a good user experience? One is the product experience in terms of functions, features, navigation, not buggy and really delivering a product that addresses a problem. We’ve had our hits and misses but it’s been beneficial as we keep improving our product.
“The second thing is focussing on content, whether it is access or information on venues, activities and groups. With content, when we launch in a new city, we have to have a sharp focus on building strong usable content.”
Playo has extended its reach into the UAE, how do you plan on scaling the platform internationally?
GS: “The same strategy and roadmap that’s working in Bangalore and Hyderabad is also working in Dubai. I don’t really see this as different countries but see this as different cities. We don’t launch in the whole city straight away, we launch in certain neighbourhoods or districts. If we were in Sydney or Melbourne, we wouldn’t launch for the whole city but little bit by little bit.
“It’s about creating a market not going for market share. Essentially what we need is good people who believe in us and understand what we’re doing.
“The one constant is that you face unique challenges in each city.”
What are the next target locations to launch Playo?
GS: “We’re looking at three geographies, Western Europe, United Kingdom and Germany being the countries we’ve identified, secondly we’re looking at Australia particularly Sydney and Melbourne and thirdly we’re looking at South-East Asia, namely Malaysia and Singapore.”
Badminton, football, cricket are the most popular sports on Playo, what other sports is gaining interest in India based on your data?
GS: “We always encourage people to try multiple sports and our users do about two and a half sports on average, football and badminton and sometimes cricket.
“Around 40 per cent of users have selected badminton, then the next is cricket and football at 20 per cent each and the next five sports – basketball, volleyball, swimming, tennis and table tennis – they’re about the 10 to 15 per cent range.”
You’ve come from an investment banking background and then you started Playo, was there a moment when you realised Playo started becoming a viable business?
GS: “It’s hard to pinpoint one particular moment on the journey because there are so many doubts and learnings. For us the greatest satisfaction is that users appreciate what we’re doing and therefore we’re addressing a need and figured it out the other parts as we go along.”