“We have an unfair advantage” says Ramneek Bhasin, Vice President and General Manager for mobile at TheFind.com. That “unfair” advantage is that TheFind.com is a profitable, established company with a database of over 400 million products and 500,000 merchants through years of hard work – and are the number 2 shopping search engine behind Google.
The unfair advantage happens when you turn that data loose on the mobile device because it then turns that device into the single most important consumer empowerment gateway – all located on your hip. This is a perfect example of a no-brainer-crossover-from-web-to-mobile move that could, alone, have a profound effect on the way we shop today.
But the guys at TheFind haven’t stopped there. The stuff we discuss in this video is profound in impact as it is in clarity of vision and is one that, if you are in the business of mobile commerce (isn’t everyone?), you shouldn’t miss.
** We had some sporadic bandwidth issues and I’ve actually had to edit this video to remove some of the worst garble but I didn’t cut any of the meat **
Rob Woodbridge: This episode is brought to you by Mobility Public Relations, the full-service PR agency created specifically for mobility technology companies just like yours.
Hello everybody. Welcome to Untether.tv. I’m your host Rob Woodbridge. This is where we have casual conversations with mobile rockstars. I have with me Ramneek Bhasin who is the VP and GM of mobile for The Find. We’ll get into an understanding of what TheFind does is a minute. To Ramneek, thank you so much for coming on and participating with Untether.tv.
Ramneek Bhasin: It’s a pleasure, Rob.
Rob: I just want to set the stage here. I’m obviously a huge lover of mobile. I’m a mobile lover. I don’t even know if that sounds right. I love mobile. I have longed for this type of service where I can walk into, and picture this in your head if you’re listening and watching this, a store and you want to know if that product you’re about to purchase is the best price that you can get and where else you can get it, for example, and what the price is around you or online. These guys at TheFind, who have taken this concept of discovery shopping search engine, created an app called TheFind and it allows you to either search by product or scan that product in and it does a search to see where the best prices are or what the best prices are and it adds proximity in, so location as well. This is an enabler for what I would call consumer power. This is putting the power of the consumer, power pricing back into this. It’s also a leveler for price. I love it. We were discussing right before we went live, will this be, and we all think it is, the year of mobile shopping? I think this type of application that Ramneek’s company is doing certainly moves it forward. Really what we’re about to see is this Friday, Black Friday, the single biggest mobile shopping day that we’ve ever seen. I think we’re set for it. Did I accurately summarize what it is that TheFind mobile does?
Ramneek: Absolutely, Rob. You could have been sitting in my chair here.
Rob: Great. Another short interview. I appreciate it. Ramneek, before we get into this product which I think is really cool and I think very necessary for empowering the consumer, how did you end up at TheFind? It’s an older company, a well-established company, a profitable company. How did you end up there? I’m very interested to know this story.
Ramneek: Sure. As I was telling you Rob before we got started, I’ve been around mobile for 10, 12 years. The last five or six years, it’s always been like this is the year of mobile, this is the year of mobile. I believe it’s finally arrived here. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve founded and gone through four life cycles in three companies, all mobile. My last company we actually relocated that company over to Asia-Pac. Then for the last year I’ve been just kind of putzing around in mobile, as I call it.
I’ve known Siva Kumar who’s the CEO and co-founder of TheFind for many, many years. In fact, he was an investor in one of my earlier companies. We actually got talking casually about six, seven months ago where we talked about TheFind where he’s seeing all this opportunity for TheFind way beyond the desk as the shopper becomes more mobile, as smartphones become more pervasive in the United States. Siva saw this mobile freight train coming, if you will. He convinced me six months ago and said, “Hey, stop worrying about putting your next company together. Let’s build a startup within TheFind that puts us on the mobile road map.” That was the genesis of my coming on board.
I’ve done some good stuff in my past in the sense there’s a company called Vialto that I founded in 2000 which was way before mobile became prevalent. Cisco acquired that company in 2004. They actually put it more onto their voice over IP platform as opposed to their mobile platform. That’s a little bit about my past. We can move on and talk about TheFind.
Rob: You landed at TheFind six months ago when it was identified that mobile was important.
Ramneek: That’s right. TheFind had actually, let’s say, been experimenting with mobile as way back as 2008. The first app was actually put out in December 2008. Again, there was one engineer working on it, one [??] designer. The iPhone was just coming onto the scene. In 2009, they put out the second app. There was a little bit of learning that was going on. TheFind had not really made a business strategy around mobile. The executive team is pretty sharp. They’d been capturing all this data, seeing everything that was happening in the mobile landscape but in the July-August time frame, once Siva and I got talking, that whole thought process got put on steroids. Literally from the time we started brainstorming about mobile for TheFind to the time I came on board was a matter of two weeks. I came on board in the July time frame, we put the mobile app and the mobile strategy actually on steroids if you will, and here we are four months later. We have released not only an iPhone product but we’ve also released an Android product for TheFind. Very, very rapid acceleration. The good part of this was that we did not have to go out and raise money for this. We did not have to go convince anyone. It was just internal conviction that this is what we need to do.
Rob: Let’s talk about that. Every company’s looking right now at extending their business into the mobile space. There’s a logical place for that and a logical time for that. TheFind had already experimented a couple of times in 2008, 2009. What was it really that made this the app and this the time to build that app in the business plan? Was it just a feeling?
Ramneek: No. It’s way more than just a feeling.
Rob: Okay. Good.
Ramneek: It was very a methodical and talked through set of decisions that went through. Let me step back a little and talk about TheFind and core business in general first. That will put into perspective why we did mobile and why we did it now. You may know about this but let me just put some facts on the table.
Rob: Put context in place.
Ramneek: TheFind is what we call a discovery shopping engine as you articulated earlier. We are the number two shopping engine according to comScore ratings which is a great place to be, right behind Google if you will.
Rob: You can boast about over 20 million uniques a month, right?
Ramneek: It’s 25 million uniques a month.
Rob: That’s incredible.
Ramneek: [??] a daily basis. These are comScore numbers. They are not internal numbers.
Rob: Internal numbers are much higher, right? Internally you’re number one, Google’s number two.
Ramneek: [laughs] There was a brief period of time on a daily basis we could have boasted about that. It varies. Currently if you just look at the shopping vertical, we get a million uniques a day or 24-25 million uniques a month which are very, very good numbers to have. Some others numbers that are not visible or you have to think of these more as what’s going on behind the scenes, our index includes 400 million products. Let’s understand the magnitude of what that catalog of products means. If I ask you to take a wild guess, what do you think is Amazon’s catalog in terms of number of unique products?
Rob: I’m either going to look like I overestimated or I’m an idiot if I underestimate. Why don’t I say 15-20 million SKUs?
Ramneek: Again, I won’t use exact numbers because I can’t speak for Amazon but you’re in the right ballpark. We believe we’re an order of magnitude more in terms of our index size of the catalog that we have or the products that we index.
Rob: It’s pretty big.
Ramneek: [??] talks about the Internet 500 retailers, we index 500,000 stores. Those are mind boggling numbers. As you were saying earlier, how is it that we’re able to find the best price or the maximum product selection? These are the two key components that make up for those qualitative metrics. Why can we get you the price? How can we get you the best selection? It’s because we’re indexing 400 million products across 500,000 stores. Those are some mind boggling numbers.
Rob: Those are too big to think about. It’s the biggest mall in the world. It is the mall of the world.
Ramneek: Exactly. I will bring it to you in your pocket on your mobile phone. Why we call it the discovery search engine is our index includes products from very name-brand retailers that are on everybody’s mind whether it’s Nordstrom or Macy’s or Saks and so on all the way to undiscovered boutiques. You could have a boutique on the web with a very small presence. I would bet dollars to donuts that we have crawled or indexed you are you’re giving us your feed as a merchant. This actually brings me to a little bit of a technology expose on the back end. We both crawl the web as well as we have direct relationships with merchants. They give us their catalog once a day, once a week, depending upon how often they update it. We get direct feeds from these merchants as well. Of course, the merchants out there have started recognizing that if they give us the feed the same as they would give to Google, they’re now working across the top two search engines on the web. That’s a virtual cycle that has been created over the last couple of years and even in the company to become profitable.
Rob: When you talk about a discovery shopping search engine, that’s different from a price comparison search engine that you see other sites doing. Specifically, let’s talk about that for a second. It’s very important to the mobile strategy. The discovery shopping search engine in English, in plain terms, what is that?
Ramneek: Before we define discovery search engine, let’s try to figure out the two broad [??] the consumer is when they’re shopping. If you talk to a PhD in retail shopping, they’ll probably tell you they’re 30 [??]. For us simple folk, we try to boil it down to two. One is called “considered buying.” Considered buying is generally for mid- to large-ticket items. You’ll be on your desktop or you’ll talk to friends, and it’s kind of like a funnel, you’ll start narrowing it down from a large product space to a very specific product. Towards the end of that buying cycle, you’ll probably do price comparison and so on. That is called considered buying and you’re probably doing it from your laptop or desktop on a broadband connection. Then there’s the other side which is impulse buying. Impulse buying could happen on the web or it could happen at the retail store.
Then there’s a continuum between these two buying patterns. What is the continuum? You as a consumer, when you’re doing considered buying, you open up your mind, you throw a wide net, and you start looking for products. Then if you come to TheFind, you could discover TheFind, and this is a pun on words, through Google or Bing and so on because Google or Bing has indexed one of our products. You discover TheFind. Now when you’re on TheFind website, you’re suddenly as if you’re in the mall itself. You’re seeing a variety of what we call similar products in similar price ranges and similar shape and form. You stumble upon or you start discovering things that are adjacent to the search that you began. We’ve seen this time and time again. The user mind changes as they come to TheFind. Now they’re looking at other different set of products they’ve never been exposed to before they came to TheFind. Whether you call it stumbling upon it or our ability to index like and similar products out there for the user to browse through is a very unique experience that they see when they come to our website. That gives you a flavor for why we call ourselves a discovery search engine.
Now let’s talk about the continuum in terms of the buying behavior and impulse mode. Let’s go back to the considered shopping. You made your list. You’ve checked it twice. Now you’re going to go to the store. ‘Tis the season. In somewhat older times, you might [??] yellow stickies or you might write it down on a napkin and stuff it in your pocket and now you go to the store with a model number and what have you. Now you’re in the store and let’s say it’s Best Buy which is one of our great partners. You’re looking for a camera. You’re in the aisle looking at cameras at Best Buy. You had a particular model number that you had researched to death and you bring it there except it was not the TE934X, it was the TE954Y or something like that.
Rob: I’ve been there.
Ramneek: It looks and feels the same, price is maybe $50 different, has some other accessories you haven’t even talked about. Now you’re looking at that camera and probably 10 others while you’re standing in the aisle. Now your yellow sticky ain’t going to cut it. That’s where mobile comes in handy. Now you want to make sure two simple things. One, what are the reviews of the product you’re actually seeing? What are people saying about it? Two, are you getting the right price? This thing is $50 more than what you thought it was going to be. Is that difference in the features worth $50 or not? Better yet, is Wal-Mart down the street going to carry it for a cheaper price or does Target have a better deal on that product? You as a consumer are really debating this without having access to information, which is what mobile brings. This is in the considered buying approach.
The same thing can be applied when you’re in the impulse buying mode. Now you’re out there. You’re looking at the camera except right next to it you see a tripod. You hadn’t even thought about buying a tripod. There’s no bundle deal on it. Now because you’ve seen it, what do you know? Is that the best tripod? Will it work with my camera? Am I getting the best price? It’s an impulse buy but again, you need access to all that information.
That’s where we believe there’s a continuum between the web and mobile. Then we put it on steroids. We believe we are the first shopping engine that seamlessly brings together your web to your mobile and back. Let’s talk about that for a moment.
Your considered purchase or the products that you have shortlisted, maybe you’ve shortlisted it down to five cameras, you can put them in the, as we call it, My Finds drawer which you’ve seen on your phone. It’s the little red tab down at the bottom right of your phone screen. You can put the product in your My Finds drawer. Now when you’re at the storefront, there you go. When you’re at the storefront, you’ll be able to pull out your My Finds drawer and look at the specs of the camera that you have saved and vice versa. You’re at the store and you’re not quite sure that you’re buying the right thing or getting the right price. You can take that product and put it in your My Finds drawer, bring it back home, and now you can do considered buying on that particular product SKU, the very definitive product SKU. TheFind is the first shopping engine that allows you to go back and forth between mobile and web in a very, very effortless and seamless way.
Rob: The beauty of it is it allows you to actually leverage what you’ve done on the website. After all those years, building up that catalog, sending it to the mobile place, it almost seems a natural extension, doesn’t it?
Ramneek: That is correct. You can think of us as the shopper’s best friend that’s always there with them. It’s the best friend not only for getting opinions or prices but it’s the best friend for keeping a your mind database as opposed to my own. I can’t remember what I’ve done but you remember it. We’re definitely a savant [SP] or your best friend when it comes to shopping and available to you on the desktop as well as mobile.
Rob: That cross over is very important. You don’t want to be as confined to one platform versus the other. You want to be able to put what you’re doing down with one. This is three-screen approach for games. You want to do it whether it’s with your TV, on your laptop, or on your mobile device. That’s the beauty of this, isn’t it?
Ramneek: Exactly. Again, we just make it plain and simple for the consumer to use us on the web or to use us on mobile. It’s you as a consumer logged in with one account across both the channels.
Rob: I’m an impulse guy. I go into Best Buy without an agenda which is the worst thing you can possibly do. Then I look around and I say, “That looks good. We’ll give this a try.” Ultimately, if I had this application when I was making those silly purchases. . . I’m just looking around like, “Yep, that was a silly purchase. That was a silly purchase.” It’s almost like a sober second thought. Instead of calling my wife and saying, “Hey, should I buy this?” I know the reaction’s going to be no. What it is is I can scan it in to see if there’s a better version of this. If there isn’t, it’s one less of a hurdle for me to get over in my head. I don’t want to have that buyer’s remorse at the end of the day.
Ramneek: That’s one part of it which is price checking and so on. Now let’s take the next set of steps as well and how TheFind helps you. It’s not just one part of the product. We briefly touched upon packages and bundles. Again, I want to beat up a little bit more on the camera analogy. You might want to buy a flash with it. You might want to buy extra batteries, extra memory cards, tripod as we talked about. Now you’re getting to the point where it’s a bundle. Are you getting a deal on the bundle? The plain product might be the lowest priced, but how do you assure yourself that you’re getting the best price on the bundle?
Ramneek: This is where we’ve leveraged by years and years of building our index. We have coupons. We can compare prices online with the online merchants. We know all who the big boys in the online merchandising space are. We can give you a fairly good idea as to what’s going on in the online space. Then in order to get the best deal with the power being in the hands of the consumer, they can actually take an online coupon, show it to the retailer or show an online price and show it to the retailer. Then it becomes incumbent upon the retailer whether they want to match the product price or bundle price or not. Given the fact that we can arm the user with not only just the point product pricing but also coupons and discounts and deals, that suddenly brings even more power back to the consumer’s hand in terms of negotiation.
Rob: It’s incredible. I know all these stores, the big stores, do guarantee their price against all competitors. They’ll honor everybody else’s coupons. It’s a leveling of the playing field. Best Buy is one of your customers but they must have run into this where their competitor around the corner, Staples or something like that, is offering the same technology at a discounted price. Some guy with his iPhone or Android device says, “Here it is. Take a look.”
Ramneek: Best Buy is a very, very good partner, a very progressive partner of ours. If you’ve noticed on your search results, especially on the scanned search results, we’re actually able to surface a contextual and very relevant offers that Best Buy and some of our other partners are starting to make. Now we’re getting a little deeper into the technology.
TheFind is the first company that has actually gone way beyond just simple banner ads that have no relevance and context on mobile. If you do a search with our product or using our scanner on the phone, what you’ll suddenly realize is that in the middle of the search results, we’ll serve up a very, very relevant offer. For example, again with that camera, you might see an offer coming up for a memory card. You might see an offer coming up for a competitive camera. That actually is again based upon the very strategic nature of our relationship with Best Buy and other partners going forward in the sense that we are matching over, I think at last count, a few thousand offers targeted toward very specific products or product families.
The other interesting thing we’re doing is what we call Similar Items. Bar code search, as you know Rob, is very deterministic or highly deterministic. If I’m scanning a particular bar code, I know with 95% confidence that this is the particular product item I’m looking at. Based upon that, we’re able to surface similar items as well. Just like I talked about how big our database is on the product side, similarly we believe that today we have the largest database of UPC bar codes in the United States.
Rob: That’s amazing.
Ramneek: Again, done with years and years of data gathering, working with some very sophisticated people. The UPC bar code space is just very fragmented and out of control. We’ve been able to rationalize it and actually bring some sanity into that. The good part for us has been the ability to build the largest UPC database catalog. Now you can take a product, not only can we find you a good match for that product, but we can find similar items. I’ll just give you a very simple example. You go and buy a Nikon camera. It has a particular SKU. The camera could come in black or it could come in red. Is there a different SKU? Is there a different bar code? Is it a similar item? Maybe the red camera is a little more expensive than the black camera or vice versa. We’re able to surface those kinds of nuance search results, if you will, whether they’re similar products or items or direct matches.
Last year we experimented in mobile in general. We learned a lot. This year we are learning a lot again from partnerships like with Best Buy in that we started with roughly 80 or 90 kinds of offers. Now working with Best Buy, we’ve been able to make it very simple. We said, “Look, there are only really three kinds of offers.” Think about that. Again, it’s our strategy of rationalizing and simplifying everything. What are the three kinds of offers? The best is if there’s a particular offer out on the same product that you’re looking at. You scan a DVD and maybe there’s a $5 off coupon on that particular DVD. That’s a direct match and direct offer. The second could be a category offer. The category offer would mean you’re buying a DVD player and maybe headphones are for sale or you’re buying a Blu-Ray player and maybe there’s a Blu-Ray disc that’s available as part of [??] if the Blu-Ray player’s over 400 bucks. That’s a category offer which we’re able to do. Then the third is what we call House Offers which would be something like $10 off on a $50 purchase or no financing for 12 months on $1,000 product or something like that. Those are just house offers that if you can’t match offer number one or offer number two, at least we give our retailer partner the chance of making an offer number three which would reduce the overall basket price.
If you step back and look at that, that is way, way, way beyond a banner ad.
Rob: It certainly is.
Ramneek: I’ll just let that sit for a while. You can’t imagine a banner ad doing that.
Rob: No. Because mobile is such a personal touch, there’s no reason to just throw up a banner ad. It’s contextual. It knows exactly what you’re looking for. It should be able to do that based on where you are and what you’re inquiring about. It just strikes me as we’re having this conversation, Ramneek, there isn’t another company that I know of that is doing this type of activity. I don’t think there’s another company that has the database and the resources, the products, the stores, the merchants, the relationships. Even so, you take all that out, this is a different type of thinking around mobile commerce. This is a different type of process that you guys must have gone through. Everybody right now is playing the “me too” game, aren’t they? Is that what you’re seeing?
Ramneek: We are zigging while the market is zagging is the way we like to think about it.
Rob: It’s astounding to me. I’ve asked a number of entrepreneurs, not on this show but independently who are building products that it seems like everybody else is building, and I say, “There’s got to be something else beyond the coupon.” The holy grail of location and mobile and commerce is not a coupon, is it?
Ramneek: That’s right.
Rob: If it is, we might as well just go home.
Ramneek: Very astute.
Rob: You spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing this. I spend thousands of dollars a year using this. The best we can do is giving me a 10% off coupon that we already had that I got in my newspaper for the last 50 years? This strikes me as one of those things that’s just the beginning. What TheFind is doing strikes me as you’ve elevated that game that nobody even knows that they’re playing in right now.
Ramneek: That’s right. We have an unfair advantage. I make no points about that. Given our product index, given our depth of experience that we have on the web, it’s just a very unfair advantage, and the fact that we’re not beholding to any outside investment. We call the shots internally. We pretty much are down the path where we know what the market needs and what the consumer needs. Again, there’s another key learning that we’ve had from the web which is a very subtle artifact of learning. It’s 90-plus percent, maybe 95% of our searches on the web are not [??]. We are just doing it for consumer convenience.
When you come to TheFind on the web and you look at the first screen, you probably see 12 to 16 products depending upon the size of your screen. Only two or three of them are actually in a direct relationship with the merchant where we are getting paid for the traffic we send to that merchant. Again, 90% to 95% of those clicks are basically done for customer convenience. We let them go to the merchant site without a care for monetization. Despite that, over the last few years, the company has become profitable. That’s the business learning that we’ve had and we said that’s applied to mobile now.
Let’s not worry about nickel and diming the consumer on mobile. First let’s figure out what the behavioral patterns are. Even though I have years and years of experience in mobile, this is still, as far as the consumer is concerned, a new and emerging channel. Why don’t we first focus on A, building a very highly usable product, B, giving power to the consumer, C, cherry-picking our partners that we want to work with to gather real live data this shopping season?
It’s why, as we were mentioning before, we got the [??] started is that on Saturday morning and Monday morning, we’re going to release some really nice statistics of what we’re seeing that’s happening in the mobile shopping space. Are people shopping close to home? Are people shopping in this store, that store? What kind of products are they looking for? Are they focused on price? Are they focused on a particular genre of products? We don’t know that. The beauty of it right now, and that’s why we hustled and got both Android and iPhone out, we’ve got 70% to 75% of the consumer base covered with Android and iPhone. We’ll have an update on the share by Monday morning.
Rob: What’s staggering about this is that companies do this, large box retail stores like Ikea, for example. They ask you for your ZIP code or your postal code to find out how far you’ve come to shop. They have their own data. A consumer index is Wal-Mart. Basically it’s an indicator of economic stability, growth, or decline because it’s the biggest retailer. Everybody’s waiting. Everything’s delayed. You have to wait 90 days from the end of the quarter in order to be able to see the results. What you’re talking about is just from the mobile device getting an immediate snapshot, basically exiting a polling station and advanced polls in an election. You’re going to be able to see. Predictions are irrelevant. I like hard, cold news. If it’s a choice between a prediction on a Friday and a result on a Saturday, that’s never been able to be done before especially in the retail industry. This is monumental with that kind of data that can come in here with the amount of information that you’re collecting. You have the advantage not only in mobile but on the web as well. You combine that and it tells a picture.
Ramneek: That’s right.
Rob: Are you opening that data to everybody?
Ramneek: It’ll be open snapshots of the data and just put it out on the web as a service. Of course there is a certain amount of proprietary information we hold close for our own strategy business. In large part, we’re announcing to the world what are the products being most searched for. Even today, if you go to our website, you’ll see what the trending product searches are, you’ll see the top products people are searching for. We bring that on mobile as well. Here are the top two things that people are looking for. The retailers go fight it out and build inventory on products they see are useful. Of course any of our merchant partners, we’ll go the extra mile and give them more information and more data to give them the competitive advantage as well.
Rob: You can do that. You can contribute to their picture of their inventory which is one of the most amazing things. You can impact their business now as a result of the data that you collect.
Ramneek: That’s right. Again, we won’t be doing it in great detail this year but we’re gearing up what we learn every year and we apply this to next year. Knowing what’s happening on Black Friday will impact your inventory management decisions when you do Christmas Eve.
Rob: Absolutely. You don’t want to be stuck with those 48-inch, 720p, HD TVs when you know they’re discontinued. You want to be able to manage your inventory appropriately.
Rob: I do have some questions. First of all, is this a money-making effort? Does mobile, for you guys, have to make money? Does it just contribute into the web traffic? Are there very specific revenue requirements for you guys?
Ramneek: Internally for ourselves for this year and even the better part of next year, we are not making mobile into a PNL center, if you will. What we’re doing is we’ve made an internal decision for the next 12 to 18 months it’ll be more of a strategic effort as opposed to a money-making effort which again gives us an unfair competitive advantage as well. There are derivatives or you can call leveraged monetization that will happen because of mobile. I’ll give you a couple of examples for that. Before going into examples, let’s examine what mobile does differently than the web. That will start giving you some reading of the tea leaves as to how we will monetize this going forward. First of all, mobile brings you location that the desktop does not. As you alluded to earlier, we know which retailers are being shopped at. Just to put some ideas of some statistics we put out, we’re seeing about six to eight million scans every month.
Ramneek: Even now. We have a partnership with RedLaser. I’m sure you know that. RedLaser uses our data. We use their scanner, they use our data. It’s a great partnership. Since eBay has acquired RedLaser, there’s been a difference in their app strategy but we remained very focused on our product [??]. Even today, and I [??] twice a month. We shared this information with Best Buy so I’m happy to share it directly because it was our information. There are roughly half a million scans per month happening within half a mile of Best Buy. Best Buy has some 1,700 locations around the country. Across those multiple locations, there are half a million scans happening every month within half a mile of a Best Buy. I know that because they’re electronic products in relation to where those searches are coming from. We’re sharing that information [??]. Within those products, and this is information I cannot share, we know the top five products that have been scanned. Within our six million scans, we know the top three categories of product scans. Those, for example, are media like DVDs and CDs and books and so on, the second category is electronic goods, and the third category which was a surprise even to us is health and beauty. Time to sit back and think about the impact of that. Health and beauty is the third most scanned category. Who would have thunk, as they say.
Rob: That’s incredible.
Ramneek: Of course, health and beauty scan of [??]. Do we have bandwidth issues?
Rob: Yeah. It’ll come back. Solar flares. I’m hoping that you can still hear me. For those that are watching and listening, we’ve had some bandwidth issues as we’re going here. The meat is so good I don’t want to end it because of the bandwidth. We were talking about the fact that the number three scanned category was health and beauty which is one of these things. Talk about the impact of that.
Ramneek: Now what we’re doing is when we learned that, we’re approaching our health and beauty partners and saying, “Look, this is what we’re seeing. It’s a little too late for us to react for this year but it really helps prepare for next year.” We [??] ourselves to getting better offers, better deals, better partnerships and plays for the next shopping season with health and beauty partners. The value and richness of that information has been very pleasantly surprising even to us let alone our partners.
Rob: This opportunity to monetize. . . I hate that term, to monetize. Really, to generate revenue from this on the mobile side, I would assume that big box and retails and partners like Best Buy and others is a very relevant strategy for you guys going forward when it comes to finding ways to turn the mobile traffic and in-store traffic into revenue. Is that accurate?
Ramneek: In-store traffic to revenue or in-store traffic into [??] convenience that it generates web traffic or web revenue. It’s high leverageable. That’s the path we’re on.
Rob: In the store as well, right? As Best Buy wants to be seen as an advanced company when it comes to the technology and a convenience to their customers would be leveraging what you have in store.
Ramneek: That’s correct. There are a bunch of startups, without taking any names, that have done a lot of good work in terms of integrating with the point of sales solutions these merchants have. We’ve taken a completely opposite approach. We take a lightweight approach. We have taken the approach that it doesn’t matter whether you use a credit, a coupon, or a search result [??] Best Buy or not. We just deliver the customer convenience. We’re keeping logs, we’re keeping track of how many clicks we’ve had, how many offers we surfaced and so on. Next year, if it’s a reasonable retailer and they want to enter into a partnership with us with some sort of a metric that is not just based upon integrating into the point of sale. Yes, we do that also. That’s not [??] right now. Again, it’s an unfair advantage because we don’t really need to make money. We don’t need to make that fifty cents of the product that the guy [??] to the sale [??] at the Best Buy store. We’re more focused on driving foot traffic into Best Buy or driving foot traffic away from a competitive retailer into a Best Buy. That’s what we believe would give us the better bank for monetization.
Rob: Last question, Ramneek, then I’ll let you go enjoy the California evening. What about this movement for open data? Up here in Canada, we had the Yellow Pages. They opened up all of their data. Picture Yellow Pages. They opened all their data to any app developer who’s interested in leveraging their data. It’s a great way to extend their brand and remain relevant. Are you guys doing any of that or thinking of any of that?
Ramneek: We’re going to open up aggregate data for ourselves. We are working with partners like. . . I shouldn’t say partners. We are working with companies like AT&T and Yellow Pages to see what they’re doing. Similarly, we’re working with people at Facebook in terms of privacy considerations. There’s a whole lot of activity that’s going on in [??] with social. If you’ve seen our website, we [??] developed social media and also constructs like Shop Like Friends and Shop Like Me which will all come to mobile as well. We look at data. We look at privacy. We look at availability of data. We look at making our own data available. All that is a big continuum for us. We work with some of the leading companies in the world. We have a stature now. Being the number two search engine gives us the stature at the table. Especially after this Black Friday and if not this Black Friday then by Christmas shopping season, we’ll definitely have a seat at the table in terms of the data we will bring out to the merchants and partners.
Rob: I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see some of the data that you’re going to be pushing out after this Friday. What I would hope is that as you guys roll out these features and you expand the mobile landscape that you’re talking about, that we can connect again. As you said, unfair advantage or fair advantage, you’ve done the legwork over the last number of years to get to the point where you can leverage this. Your thinking about it is not constrained and that’s something that I love to hear. There’s no pressure because you’re driving business with the web but it’s not constrained. You’re not thinking about, “How do we make the buck?” We’re thinking about, “How do we add value? Where is this industry going?” For that, as a mobile guy, as I said at the beginning either a lover of mobile or a mobile lover, either way it’s okay, as an artist would I can appreciate what you guys are doing. I love what you guys are doing. People should embrace your lead as you plow ahead. This is what the mobile industry needs especially for the democratization of pricing and giving the consumer back the power. I love it. I love what you’re doing.
Ramneek: And not leaving the retailer out in the cold. We have a very simple mantra inside the company. Everybody keeps talking about social and what it’s going to do for mobile and so on. Everybody in the industry is talking about check-ins. When we talk to our partners, we talk about check-out. We will help customers check out. Everybody can do check-in, we’ll do check-out.
Rob: Exactly. There’s got to be value associated.
Ramneek: That’s right. We’re very pragmatic in this.
Rob: In a year from now, we’ll hear, “It’s not the check-in, it’s the check-out.”
Rob: You guys will be on to something else.
Ramneek: You heard it here first.
Rob: Ramneek, they can find you guys at TheFind.com. Your apps are available on iTunes. They’re iPhone and Android capable. If anybody is watching this or listening to this and hasn’t gone out shopping on Friday, pick this app up. You’re going to find deals. This is the deal finder. It scours 400 million products, 500,000 merchants. Is that right?
Ramneek: That is correct.
Rob: It’s basically the golden chalice of shopping deals in your hands. Go and pick it up. TheFind.com and on iTunes or the Android Marketplace. Ramneek, thank you so much for battling through these bandwidth issues and spending the time. I really truly appreciate you doing this. It’s been an eye opener for me. Hopefully for the people who are watching this have a brand new appreciation for TheFind mobile. I think what you’ve done in a very short period of time is amazing. Thank you so much for doing this.
Ramneek: Thank you so much. Have a great Thanksgiving break.
Rob: Yes, you too. Go shopping.
Ramneek: There you go. Go shopping. Go to TheFind.com.
Rob: Thank you so much. Thank you, Ramneek.
Ramneek Bhasin is Vice President and General Manager for all things mobile at TheFind.com. He is a seasoned mobile executive with deep experience in both F100 companies and co-founding startups. He brings a global entrepreneurial perspective and his areas of expertise include web/enterprise software (B2B and B2C), broadcast media, messaging, consumer mobile and wireless, and social media communications. Most recently, Ramneek founded Mobio Networks, Inc. and was CEO of this venture backed company focused on the next generation of mobile platforms and consumer wireless services.
Previously, Ramneek was CEO and co-founder of Vialto Corp. where he successfully led the build-out and subsequent acquisition by Cisco Systems Inc. He co-authored Vialto’s concept patent – “system and methodology for voice activated access to multiple data sources and voice repositories in a single session”. He also co-founded WSB Technologies, a leading SI and Technology Management Consulting firm.
Ramneek has served as EIR and remains affiliated with two of Silicon Valley’s leading VC firms – Storm Ventures and Mayfield Fund. He has held several executive, management and technical roles at companies such as Schlumberger, Digital Equipment (Compaq/HP) and Synercom Technologies.
He has an MS from Louisiana State University and a BS from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India.