Email inboxes are tricky tools because over time they become difficult to manage and users have to spend a lot of time searching for what they are trying to find. And if you’ve used one email address everywhere, it’s also a pain to change it later. Email tools often fail to identify the different types of emails and group them correctly. Indian startup Flash is trying to solve it by creating a solution (read email id) that you can use for all e-commerce needs – and it will even reward you for using the service.
Flash – available on iOS and Android – allows you to create an email ID (with the domain @flash.co) that you can use across all shopping platforms and in return earn rewards such as coupons and cashbacks. Once you download the app from play store or app store, you can sign up with a new email id and use it on all platforms to buy things. After placing an order, you can also track multiple shipments from the app.
The inbox is divided into two parts: Handpicked and Other. The Handpicked inbox contains important emails such as order delivery updates and registration verifications, while the Other section contains promotional emails. While using it for the past few weeks, I’ve noticed some registration/verification emails ending up in the Other inbox. The startup said it was still tweaking its filtering algorithm to avoid this.
Flash’s inbox is rudimentary at the moment. You can only forward or reply to emails. Flash said that next month users will have features like archive, auto-forward, and flags.
Apart from creating a new e-commerce inbox, the app also lets you connect to your Gmail inbox. This allows the app to create a summary of your orders over the past 12 months and show a report of your eCommerce spend. Moreover, the app also fetches orders for shipment tracking from your Gmail account.
Almost all e-commerce and payment services in India offered some sort of reward to users to boost engagement and retention. Flash also has a few types of rewards up its sleeve. First, it offers cashback on its own for fulfilling certain orders or signing up for certain services with an @flash.co email address.
It also offers special coupons through brand collaborations with Myntra, Walmart-owned Puma, pharmacy platform Pharmeasy, and Warburg-backed electronics brand Pincus Boat. Discount coupons are a common practice in the Indian e-commerce market. Google Pay, Paytm, and Cred backed by Tiger Global offer a ton of these coupons in different shapes and forms. But often they come with many caveats.
Flash also offers rewards for certain “series” – making multiple purchases through a certain brand or placing orders in a particular category within a set period. This will allow users to earn a mix of Flash and brand rewards at once. The startup provides 1 Flash Coin to 1 Rupee conversion for the rewards. Users can deposit money directly into their bank accounts by linking their UPI (Unified Payment Infercae) credentials – which is India’s native payment network.
Flash was founded by Ranjith Boyanapalli, a former Flipkart executive, in April last year. The company raised $5.8 million in seed funding in November from a group of investors including Global Founders Capital (GFC), White Venture Capital and Zinal Growth, with participation from the likes of the founder of Flipkart, Binny Bansal, Kunal Shah from Cred, Sujeet Kumar from Udaan and Groww’s. Lalit Keshre.
Prior to starting Flash, Boyanapalli was a senior vice president at Walmart-owned Flipkart, where he managed the company’s fintech and payments verticals. On a call with TechCrunch, he said there’s tremendous value in leveraging online shopper data and using it to deliver value to consumers. The idea of Flash is rooted in leveraging cross-merchant data intelligence through a single email ID, he said.
“We are targeting around 25 million power buyers in India who buy from multiple merchants every year and have a major contribution in terms of spend in the country’s e-commerce market,” Boyanapalli said.
One of the challenges these shoppers face is excessive spamming of inboxes by different merchants, he said. In addition, it is difficult to follow orders by e-mail. Notably, Gmail has rolled out order tracking features, but it’s limited to certain geographies for now. For brands, it’s harder to engage customers because they’re bombarded with coupons, which leads to lower conversion rates. Boyanapalli said Flash tries to solve all of these problems through a single application.
There are many e-commerce apps in India and the US that offer either order tracking or rewards, including Shopify’s Shop app, Groupon, and Cashkaro. But Flash thinks it has an advantage because it brings all of these functions together in one application.
India’s e-commerce market is expected to double to more than $130 billion by 2025, according to Bernstein, and the startup is trying to target the people who will contribute the most to those numbers. But the vast majority of those people make purchases through Amazon India and Flipkart, services that currently don’t play Flash for any rewards program.
What awaits us?
After this launch, Flash is focused on rolling out features like monthly reports, inbox search, email labeling, archiving, and auto-forwarding over the next few months. The company is also building its own “Connect with Flash” authentication mechanism that e-commerce partners can integrate into their service.
Apart from rolling out features, the startup also plans to expand its categories by adjusting its product for travel and OTT (Over the air) service purchases. So, in the future, the app could allow you to manage all your tickets and subscriptions. Flash is also preparing to launch its offerings in the United States this year, where the e-commerce market is much larger than India’s, both in terms of high-value buyers and gross revenue.
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