If you happen to peek into Sameer Sharma’s playbook, you’ll know how he cracked the code to lasting success over his 14-year career.
There is no overnight success and staying connected to the roots always helps. But the one thing that takes center stage is “being local”. As the world hails the hyperlocal business model as the next big thing, Sharma smiles – he had already harnessed the power of the local with his first start-up Trideal in the Tricity in 2012.
Tricity’s exclusive deals website, Trideal, was acquired by Littleapp from Paytm in 2015 and merged with Near, another deals platform acquired by Paytm in 2017.
After his stint as VP, Marketing, at Littleapp, Bengaluru and leading a team under Paytm Mall, Noida, Sharma moved to Chandigarh for his second start-up run and co-founded Shoutlo, a platform -form of discovering local content and offers with his wife Abhilasha Sidana, and Uengage, a SaaS (software as a service) company that develops technologies for small and medium-sized businesses.
Its mission to stay hyperlocal, curate the best deals and recommendations in the online and offline space, and empower local consumer businesses has been a game-changing model in Tricity.
With the sole purpose of creating something from and for this region, Sharma started her second start-up Uengage in 2018. A B2B technology company, she does not create applications without code commission for a monthly subscription for local consumer businesses.
But why create exclusive apps for the F&B industry when there are giants like Zomato and Swiggy? “Why give unimaginable growth power to just two players? Zomato has a 10 crore customer base, what impact does that have on your business? a local vendor nearby!
Apps like Zomato and Swiggy came in 2015 with a 5% commission. “We told traders the commissions would go up, some believed it, some ignored it. It’s shot up to 28% now and if they decide to merge in the future it will be over 35%. This is a huge demand for restaurant owners, who have high expenses, low incomes and no access to customer data. »
Post-Covid, local businesses want to increase their digital footprint, especially in Tier 2 and 3 cities, but the high costs announced by IT companies, also in dollars, discourage them from developing their own technology. “It’s a problem that Uengage solves – from app, website, delivery management, SMS integration to digital marketing and payment gateway and customer data integration, we supply all of the ammunition, helping them increase their range, reduce wastage and strengthen their brand,” said Sharma.
Their successes are coming to fruition – La Pinoz Pizza, a local brand, now has 1.8 million downloads across 300 outlets, 27% of its revenue comes from commission-free apps. From Uncle Jacks, Katani Sweets, Bhena Da Dhabha, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to Canadian Pizza, Tossin Pizza, Petu Pankaj, Chitkara University, Uengage counts over 1,000 local businesses among its customers.
“Our collective goal is to create long-term wealth and value to invest in a problem-solving model and create a sustainable revenue stream,” Sharma said.
Sharma has a comforting and carefree memory of his hometown of Dinanagar in Gurdaspur and the charm of Chandigarh which acts like a magnet to the 36-year-old, who carries with him an earthly connection, sound sensitivity, humility and values of parent educators.
“I come from a middle-class family whose sole purpose in life was to provide quality education for their children,” said Sharma, who earned her B Tech in Computer Science in 2003 from Chitkara. “That’s when I realized Chandigarh was the city I wanted to be in,” he said.
Although a computer engineer, he dropped out of Infosys and Tech Mahindra because he didn’t want to do coding and joined HCL in Noida.
One of the reasons he took the job was to pay off the college loan and avoid coding. However, in a turn of events, HCL asked him to code. The self-learning process began, his interest in coding grew, and HCL rolled it out on location in Bay Area, California in 2008. Facebook, Android, Apple, there was a strong internet culture there and it whetted his appetite for technology.
At 23, Sharma made two trips to the United States, saved up, paid off the loan and decided to give in to his entrepreneurial streak. In 2011, he left HCL and registered his start-up, a trading platform called DitchMRP, in Delhi.
But why offers? “Because a 24-year-old is ambitious, he wants to go out but also save money. So why not book it for them? The motivation of the consumer that he knew but that of the merchant that he decoded much later. “Restaurants have off-peak times, peak times, seasons, rentals, bills, perishables – merchants have a stronger reason to be in business.”
Around the same time, his mentors Dr. Ashok Chitkara and Mohit Chitkara were exploring a concept similar to Sharma’s and asked him to join forces. Two other founders – Kaushik Mukherjee and Kabir Khanna – came on board and his unwavering faith in the Chitkaras prompted Sharma to join no questions asked. At the beginning of 2012, Trideal started its activity.
Within the first six months, the two co-founders realized it wasn’t going to work and left. Left with a four-member team, Sharma decided to give it a shot. The next six months were critical. “From just writing the code, I was given a whole business to run. There were multiple challenges and sleepless nights,” he said, but his upbeat and friendly nature helped and Trideal recorded phenomenal growth.
Sharma took Trideal to another level by becoming one of the very first mobile apps in town. “We even released a local Trideal e-wallet and top-up to speed up payments and build trust with customers.”
Tops and bottoms: The biggest high was when Paytm acquired Trideal, but the biggest low was when it was merged with Littleapp and Near and its company dissolved. Working on the Punjab government’s COVA essential delivery app for free during Covid was rewarding.
Secret sauce: The ability to take risks, to learn, to help but Sharma’s key differentiator has always been ‘hyperlocal’. “We survived because it was never a technical game for us. It was a play about the merchant relationship. The exclusivity of who works with you, who has a deal with you,” he said. -he declares.
Look forward: Encourage youth entrepreneurship and open Uengage offices in Punjab. “We need to make our small towns self-sufficient and stop this erosion of brain wealth and money.” In Chandigarh, less traffic and more digitization is the wish.