Published: 05th August 2018
Why Chitresh Sharma's app Swipii is going viral in the UK
After studying in Bengaluru, Chitresh moved to the UK and developed the award-winning app which is now gaining a massive user base
If you're a regular customer at any retail store, you know the benefits of loyalty. But going through the hassle of giving out all your details every time you pay is not always worth it. With Scotland-based, Indian entrepreneur Chitresh Sharma's app Swipii, your payment card is linked directly to the loyalty programme, so every time you pay, you automatically get rewarded. The 27-year-old has won several laurels including the honour of being recognised as one of the top 100 UK start-ups. Excerpts from a conversation:
Tell us a bit about yourself
I come from a very small town called Raipur. I did my undergrad in Bengaluru and thereafter, I moved to the UK to do my Master's in Marketing at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. While doing that, I came up with the idea of creating a loyalty programme for nightclubs. It commercially made sense. I won a few awards and it got me some funds. That made me feel that this could be something real. Strathyclyde played a very important role in getting me the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. I was the first Indian to get that.
When was Swipii established?
It was established in early 2016. It was initially a very basic idea and went on to become a one-stop CRM. The e-commerce sector is very advanced while the retail sector is decades behind, meaning that the e-commerce sector knows its customers and their shopping behaviour. Whereas, if I walk into a shop, they don't know anything about me. We wanted to give that power to the offline world. So we created Swipii's digital loyalty programme for the offline sector and that took off to a point that we became UK's largest supplier for small-medium retailers. We had over 1,600 retail outlets and over 1.2 million users. We got funded for 2.3 million.
How does it work?
At the moment, we give iPads to the businesses at the counter. You simply carry your Swipii card and scan it with the app every time you purchase. It, by default, gets you rewards.
Are you looking at upgrading the app?
Yes. We've found a brand new technology. We'll be the first in the UK to use it. We've been working on it for the last few months. The plan is to get the tech out in September. Basically, it allows us to supercharge any normal payment card into Swipii's loyalty programme. All you have to do is take a picture of the card or punch in the 16-digit number. Next time you pay, you get rewarded. You get exclusive offers and tailored rewards based on your shopping habits. With that, we'll know two years of your shopping history. We want it to be the little buddy that sits in your pocket. We don’t want you to change your shopping habits based on the offers. We want you to get discounts while you’re shopping based on your normal habits.
Was it a challenge to network with all these retail outlets?
Networking was the easy part. HR was my biggest challenge. I didn’t realise how important it is to give employees priority over customers and investors. It was a challenge to find the right talent pool. We have 32 employees at the moment.
Any plans of expanding?
We plan to launch a new branch in Spain this year and thereafter in Australia and New Zealand.
Can you list a few of your most special achievements?
Swipii has been recognised as one of the top 100 disruptive start-ups in the retail sector in Europe. We’re among the top 100 UK start-ups. We’re the third fastest growing start-up in Scotland. Louis Schena (co-founder) and I are among the top five influential people from Scotland in retail tech. However, the most special was the top 100 Asian entrepreneurs. It felt great to put India on the map.