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Entrepreneur gives loyalty programmes a social spin

Saturday, 20 April 2013 - 9:08am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Collecting reward points to redeem them for more goodies is a rage among upwardly mobile consumers. 

Now, a social entrepreneur has taken the concept to the lower echelons of the society, but with a difference. 

m.Paani, a firm started by Akanksha Hazari (pictured), who won $1 million Hult Prize in 2011 for the idea, is currently implementing the project in two underserved communities in Mumbai. 

m.Paani designs and implements mobile-based loyalty programmes for underserved communities where they can earn more value for their spend.

The users can earn the points through spending money or by a certain behaviour that enhances public good such as using filtered water in a locality where not many do.

 “People can collect and share these points with their families / communities and redeem them for  development rewards in areas like education, healthcare, safe drinking water, nutrition, mobility, energy and financial inclusion,” said Hazari, who is also an Echoing Green 2013 semi-finalist.

The project, which is being funded through her $1 million prize money along with investments from UnLtd India, is now ready to go to beta stage.

Hazari, who is the founder and CEO of m.Paani, plans to do a rural model next year.

At present, m.Paani’s is testing different iterations of loyalty models to find out what would work and what won’t. 

“At the bottom of the pyramid people have never been offered anything like this. They have never interacted with the concept of loyalty points, they haven’t even dealt with discounts, etc in the way middle- and high-income class does. That’s what we want to change,” said Hazari.

The company would soon partner with a telecom operator to roll out the programmes in India and Africa.

It plans to launch the beta pilot with about 1,000 users by summer-end.

“We currently have two pilot communities in Mumbai -- Parel and Dharavi. The two localities are very different in nature and that’s the reason why we picked them,” said Hazari.

m.Paani plans a parallel pilot in rural Maharashtra next year.

“The rural customer is different from the urban customer and so the rewards too will be different for these markets,” she said.

Hazari, a Princeton university graduate with an MBA from the Cambridge university, led the Cambridge team that won the Hult Prize. She was also honoured by former US President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative.


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