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Three Entrepreneurs Making Waves In A Booming Water Sports Industry

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A decade ago, few people had heard of stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Now it’s a common sight on beaches and rivers everywhere. The recent ‘stay home’ impact of the pandemic has encouraged even more people to give it a try, which in turn has sparked a wave of startups looking to cash in on the water sport’s growing popularity.

Standing out from the SUP crowd

Bluefin SUP started out specializing in kayaks. Founded in 2013 by water sports junkie Will Vaughan, one of the first products he launched was a rigid sit-on-top kayak. However, SUP was also becoming very popular and in 2017, CEO Vaughan launched Bluefin SUP, now one of Europe’s largest online SUP retailers.

He says: “We had to launch something that was unique, of the highest quality, and at an attractive price point in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. It was also important to educate customers before making a purchase, as they are buying a high-value product online without seeing or touching it.”

To do this the business taps into a network of affiliates, influencers, and ambassadors to grow brand awareness and demonstrate Bluefin SUP’s range and capabilities. “We have ambassador programs that reward loyalty and are focused on looking after our customers,” says Vaughan. “Sustainability is another key area for us, particularly in terms of offsetting our carbon footprint.”

The growing popularity of paddle boarding has extended its appeal to a wider customer base that ranges from young children to retired paddle boarders. Although the pandemic was not without its challenges, especially around supply chain management and increased demand, the company has seen huge growth over the last two years and doubled its team to 55.

“We have multiple NPD projects that will add best-in-class products to our range, and we plan to invest more resources in our sustainability efforts,” says Vaughan. “We also want to provide more education to the wider SUP community and attract more people to this wonderful sport.”

Staying warm – and ethical

As founder of leadership development business Engage Technique Mark Whybrow was well aware of the difficulties of building true saleable equity in a service business, and for the last 12 months had been looking for a startup idea in consumer products. His Eureka moment came while sitting on a beach in Perranporth, Cornwall, which led to the launch of watersports and activewear brand ddipp.

“I was watching a family, all wearing a leading beach changing robe, when it struck me there were no other innovative options around,” he says. “The market was dominated by one leading brand that had done a great job of defining a market. Most other products were ‘me too’, with very low innovation.”

Whybrow had also spotted growth in SUP and open water swimming, both of which required a similar solution to the challenge of staying warm and getting changed before and after. 

“Crucially, both user groups have a high priority of environmental concerns, alongside a need for good performance quality,” he says. “They also like to have the right brand and kit, and no brand at that time was focused clearly in this position.”

The big practical consideration was how to make this happen. His brother-in-law Matt was based in Hong Kong where he managed product sourcing for a major high street clothing retailer. He had the supply chain relationships, capability, and credibility. 

Sustainability is a key feature of the brand and the products are manufactured in one of China’s premier production facilities for outdoor clothing, using recycled or sustainable materials wherever possible.

A big downside of overseas production, however, is the time, the cost and the carbon footprint of shipping. “What should have been a $2,500 shipping bill became $14,000,” says Whybrow. “Delays at ports and with haulers in the U.K. have also extended the time to stock availability. We are exploring more local production options, particularly as we expand the range.”

Sales will initially be online and direct to consumers, before being extended to wider selling channels, Amazon, for example, and specialist online sports retailers.

Water sports and wellbeing

Camilla Todd launched her paddle boarding and wellbeing startup SUP & Soul during the first lockdown in 2020. Since then she has grown the business from one-woman mobile instructor in Brighton to having a dedicated base at Weir Wood Reservoir in East Sussex.

Todd first discovered SUP during a visit to Western Canada in 2014 and took the sport up when she returned to the U.K. She says: “When I was made redundant in 2018 I worked with a life coach to explore my next move, and everything was pointing at the water.”

She completed her outdoor first aid training and attended a five-day SUP instructor training course in Portugal with the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI). “These qualifications enabled me to teach people both on inland waterways and along the coast,” she says.

SUP & Soul began with a fleet of four boards and with Todd teaching friends and family to SUP. “This was a great way to build confidence, and gather videos and testimonials for the website and my social media channels,” she says. “Word spread and before long I was taking bookings from new clients. By the end of the 2020 Todd I’d taught almost 100 people to paddle board between Sussex and Hampshire.”

It is a seasonal business, particularly in the U.K. with demand for tuition mainly between Spring and Fall and peaking during the main summer holidays. Until now Todd has supplemented her business income by doing other jobs, which have impacted her ability to operate full time throughout the main season. However, she recently teamed up with Clare Osborn, a blue health coach, and fellow SUP instructor to launch a full-time, dedicated SUP and water wellness outfit, with the aim of becoming an approved ASI SUP school, for 2022 and beyond.

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Experts weigh in on how ONDC is set to transform the ecommerce business landscape in India

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The Open Network For Digital Commerce (ONDC) is not a platform. A platform suggests that to transact, everyone has to be in a closed loop. ONDC by design is a network of networks. So it is completely open access, it’s unbundled and interoperable,clarified Thampy Koshy, CEO, ONDC, dispelling some of the issues in the minds of businesses around ONDC.

Thampy highlighted that ONDC is not a platform but a list of protocols enabling the exchange of products and services. There is no central platform; it only allows multiple platforms to talk to each other. Anybody who has a product or service to sell can make it available in the open network that any smart buying platform can access. Thampy was speaking at a panel discussion titled ‘The network effect: ONDC & India’s ecommerce’ at TechSparks 2022. Other panelists included Anjali Bansal, Founder, Avaana Capital & Steering Committee Member, ONDC and Kumar P Saha, Founder, ndhgo.

The interoperable network has started its beta testing process with categories like groceries, food and beverages for small retailers in Bengaluru. ONDC plans to add home and kitchen, agriculture, fashion, apparel, footwear and accessories across India by the next few months. The ONDC pilot is currently up in about 80-85 cities.

Opportunities for smaller sellers

As a buyer or as a seller, it’s your choice as an individual or a small business or a large business, who you choose to transact with. Think UPI, but UPI with physical goods and services. So of course, there is a much higher degree of complexity,said Anjali.

The network, according to her, is meant to be a public good. It’s meant for many entrepreneurs and founders, just like how UPI generated a whole set of new business models, ONDC, she hopes will generate a similar set of new business models that will create enormous consumer value, shareholder value and eventually national value.

Kumar believes ONDC will not just be restricted to the MSMEs. I think it will be equally big for the enterprises and large businesses. And this is just the beginning, he said.

Hyperlocal and kirana is where we have started with because I think that has a very immediate consumer effect and visibility. But the full power of the network of ONDC absolutely applies to large enterprises to mid-sized enterprises and consumers and kiranas,said Anjali.

Ensuring consumer trust in the network

Any network participant who wants to be a part of ONDC, Thampy outlined, would have to first undergo a certain set of due diligence – who they are, what kind of business they are in, what’s their credibility and so on, so forth. Secondly, they have to ensure that their IT systems are certified by the team who’s developing the entire protocol. Third is that they define a network participant agreement, which is common for everybody. It’s not a negotiated agreement, whether you’re a large entity like a bank or a financial institution, or a small startup – all views on the same network agreement which binds you to a certain behaviour in the network.

And this network agreement will also include as its part the network policies as existing today, and as they evolve from time to time. These policies are essentially how they have to behave among themselves and with the outside world. And this is also digitally trackable, so it’s all part of the protocol itself. Failure to adhere to the policies will lead to penalties and suspensions.

While you are in a network, whether you’re a seller platform or a buyer platform, your performance in the network is continuously tracked and rated, and it’s available to the whole world. Once you are there as a business and have established your credibility with your GSTN number, pan number and so on, you are a tracked person to the community as a whole,added Thampy.

Most people come into business to do business in a sustainable way, said Kumar. You live and die by your reputation. So if you build a reputation for good quality, you’ll get lots more business, and if you develop a bad reputation for bad quality, you don’t get business,he added.

Setting a global example

Ecommerce is a global problem, where everybody is trying to find a solution. For instance, the American economy is trying to find solutions over regulation by developing the American Innovation and Choice Online Act. Similarly, Europe is trying to ensure fair and open digital markets with the Digital Markets Act. But India is showing a global example,said Thampy.

India is trying to use technology and markets with enabling policies, which is a truly democratic method. India showing how to use the market to the big capitalists in the world is a fantastic global example,he concluded.

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Experts deliberate on technologies leading to the rise of gaming and content in India

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Technology is seeping into every aspect of the world and online gaming is no stranger to it. Over the years, online gaming and esports have been through a lot of changes and today this industry is more advanced and progressive. Technology has enabled a variety of changes which is why online gaming continues to grow in popularity.

To discuss these new-age technologies in depth and how they are changing the gaming landscape, a panel discussion was held on Playing to the fantasy: Rise of gaming & content in India at TechSparks 2022 featuring Gaurav Barman, Senior Business Development Manager, AWS; Vinayak Shrivastav Co-founder and CEO, VideoVerse; Ranga Jagannath, Senior Director – Growth, Agora; and Ratheesh Mallaya, Director of Products, Zynga.

Here are some of the key highlights from the discussion:

Tech enabling the growth of esports in India

The panel discussion started with understanding the rise of esports gaming in India. Despite being around for more than a decade, it’s only recently seen a boom in popularity. The current size of the Indian esports industry is Rs 250 crore and the forecast for the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is expected to be 46 percent in the next four years. The esports industry is expected to see a growth of four-folds estimated to be Rs 1,100 crore by 2025.

Technology is a major propelling force that’s driving this rise. Gaurav of AWS shed more light by discussing a few of the technologies that AWS provides that help in building more interactive engagement for esports and gaming platforms.

Esports companies in India can build engagement, which is much more interactive by offering players the ability to communicate with each other beyond linguistic or geographical boundaries. This can be done by providing multilingual, real-time, translation across geographies. Companies can also build real-time recommendation systems in terms of feed that the user sees, said Gaurav.

Vinayak of VideoVerse spoke about how technology that aids in the production of short-form content is going to play a key role in driving the popularity of esports.I think what’s important for all of us to see is that e-gaming as an entire market is just continuously changing. It’s going to continuously keep evolving over the next couple of years, he said. In such a scenario, Vinayak believes that the services that VideoVerse provides with their flagship product Magnifi will play an important role in amplifying the entire ecosystem.

Magnifi uses state-of-the-art AI and ML technology to auto-produce key moments and highlights from live matches within seconds. Such kind of short-form content is what Vinayak feels is the need of the hour and will drive the growth of the esports market as well.

Hits and misses in the industry

The panelists further deliberated what has been working well for the gaming industry and what has tanked completely. Ranga of Agora spoke in detail about real-time engagement and how greatly it has benefited the gaming landscape.

What we’ve seen is that apps and games which have embedded technologies that are truly real-time tend to be able to monetise much better and significantly more, as compared to games that either don’t have real-time engagement, or they have laggy real-time engagement. Games that have real-time engagement also tend to be more active with better user retention, he remarked.

He further explained that it doesn’t just stop at real-time engagement, but the ability for gaming companies to analyse what’s happening in that real-time engagement is what is working in their favour.

While it’s important to know what is working for the esports landscape, it’s even more important to understand what’s not. Ratheesh shared some pearls of wisdom from some of the failures that Zynga has faced.

When you’re looking to build local, there is definitely a big opportunity out there. But that has to be on top of a really strong core that is fun and engaging for the users. We launched a game around the time of Independence Day in India based on a match game, but it did not turn out the way we wanted it to because of this reason,he said.

Ratheesh highlighted that there is a great scope for games with Indian IP and in fact, according to a recent report, about 60 percent of the audience that doesn’t play games have said they will play if there is an Indian IP. But just building a game on something vernacular or Indian IP will not work out. He also pointed out how games that are currently top-grossing like Garena Free Fire, Coinmaster, and Candy Crush all have great visuals and quality and that’s what is enticing users to stay hooked on the game.

Talking about other hits, Gaurav emphasised how Web3 technologies and blockchain will hugely benefit the industry. Gaming companies are now looking at making digital assets interoperable and with the advent of the Metaverse, an entire make-believe world is possible where players can socialise, connect, and share content beyond the scope of gaming.

From my perspective, technology is going to play a pivotal role in the evolution of this industry. Be it blockchain, NFT, or metaverse, all of that will come together as a platform where interoperability is enabled through underlying technology and used to build these solutions at this point in time, he said.

Along with Web3 technologies, Vinayak shared how cloud-based video editing and streaming solutions will become pivotal for the overall growth of the ecosystem as they’ll make broadcasting, editing, and collaborating with peers in the industry much easier.

Microtransactions in the gaming industry

The panel ended by discussing microtransactions in the gaming industry where Ratheesh shared some useful insights on how transactions and in-app purchases have to be tailored according to the genre of the game. There are different monetisation strategies like subscription-based model, battle pass kind of monetisation strategy or an impulse buy. Those are all options available to you. But what strategy you deploy depends completely on the genre of the game, he shared. He also suggested that microtransactions on gaming apps must be personalised to the users’ needs and that they must be pivotal in framing up the monetisation strategy for any gaming app.

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Tattoo Removal Studio Will Remove Tats From Regretful Kanye West Fans for Free

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After Kanye West, A.K.A. Ye, made antisemitic statements and false claims about George Floyd’s killing, a London-based tattoo parlor announced on Instagram that it would remove West-related tattoos for free.



ViktoriiaNovokhatska | Getty Images

Naama Tattoo parlor said its offer to remove tattoos of the controversial rapper was a “natural extension” of its “second chances” project, which offers free tattoo laser removal to people seeking to rid themselves of certain types of ink — gang tats or an ex’s name. The procedure, which can cost roughly $2,400 elsewhere, has prompted several customers to contact Naama about having their Ye tattoos lasered off.

The Washington Post reports:

“We understand that tattoos can be triggering for some people and not everyone can afford to remove their tattoos,” the company told The Washington Post in an email Thursday. It noted that one of the people who took them up on the offer said she was being trolled for her Ye-inspired tattoo.

The store said several people have contacted it in recent weeks to have their Ye tattoos lasered off — a procedure that can cost up to 2,000 pounds (about $2,400).

Ye was dropped by brands including Adidas and Gap and locked out of his Twitter and Instagram accounts over his past comments and posts. On Thursday, he appeared on Alex Jones’s Infowars clad in a full-head balaclava. He doubled down on his past statements, telling Jones, “I like Hitler,” and, “Every human being has value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.”

Naama told the Post that “there are a few former fans with tattoo regret,” stating that three clients are already in the middle of the tattoo removal process, and ten more are ready for consultations. Following Ye’s comments on Infowars, that number seems likely to rise.

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