Ex-Flipkart exec’s Flash app wants to be an inbox for your e-commerce needs
Email inboxes are tricky tools because over time they become hard to manage and users have to spend a lot of time searching for what they are trying to find. And if you have been using one email address everywhere, it’s also painful to change that at a later stage. Email tools often fail to identify different kinds of emails and group them properly. India-based startup Flash is attempting 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 to use the service.
Flash — which is available on both iOS and Android — lets you create an email ID (with @flash.co domain) that you can use on all shopping platforms, and in return, earn rewards such as coupons and cashback. Once you download the app from the Play Store or the App Store, you can sign up with a new email ID and use it across all platforms to shop for things. After placing an order, you can also track multiple shipments from within the app.
The inbox is divided into two parts: Handpicked and Others. The Handpicked inbox has important emails such as order delivery updates and sign-up verifications while the Other section carries promotional emails. In my usage in the last few weeks, I noticed that some sign-up/verification emails ended up in the Other inbox. The startup said it is still ironing out its filtering algorithm to avoid that.
Flash’s email inbox is rudimentary at this 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 inbox for e-commerce, the app also lets you connect with your Gmail inbox. This allows the app to build a summary of your orders in the last 12 months and show a report of your e-commerce expenses. Plus, the app also fetches orders for shipment tracking from your Gmail account.
Almost all e-commerce and payment services in India have offered some kind of reward to users to boost engagement and retention. Flash has a couple of types of rewards up its sleeve, too. First, it provides cashback on its own for completing certain orders or signing up for some services with a @flash.co email address.
It also has special coupons through brand collaborations with Walmart-owned Myntra, Puma, pharmacy platform Pharmeasy, and Warburg Pincus-backed electronics brand Boat. Discount coupons are standard practice in the Indian e-commerce market. Google Pay, Paytm, and Tiger Global-backed Cred offer a ton of these coupons in different shapes and forms. But often they have a lot of caveats attached to them.
Flash is also providing rewards for certain “streaks” — shopping several times through a certain brand or placing orders across a particular category in a defined time period. This will let users earn a mix of rewards from Flash and brands both. The startup provides 1 Flash coin to 1 rupee conversion for rewards. Users can deposit money directly into their bank accounts by linking their UPI (Unified Payment Infercae) IDs — which is India’s indigenous 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 bunch of investors including Global Founders Capital (GFC), White Venture Capital, and Zinal Growth with participation from the likes of Flipkart founder Binny Bansal, Cred’s Kunal Shah, Udaan’s Sujeet Kumar and Groww’s Lalit Keshre.
Before starting Flash Boyanapalli was a senior VP at Walmart-owned Flipkart and managed the company’s fintech and payment verticals there. In a call with JP, he said there’s a huge value in leveraging the data of online shoppers by making use of it to provide value to consumers. Flash’s idea is rooted in taking advantage of cross-merchant data intelligence through a single email ID, he said.
“We are targeting around 25 million power shoppers in India who shop from multiple merchants every year and have a major contribution in terms of market 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. Plus, it’s hard to track orders through emails. Notably, Gmail has rolled out order tracking capabilities, but it’s limited to certain geographies for now. For brands, it’s harder to engage customers as they are bombarded with coupons, which results in lower conversion rates. Boyanapalli said Flash is trying to solve all these problems through one app.
There are plenty of e-commerce apps in both India and the US that offer either order tracking or rewards including Shopify’s Shop app, Groupon, and Cashkaro. But Flash believes that it has an advantage because it brings all of these functions together in one app.
India’s e-commerce market is set to double in size to over $130 billion by 2025, according to Bernstein, and the startup is trying to target people who will contribute most to those figures. But the vast majority of those people make purchases through Amazon India and Flipkart, services that currently are not playing ball with Flash for any rewards program.
After this launch, Flash is focused on rolling out features such as monthly reports, inbox search, email labeling, archiving, and auto-forwarding in the next few months. The company is also building its own “Login with Flash” authentication mechanism that e-commerce partners can integrate into their service.
Apart from feature rollouts, the startup is also thinking about category expansion by tuning its product for travel and OTT (Over the air) services purchases. So in the future, the app could let you manage all your tickets and subscriptions. Flash is also gearing up to launch its offerings in the US this year, where the e-commerce market is much bigger than that of India — both in terms of high-value shoppers and gross revenue.