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Local search evolves to social and it’s called Toost

We all have a friend who is a know-it-all foodie, another one who understands medicine, and one more who is expert at DIY on home repair stuff. As mobile and socially-connected consumers, we need something beyond the utilitarian approach when searching for the right local restaurant, doctor, plumber etc. We need an approach that helps deal with the painful experiences associated with local search.

We all have a friend who is a know-it-all foodie, another one who understands medicine, and one more who is expert at DIY on home repair stuff. As mobile and socially-connected consumers, we need something beyond the utilitarian approach when searching for the right local restaurant, doctor, plumber etc. We need an approach that helps deal with the painful experiences associated with local search. Socially powering our pursuit for the right service provider is Toost, a mobile application that helps us get right service quality and experiences with just a few taps on our mobile phones.  

So far, local business search has been treated as a utility service wherein providing the name, number and address of the business is considered adequate. However, the highly unorganized and no-quality-control market leaves people high and dry with painfully bad service quality. This is an absolute no-no for today’s busy and mobile consumer. Solving this pain point was the primary motivation for coming up with an application such as Toost. It addresses a very vital need of finding the right local business quickly and conveniently by bringing the power of word-of-mouth from trusted network of friends.  

In an interview with India Digital Review, Rohit Raghav, Co-founder, Toost, said, “Word-of-mouth recommendations from our network of friends is the holy grail in many services we use. And why not? We all have friends who are experts in one space or the other and its definitely fun to do anything with friends. But this help can often be a mirage as it’s not always possible to call all of them to get suggestions and mostly we even do not know which friend to contact. This is where Toost stands out as a local search app. It allows access to information about businesses in the vicinity along with recommendations that come from your wide and trusted circle of friends, not from anonymous reviewers.”  

Toost, Phone Warrior’s recently launched local search mobile app, deploys globally unique phone-graph based technology innovation to transform local search into social and mobile search. It enables users to access information about the businesses that their friends use and trust and also helps them engage with their friends in choosing the right service provider. With Toost, users can also enjoy social features like Activity Feeds, Ask a Friend, Shared Connections, Invite Friends, and Get Friends’ Recommendations.

The company is based in Noida, UP, and founded by Chandan Gupta, Vaibhav Padlikar and Rohit Raghav.  

Overview of company’s journey

1. Jan 2013 – Global launch on Android for MVP(Spam filtering app), with a focus to solve a sharp pain point and build a community win over users’ trust

2. Jun 2013 – Caller ID launched, company founded

3. Oct 2013 – Company is incorporated with 5 employees including Founders

4. Dec 2013 – Company funded by LSVP to take on Local Search. 0.5million installs and a small footprint of 50million people and businesses. 

5. Jan 2015 – Raised Pre Series-A from LSVP after 10x growth in 1 year

6. Mar 2015 – 16 employees, local search app Toost launched  

Challenges faced, hurdles crossed

“There have been plenty of technology challenges related to powering the app through phone graph, building trust-based trusted recommendation engine, delivering high performance in terms of accuracy and latency, keeping app size low etc.” Rohit Raghav told India Digital Review. 

Another big challenge for the company has been to get the right UI and UX while creating a social local search product that supports multi-point search and discovery with a community based approach.  

“On the marketing front, acquiring users with a tight budget by creating right messaging and following that up with right value in the product that keeps people coming back is key challenge to address. Getting to 1.5m downloads has been a challenging journey, and lots of fun too.” Rohit added.

Target Audience

Toost’s target audience is anyone who consumes local services (middle class upwards) and is connected through a smartphone. The app caters to all age groups and demographics. Whether one is looking for a carpenter or a tutor, Toost is the platform they can employ to make their search systematic, effective and also trustworthy. The company claims that the app is globally relevant and scalable/repeatable across markets with minimal modifications.  

Customer Engagement Strategy

“Our customer engagement is focused on delivering the magic to users. It is anchored by strong mobile-phone-graph technology that delivers robust, fast and high-impact solutions to serve a large, and an increasingly fragmented, user base.” Rohit said. The end-call service feedback mechanism gives users the control of service experience and has the potential to dramatically transform consumer engagement and cost of getting user feedback. By creating a social and engaging experience, Toost aims to redefine the local search to be social.

The company considers JustDial and Google as their primary competitors. And while there are players specific to each vertical, Toost is positioned as trust-based horizontal across verticals.

Future Plans 

Toost’s immediate objective is to grow its user base and rapidly build the network so that more people have friends on the Toost app. Going forward, the company wishes to focus on making the product increasingly social and feature-rich while solving specific pain points for the user. “We are also looking at developing depth and richness across categories to deliver an increasingly relevant and decisive search experience. We will soon be coming out with iOS version of the app.” Rohit added. 

 

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