Email inboxes are tricky tools because they become difficult to manage over time and users have to spend a lot of time searching for what they are trying to find. And if you’ve only used one email address everywhere, it’s also painful to change that at a later stage. Email tools often fail to identify different types of emails and group them correctly. India-based startup Flash is trying to solve this by creating a solution (read email ID) that you can use for all ecommerce needs – and it will even reward you for using the service.
Available on both iOS and Android, Flash lets you create an email ID (with @flash.co domain) that you can use across all shopping platforms and earn rewards in return, 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 buy things. After placing an order, you can also track multiple shipments from the app.
The inbox is divided into two parts: Handpicked and Others. The hand-picked inbox contains important emails, such as order delivery updates and login verifications, while the Other section contains promotional emails. During my use over the past few weeks, I noticed that some signup/verification emails ended up in the other inbox. The startup said it’s still ironing out its filtering algorithm to avoid that.
Flash’s email inbox is rudimentary at this point. You can only forward or reply to emails. Flash said next month users will have features like archiving, auto-forwarding, and flagging.
In addition to creating a new ecommerce inbox, the app also lets you connect to your Gmail inbox. This allows the app to summarize your orders over the last 12 months and show a report of your e-commerce spend. Moreover, the app also retrieves orders for shipment tracking from your Gmail account.
Almost all e-commerce and payment services in India have been offering users some kind of reward to increase engagement and retention. Flash also has some types of rewards up its sleeve. First, it itself offers cashback for completing certain orders or signing up for some services with an @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. Coupons are a standard practice in the Indian e-commerce market. Google Pay, Paytm, and Tiger Global-backed Cred offer a bunch of these coupons in different shapes and forms. But often they have many caveats.
Flash also offers rewards for certain “series” – shopping multiple times through a certain brand or placing orders in a certain category in a certain period of time. This allows users to earn a combination of rewards from both Flash and brands. The startup offers 1 Flash Coin to 1 Rupee conversion for rewards. Users can deposit money directly into their bank account by linking their UPI (Unified Payment Infercae) IDs, India’s native payment network.
Flash was founded in April last year by Ranjith Boyanapalli, a former Flipkart executive. The company raised $5.8 million in seed funding in November from a number of investors including Global Founders Capital (GFC), White Venture Capital and Zinal Growth with the participation of Flipkart founder Binny Bansal, Cred’s Kunal Shah, Udaan’s Sujeet Kumar, among others. and Groww’s Lalit Keshre.
Prior to starting Flash, Boyanapalli was a senior VP at Walmart-owned Flipkart, managing the company’s fintech and payments sectors. Speaking to AapkaDost, he said there’s tremendous value in leveraging online shoppers’ data by leveraging 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 target about 25 million power shoppers in India who shop at multiple merchants every year and are major contributors in terms of market spend in the country’s e-commerce market,” said Boyanapalli.
One of the challenges these customers face is the excessive inbox spamming by various merchants, he said. In addition, it is difficult to track orders through emails. Notably, Gmail has rolled out order tracking capabilities, but it’s limited to certain regions for now. It’s harder for brands to engage customers because they’re bombarded with coupons, resulting in lower conversion rates. Boyanapalli said that Flash tries to solve all these problems through one app.
There are plenty of ecommerce apps in both India and the US that offer order tracking or rewards, including Shopify’s Shop app, Groupon, and Cashkaro. But Flash believes it has an advantage because it brings all these features together in one app.
The Indian e-commerce market will double in size to more than $130 billion by 2025, according to Bernstein, and the startup is trying to target people who will contribute the most to those numbers. But the vast majority of those people make purchases through Amazon India and Flipkart, services that currently don’t play ball with Flash for a rewards program.
What awaits us?
Following this launch, Flash will focus on rolling out features such as monthly reports, inbox search, email labels, archiving, and auto-forwarding in the coming months. The company is also building its own “Login with Flash” authentication mechanism that ecommerce partners can integrate into their service.
Aside from feature rollouts, the startup is also thinking about category expansion by tailoring its product to travel and OTT (Over the Air) purchases. So in the future you could manage all your tickets and subscriptions with the app. Flash is also gearing up to launch its offering in the US this year, where the e-commerce market is much larger than India’s – both in terms of high-value shoppers and gross revenue.