Netflix, Prime Video, HotStar, Zee5, Sony LIV, Voot, Gaana, Spotify, Alt Balaji, HoiChoi, Ullu, Gaana, Eros Now, Sun NXT, MX Player… the choices are abundant, so how do you choose your digital subscriptions? Too many, and they’ll burn a huge hole in your pocket; too few, and you face FOMO.
Enter fintech startup Splitsub, which as the name suggests splits your costs by letting you share subscriptions with your friends and family. Launched by Ankur Solanki and Dhruv Goel in August 2020, the Delaware, US, and Gurugram-based startup aim to provide you with all the options you want – and cut out freeloading!
The aha moment came when the founders were living in Barcelona after completing their MBA from ESADE Business School. Dhruv came up with the idea that subscriptions were already being shared, but there was a need to do this better. This was especially relevant when it came to handling finances – it was important to eliminate the social awkwardness that comes when asking people to pay up.
The duo started talking about the business potential of group buying of digital services. The best validation was when Dhruv’s sister ended up sharing his Netflix account credentials with all her friends!
There are more than 90 OTT players spread across video and audio (music, podcast), along with work-related platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Grammarly, Otter, Microsoft Office, and others.
With subscriptions costing anywhere between Rs 300 per year for basic ones to more than Rs 1,000 per month for premium ones, sharing them – in an organised manner as opposed to the current unsystematic approach – certainly makes sense.
“We have created a group sharing platform where users can decide with whom they want to share which subscriptions. At the same time, they can discover new online subscription groups that they can join to avail of digital services,” Dhruv says.
But he adds that the startup does not manage, create, or sell groups; we only “handle payments and make sure that users are not cheated by illegitimate group owners on the Splitsub platform”.
The startup offers encrypted password sharing, complete control over expenses, and shared costs, and a secure payment gateway. The app had its beta launch on April 1, 2020, and claims to have got 10,000 signups in the first two months.
The key target audience for the app comes from Tier I and II cities and is in the age bracket of 18-40 years. Splitsub, which has a team size of 20, has also been recently selected to be part of Y Combinator’s winter batch 2021. They currently claim to have 7000+ active users on the platform.
Splitsub is not the first startup that Ankur and Dhruv launched. The founders met during their post-graduation and have been close friends since then. In June 2018 they started a seed-funded breast milk management company, Omadre Medico SL, which helped neonatal units in hospitals to securely manage breast milk for premature babies.
However, COVID-19 changed things for the healthcare industry and closed all doors to new ventures at hospitals due to scarcity of resources, both employees and funds. So both the founders retained their tech team, moved back to India from Spain, and started ideating Splitsub. The startup is positioning itself as a B2C marketplace and a C2C expense management app for digital subscriptions.
The founding team of Splitsub has been working together for more than three years now.
“We aim to have a highly skilled team with a strong sense of ownership and loyalty while having fun. We value people who want to learn and grow with the company more than those interested in titles and compensations,” Ankur says.
Revenue model, tech stack, and more
The Splitsub app is currently available on iOS and Android. A user needs to sign up using an OTP and share his phone contact list as a mandatory step. On the homepage, they can explore groups shared by friends and family, or can go ahead to buy and initiate a subscription that his contacts can join. There is an option to create or join a public group.
Ankur says to facilitate group sharing they needed users to start discovering new groups. Feedback revealed that users were ready to start sharing publicly as well to find new groups.
“Since our revamped public launch of an improved app in August 2020, we have been growing rapidly and the number of transactions has grown significantly as compared to our previous month’s data,” he says.
All information is shared in an encrypted manner. Payments are processed through Paytm payment gateway. One can also add or send credits (Re 1 = 1 credit) to his account to avoid processing monthly payments through bank accounts.
“We have a strict refund policy for any transaction where users do not get access to the digital service subscription. For every group transaction, we charge a commission fee that helps us run our services,” Ankur says.
Targeting the right audience
Globally, the fintech startup competes with companies like pinduoduo and appsumo, which focus on consumer goods and B2B services.
Startups like goDutch and Splitwise, which offer ledger services are indirect competitors for Splitsub in India. They offer expense splitting services, which people generally use for managing group payments. Tools Zap, a community sharing platform for SEO tools, is also a competitor.
Splitsub, however, has an edge. “We are a group buying platform with a focus on digital services. Our main value proposition is group buying, which we facilitate through partner sales and group sharing. Our clear differentiation has helped us in maintaining a steady market capture over the last few weeks,” Dhruv says.
OTT subscriptions are the most shared digital services on the Splitsub platform. With more companies entering the OTT space, users have multiple options – this works well for the startup.
“People usually want to avail as many services as they can and we help users to solve their pain point by offering a group buying platform for digital services,” Ankur adds.
The way ahead
The main challenge for Splitsub is adding more options for people willing to join in groups. The team plans to solve this by partnering with digital service companies to start selling subscriptions through the platform and introduce group buying for digital services.
“We are going to start offering capability of purchasing digital service subscriptions for our partner channels from Splitsub directly.”
The co-founders are currently eyeing metro cities and aim to expand to Tier I cities by the end of 2021. They are also working to add machine learning to improve group discovery and AI chatbot support for users to provide instant resolution for most common issues.
“We are close to finding a product-market fit and we believe the value we provide to our users is becoming clearer with every product improvement cycle, which we run every two weeks,” Dhruv says.