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4 apps that make your locked-down life a little more pleasurable

Now that we have an app for everything essential—from groceries to utility payments—here is our top pick of apps for things considered ‘non-essential'.

April 17, 2021 / 01:05 PM IST

Lockdowns, restrictions, weekend curfews, call them what you may, the reality that SARS-COV-2-induced disruptions are likely to be part of our lives for a long time is slowly setting in. And so is the need to depend on technology and apps to keep us going. Here is our list of the four apps that will make life a little more pleasurable in times of stress and lockdowns and help us connect with our ‘kind of people’.

Browzzin: The fashion marketplace

Browzzin is like no other fashion app. Backed by big luxury brands such as LVMH and headquartered out of Singapore, it allows users to not just shop an entire look but also earn commissions for posting images that lead to a sale. It makes use of features such as shopping functionality from existing apps and adds a visual search functionality that detects fashion objects and sources similar items through artificial intelligence (AI).

It also enables the fashion-obsessed to post their fashion photos on the app and tag the brands they sport. If a user clicks on the photo and buys the outfit, or some part of the outfit, or a similar one chosen by AI, the ‘influencer’ gets a rake-off between 2% and 20% for luxury offerings.

The brainchild of Harry Markl—co-founder of e-retailer Zalora and former managing director of L Catterton Asia Advisors (a private equity fund)—and Zean Vo—the former regional brand manager and regional creative manager of Zalora—the app draws from the best aspects of existing fashion platforms and supports them with proprietary AI technology and off-line inventory discovery feature.

“We wanted to create a platform for not just those influencers who have 20 million followers, but also the smaller ones, those with 1,000 followers. Our database of both brands and influencers is large," says Markl. "At the moment, we have over 2 million fashion images on the app. Our AI feature allows us to detect logos and objects and show the best matching looks or objects. The Indian fashion and influencer industry is fascinating with a strong heritage, beautiful craftsmanship in the products and digital-savvy audience," he adds.

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The uploaded fashion shot doesn’t have to be a professional one. Every fashion-inspired selfie uploaded automatically becomes a shoppable billboard, making it easy for users to discover fashion products. Sumanto Das, Browzzin’s country director, says, "Indian consumers have always been a highly ‘influenced’ market, first with Bollywood and now the fashion content creators. Our AI-based app will be a game-changer for the way users consume fashion. It will also offer influencers an opportunity to become entrepreneurs.”

The Dram Club: Know your single malts

This one takes you on a fun journey of storytelling and discovery of single malts in particular and whiskies in general. The Dram Club, set up by finance professional Vinayak Singh and marketing professional Swati Sharma, has been making its way into the whisky drinker’s consciousness with its tastings and events in collaboration with the best of whisky brands over the past two years.

The app was launched last month and has already seen over 850 downloads. “The idea was to make a consumer’s journey of selecting a whisky easier,” says Singh. “Buying a whisky is as straightforward or as complicated as buying a car. Several people who meet us at our events, or even at events and tastings hosted by whisky brands, ask us for recommendations. There are hundreds of whiskies in the market and there is no straightforward answer. So, we created an app that will help both single malt connoisseurs and those just starting on their whisky journey to choose right.”

The app users can select the flavour profile they are looking for and the app throws up suggestions that are closest to it. That’s just one of the things the app does. It also offers consumers an opportunity to identify the whiskies and review them. “While most whiskies featured on the app have been reviewed by Swati and me, app users have begun adding their reviews too, making this an independent space in which you can discover whiskies,” Singh says.

The app could evolve into a far bigger platform as the duo launch more features. Singh and Sharma are in conversation with a few retailers they could list on the app, in a bid to connect consumers with retailers and offer discounts to their members. They are working on launching a premium membership, under which members will be offered two free events a year and a 25% discount on the rest of the events, access to curated content, and special discounts at bars and retailers they tie-up with.

“We hope that the app will help promote the culture of whisky in India. Premium whiskies form a small fraction of India’s spirits industry. A lot of people don’t experiment with whisky because they have preconceived apprehensions. They aren’t aware how much fun a whisky can be, that they can get notes as diverse as dark chocolate and crème brûlée in a whisky. If we manage to convey these fun facts to those still discovering whiskies, I think the app would have achieved what it set out to do.”

Living Liquidz: Delivering at your doorstep

Living Liquidz, a premium retail brand that has over 50 spirits stores across Mumbai, Vashi and Thane, now delivers at home. In response to the lockdowns and restrictions that the state is being subjected to, the brand’s promoters decided to go the app way and offer their consumers a seamless way to shop for their alcohol brands.

Featuring a range of premium spirits (Indian and international), the Living Liquidz app demystifies the process of selecting and purchasing by breaking down the details of each alcohol type. Whiskies are classified into Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Tennessee, Rye, and so forth, and wines can be chosen by region, grape varietal, brand and such. A ‘Know your Wine’ section helps users understand the tasting notes of wines, and how to develop a palate based on the grape type. There is a selection of sake, Breezers and Cider, besides a range of mixers. The app lists Living Liquidz’s reserve red wine called Amaris, besides a few wines made in Italy, Germany, South Africa and Australia. Next year, they plan to bring a few gins, malts and whiskeys, exclusive to the app.

But beyond the deliveries, the app offers a wealth of knowledge, like a Whiskeypedia and Wine FAQs, as well as services such as booking a bartender or sommelier and shopping for home bar accessories.

With constant disruptions and businesses facing stressed margins, the need for a mobile app could not be more pronounced. Moksh Sani, managing director, Living Liquidz, says, In India, we still don’t have the best browsable liquor stores. There is a lot that can be done but since we have controlled margins and high cost of real estate in Maharashtra, affordability of large stores is very difficult. It seemed like the right time to create a world-class app.”

The fact that the on-ground retail experience has transformed, and not for the better, backs the need for a mobile app. “Customers have been sending their staff to the stores to take photographs of available inventory and picking what they wanted to buy. This created a poor sales experience, with a lot of our carefully curated inventory going to waste as a result. The Living Liquidz app allows customers to get a better sense of each brand that we offer, as well as additional details that are so important when picking beverages, such as tasting notes, food pairings, and similar product options.” Since the launch in December 2020, there have been almost 40,000+ downloads.

Home deliveries of alcohol are likely to be bolstered as we see more disruptions, says Sani. “Life is never going to be the same post-pandemic. I feel it’s going to take us a minimum of four to five years for the dust to settle completely. We must accept the new normal and focus on the digital space.”

Pratilipi: The literary platform

This one isn’t a new app but has found takers among literary fans in the midst of lockdowns. The platform is a community of over 3 lakh writers and 25 million active readers, in 12 Indian languages. Users are supported with regular events, discussions and competitions, such as the recent Crime Fiction Festival which was hosted by authors Vikram Chandra and Hussain Zaidi.

Ranjeet Pratap Singh, co-founder, Pratilipi, says, “I spent my childhood in a small town close to Rae Bareli. As a voracious reader, I grew up on a diet of comics besides Hindi literary classics such as Nirala, Premchand and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. When I left my home town to go to university, I realised that Hindi literature, or literature in regional languages for that matter, was not as easy to come by. This challenge to find Hindi literature developed into a broader question—where were writers writing in Indian languages publishing their stories? These thoughts were the seeds that ultimately led to the conception of Pratilipi.”

The word, Pratilipi, is derived from the Sanskrit word that means, well, ‘copy’. The number of downloads indicates 25 million active readers, of which 50% are from the Tier 1 metros and the other 50% from the Tier2 and Tier3 areas. “Pratilipi acts as a digital ‘open-mic’ for writers, and we provide a popular and safe space to upload stories for any user directly via the app. Writers and readers can speak to each other through comments and private messages, offering immediate feedback, support and encouragement,” says Singh.

Pratilipi also has an IP development team actively looking to help writers monetize their stories through commercial licensing deals. According to Shubham Sharma, head of IP acquisition and monetisation, “Many of our writers have dedicated and passionate followers and when a story has built a significant fan base, there is a strong case for the story to be published as a book or to be picked up for a web show/comic/audio adaptation. We have a team that reads lakhs of stories, across languages to identify the next bestselling book or the next hit web show. We are collaborating with Yali Dream Works to develop and co-produce a web series based on a book trilogy in the supernatural thriller genre by Varsha Srivastava, one of Pratilipi’s leading writers, for instance.”

Literature and storytelling are deep-rooted in Indian culture and society. We have grown up on tales of people huddled around a fire centuries ago to exchange stories and narrate epics. Pratilipi is a modern answer to this age-old tradition of storytelling. 
Deepali Nandwani is a journalist who keeps a close watch on the world of luxury.

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