Following months of private beta testing, the website grosper.com is set to go live to the public today with offerings in the home rental and furnishings market. Mustafa Hingora, who co-founded the site along with his brother, discusses how feedback from mentors and others helped narrow their company's focus ahead of its official launch.
What was your original vision of the business?
The basic idea of the company, and the core value proposition, remains the same - which is that we want to bring meaningful savings and great offers on things that really do matter in an average individual's life. Something you cannot do without, such as a house, in most cases an automobile, education and then travelling, whether back to your home country or for a holiday.
You've been relying on feedback from a select group of consumers who have been testing out the site in recent months. How has your concept changed since you started?
Now what we've done from that idea is we've drilled down and focused on the home furnishings and home rental market, so once we establish ourselves in this segment then we'll move forward and focus on other industries as well. We'll focus on things such as lamps, maid services … [and] interior designers will be able to select products [for] people to purchase.
Were you forced to start in the home market because other sectors, such as travel, were already covered by competing websites?
There's a lot to be done in travel by what we've seen. This whole industry can be turned on its head still. Yes, [sites such as] Cobone and LivingSocial have made some headway - quite a bit in the last six months. What we thought was if we had a story it had to be something different others were not doing. Right now the business model is the person should be able to rent the home then decorate the home and maintain the home from Grosper.
How has outside mentoring from TiE Dubai, which fosters entrepreneurship, as well as one of your investors helped you home in on the home market?
We thought it would be good to go in the market and get more feelers and speak to people about the idea. [One mentor] actually told us we should narrow down our focus on things that we feel we can actually go out and do, realistically. It's all good to make grand plans; pick the most promising thing and develop from then on. Otherwise he was saying you'll always be stuck in first gear.
Do you think it may confuse consumers if you venture into other channels such as travel or education?
When we do go ahead with that it obviously won't be on the same [Web] pages where we display home-related goods. We'll create different sections. If someone goes to the travel section, it'll be a customised portal to the travel market. It won't be a generic template where everything is put together; we feel that would confuse the consumers.