One app for all

, Tech

Standalone service providers are passe; aggregator applications are a sunrise segment that is set to shine bright for a long time, says Shailendra Nagvani, the co-founder of an app-based start-up

Tired of searching for apps to fulfil various service requirements? Download an aggregator app. Standalone apps from service providers are a dime a dozen – WhatsApp, Instagram and more. The next step in their evolution, however, is the aggregator – a tech-based business model where a firm aggregates business information, goods and services from several competing sources into a composite offering on its application or website. This ensures better service quality for all participating customers and a more positive experience for service providers. And the success of aggregator apps is there to be seen across multiple industry verticals: Uber, Zoomcar and Jugnu in transportation; OYO Rooms in hotels; and UrbanClap in the service industry.

There are several ways in which an aggregator app is advantageous. It ensures that the right products are being used, the person handling you is a professional, and in the event that something goes wrong during the customer experience, the aggregator app will sort it out, so there is more accountability. The reach is also wider, because traffic comes in from a number of sources. Then, of course, there is the cost advantage – each standalone service provider has its separate IT, HR and other set-ups, while the aggregator offers a common set-up and thus the most efficient utilisation.

Technical aspects also put the aggregator app at a superior position. For instance, an aggregator like Be U Salons, an app-based start-up, has huge amounts of customer data and appointments data, which allows it to analyse patterns and predict behaviour. A standalone service provider might have tens data points, while the aggregator has hundreds of thousands of data points. In addition, an aggregator invests in new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, while a standalone service provider will not have the requisite resources for R&D and thus, will not be able to deploy teams that can conduct field research about possible new innovations.

An aggregator app is a great showcase of how technology-based solutions are more efficient. Take the example of customer care – it is but logical that putting up a call centre in every city is not feasible, so instead, you put in place Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, automated complaint handling and redressal, and more. Even chat interfaces on apps and websites are not operated by Incorporating a sufficient degree of flexibility into the framework is possibly the biggest challenge for an aggregator. Each standalone service provider comes with different offers, services, business models, knowledge and experience. It thus becomes critical to familiarise them with standardised sets of services to offer. In most cases, they conform; however, in 10 per cent of the cases, they insist on sticking to their own offerings and packages. It is this 10 per cent that the system must be flexible enough to accommodate – it must allow you to adjust for deviations.

To ensure further smoothness in operations, aggregators have official licensing arrangements with service providers. If something wrong happens, the latter needs to be held accountable; the aggregator app is not to be held accountable. There are formal arrangements for everything – sales, terms of revenue sharing, contract duration, use of the service provider’s logo, intellectual property rights and so on.

Customers have begun to love aggregator apps. They are pleased because someone is being held responsible – for instance, if you are not dropped by your cab at the right point or if you have a bad experience with the driver, under normal circumstances nobody might know or care. With an aggregator app, on the other hand, someone is always held accountable. Investors are also beginning to appreciate aggregator apps due to the cost advantages and the resultant boost to profitability.

– As told to Gaurav Nagpal

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