This inspiring story is one of a 29 year old former marketing executive at BBC Entertainment India, and Wizcraft, Suchita Salwan who is now the Founder and CEO of the Little Black Book more popularly known as LBB, a community driven online platform with 4.5 million monthly active users. This platform provides recommendations for everything including food, shopping and events across eight cities in India.
After having worked at BBC in India for a while, she really wanted to get to out of Delhi, having lived her all her life. For some reasons she couldn’t, so instead, she started exploring new places in Delhi like small cafés and street foods, and never knew half of these even existed. She believed that these places deserved to be on the first few pages of Google search, because these are the places which serve the best authentic food, or sold the best local brands. She realized that these places never make it on the first page of Google searches, only on pages 5-6 if they got lucky. She set her goal to bring these local gems on the page 1 of Google searches.
The question here was how to bring attention to these local businesses and bring them to the forefront? Hence, the Tumblr blog happened. What started as a humble Tumblr blog which gained 100,000 people in a year grew into a community of 4.5 million users in 4 years. All of this, without spending any amount of money. She built a team of writers and photographers who could create content about interesting stuff people could do in and around Delhi. The growth was 80-90% organic, with just peer to peer sharing. In just 3 years, this platform has been able to gain 15,000 users who regularly post on LBB, which has helped the local market to make more money than ever before. For example, Vishal Footwear, a manufacturer who is from Paharganj, gained a lot of recognition across cities, through LBB. It is a quite famous firm in Delhi, but gained even more audience through this platform. Suchita quotes “the way our platform works is that it propels genuine users recommending great local products.”
How she grew this platform organically with a great pace and without spending anything at all is with the help of the community. Initially, she was particular about the people who created content for LBB in the first 2 years, letting only the in-house ones write for it. That is how she maintained the quality of these recommendations. So firstly, she sieved the content to build LBB. Then, she used this content to attract more people who wanted to grow more deeply with the help of LBB and wanted to explore more across cities in India, and then letting them write information on the website and the app.
The biggest challenge for her to grow the community was figuring out how to make someone create content for them without having to pay them anything, and how to make the platform attractive enough to make people want to write on it. It took her a year to fix this issue and to launch a user-generated content platform. She acquired some fundings over the years from organizations like Iventus India, Dream Incubator which is a Japanese investor, and a few more. Suchita wants to put in even more efforts to scale up the retail platform and make sure that the local merchants are able to sell more than ever, and 65% of their merchants do not sell anywhere else but this platform. Even though this platform has a huge user base, it is not a profitable platform as of now. Their revenue has been gaining more from 50-80% for the past 4 years, so she believes becoming profitable won’t take much long now.
This story inspires me in more way than one, as there are so many brilliant factors which encompass it. This platform is helping local merchants to grow (a whopping amount of 180,000 of them), and for people to discover the hidden gems in India that are yet to be discovered. The intriguing thing being that it grew from being a platform solely about recommendations and went a step further and gave a platform for vendors to become brands.
- Kinjal Dixit