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What AskMe's shutdown means for other startups

What AskMe's shutdown means for other startups
Image credit: Shutterstock
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

AskMe is joining the club of dozens, if not hundreds of startups that have suddenly cancelled and closed operations for the time being, without explaining much. It has also suddenly laid-off, the remaining of its staff, most likely instigated by the extreme lack of finances left to fund its functioning. Based in Gurugram, Askme was basically a classifieds/ telephonic directory portal, where you could find results for any service, business or help required.

While it’s extremely unfortunate for those employed by the startup to be jobless suddenly overnight, the disturbing trend of private startups suddenly firing someone they dislike really needs to be looked into.  What exactly went wrong here? What can be learnt from the failure? While it’s difficult at this point to know the exact reasons, fair assumption can be made.

Here’s what most likely ticked the scene off:

If you copy your core idea, you’re going to dry out

One of the most unfortunate market factors in India is the sheer number of population that’s looking for the next cheap thing. Such a fluid market makes sure virtually any startup will start working the moment it’s launched – even if it’s absolutely crap. Sadly, even exact replicas of other startups seem to work out initially – such as Zomato ordering food like Foodpanda did, Swiggy joining in later, Ola copying Uber, Snapdeal  and Flipcart copying eBay and Amazon. Sooner or later, it’s virtually inevitable these copycats are going to run dry and find it hard to cope-up with the ever-changing market.

If you’re not adding any incentive, customers will lose interest

AskMe offered what dozens of other startups already did – provide contact details of thousands of services and businesses. You already had Just Dial and so many other websites offering the exact same features. Even if you didn’t want your favorite, Google automatically offers the option to search for you – literally anything you’d want. Why on earth would users go out of their way to search something on their website when here are hundreds of better alternatives? This was destined to fail.

Users will get sick of shouting banners and sponsored posts

You’d think, if you locate sponsored results at an advantage over regular results, users wouldn’t even notice, while those companies would offer so much more money, you’d be wrong! Nobody likes logging on to a website with shouting super colored results that exaggerate sales. No user is stupid enough to fall for that “80% off” gimmick. Make sure your website’s design doesn’t look like a Chinese phishing scam. Make good use of white space and keep the colors subtle and clean.

Don’t try to include everything just because it worked for others

So your directory services option is working fine? Good. Now you notice some other rivals are also indulging into e-commerce themselves, and that seems to be working out okay for them. Let this not be a sign for you to try the same. You cannot expect to enter a territory, where there are already dozens of competitors, with the exact sales strategy, and expect to win the trust of the public instantly. Ask Me offering sales of its own was stupid, because the public already had trust established in several other portals. That would have been impossible to defeat.

Are you as annoyed at startups with exactly clone other’s sales, marketing and business policies without making anything new at all like I am? Let us know in the comments on our official page Entrepreneur India.

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