India’s internet landscape has completely changed over the past couple of years. Smartphones and internet access has got cheaper, and it has help to connect the unconnected. However, to introduce the next billion users to the internet, affordability will be key.
Reliance Jio disrupted the telecom space by offering affordable internet to the masses, along with a bunch of other benefits such as free unlimited local and national calls, and access to suite of entertainment apps. And then you have the Bengaluru-based startup, Wifi Dabba, which is promising to offer reliable, high-speed internet at affordable rates. With plans starting as low as Rs 2, you get 100MB data which is valid for 24 hours. BGR India interacted with Wifi Dabba’s co-founders Karam and Shubhendu to understand about the business model, the infrastructure, challenges and more.
Karam and Shubhendu started by building apps, for social networks, photo sharing, family private chat, local commerce and apps for taxi drivers. However, after failing for 33 times in 6 years, the duo accidentally came up with Wifi Dabba. In early 2016, they were tinkering around with a Raspberry Pi hardware project, only to realize that they can build a router out of it.
“We set one up at a chai wallah near our office and within a few hours there were dozens of people using it. That was our eureka moment, as soon as you saw people using the product, you knew it was something that was needed on a large scale,” Karam said. It was mid-2016 when Jio had just started its operations. After surveying Wifi Dabba users, people responded by saying ‘low prices were still uneconomical for the common man,’ which was when they decided to go ahead with the product.
Infrastructure and data packs
To begin with, Wifi Dabba is only available in Bengaluru at 350 stores – right from local bakeries and tea stalls. The company has partnered with most of Bengaluru’s ISPs to offer internet to the masses. Setup includes a 100Mbps line and a custom-built router. After the shopkeeper registers interest with the company, it takes 7 working days to complete the process, including installation, and there are no sign-up charges.
There are three plans to choose from, all offering validity of 24 hours. The cheapest plan is priced at Rs 2 and comes with 100MB data, the other plan is priced at Rs 10 and offers 500MB data, whereas the third plan is priced at Rs 20 and comes bundled with 1GB data.
You can buy these coupons from the participating shops and the connecting option is simple too. There is no need to download any app – users just need select the available Wifi network, punch in their mobile number, verify via OTP, punch in the key and connect to the internet. And it works across multiple devices – your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and you can even share data with your friends too.
Average speed, revenue and expansions plans
Wifi Dabba claims to offer a minimum speed of 40Mbps. In terms of revenue, the shopkeepers make 20 percent from selling each token. Karam mentioned that a lot the sell tokens worth more than Rs 1,000 per month.
BGR India asked Karam about the business model, where he mentioned that they buy bandwidth cheaper from the ISPs and sell it for more. And unlike most services out there, Wifi Dabba’s internet is ad free. In terms of expansion, the company is currently running pilots in 4 other cities, and aims to rapidly expand nationwide, but he did not reveal names of the other cities.
Why solutions like Wifi Dabba work?
A couple of years ago, there was a big debate around Net Neutrality, where Facebook tried to offer ‘Free Basics’ which failed. The problem was you get free access to certain websites, such as Wikipedia, government websites and other portals that tie-up with Facebook. But that defeated the purpose of free internet where users were only restricted to visit certain websites.
Solutions like Wifi Dabba works as there are no restrictions on accessing websites. It’s simple – you pay for a plan, and use the data to do whatever you want – be it reading news and reviews on your favorite tech website, watching videos over YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or download games from app store and more. And with more such services, the Digital India dream of connecting the next billion unconnected can be a reality.
Photo credit – wifidabba.com