Just Started – Ravi Ranjan: Voilo

Our UK high streets need saving – and Voilo, the digital payment and promotional startup empowering local businesses, is here to help.

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Name of founder: Ravi Ranjan
Age of the founder: 28
Location: Birmingham
Date launched: 19 April 2021
Number of employees: 5

What does your business do?

Voilo is a digital payment and promotional platform that enables independent businesses and sole traders to attract customers, retain them, and grow their business. Our mission is to empower independent businesses through our low-cost digital payment solution, provide a channel of communication with their targeted customers and encourage shopping local with personalised offers by businesses. We are on a journey of revolutionising the UK high street business. Every business is unique in its own way and we consider it as its power.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

After working for more than 5 years in the customer loyalty and reward sector, conducting intense marketing research in the UK, I gained insights into the impact they have on the local community. Finding the pain points of local business, alongside my passion to make an impact on the local community, I pursued this venture.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Britain’s high streets have been facing a major economic and social problem for the past few years. Local high street retailers are the backbone of the community. But they struggle to increase customer footfall and further retain them as they are limited by local communication channels.

According to the data provided by the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), formal and informal Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) make up over 90% of all firms, and account, on average, for 70% of total employment and 50% of GDP. The decline in the high street business is negatively impacting the employment, and financial growth of, our country. We aim to bring back life to the UK high streets by giving local shops equal digital power and outreach through our application

What were you doing before launching your business?

I was working as an IT Product Manager in building and scaling technology businesses. I help companies in innovating their product and tech start-ups in building their product from scratch.

In January 2019, I moved UK to pursue my MBA to brush up my entrepreneurial and management skill from Aston University. After receiving an endorsement from Aston University as an Innovative, Viable, and Scalable business idea to implement in the UK, I started this venture to make a positive impact on the UK economy & society, starting from the West Midlands.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

I am always amazed to see technology evolve, filling the gaps in all dimensions of human’s life. My interest in solving the problem with the help of technology and developing innovative products pushed me to leave my first job as a software engineer in 2015 and start my first venture at an early stage of my career, in India. As an innovative startup, we were incubated by the state government, India, but we failed to make it big and had to discontinue.

How did you finance your business?

I started this journey on my own savings and since then we’ve received government grants and won competitions which fuelled our business journey. Recently we closed our pre-seed round of investment.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

At the moment, we are providing services for free. Later, we will start charging a small markup fee per transaction with a subscription model where our customers pay a simple fee per month for a service bundle.

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

To start a business in the UK one of the major hurdles for an international graduate like me was to have legal rights. After going through a rigorous process, conducted by Aston University and BSEEN (Birmingham Skills for Enterprise and Employability Network), I was successfully able to achieve the endorsement. Entrepreneurship may seem fascinating, but it is a hard, long, and sometimes lonely path. Mistakes don't define our future, but rather help us nurture it. I cherish those mistakes because they shaped me and made me a better business person. Often what we perceive as a mistake or failure is actually a gift, and eventually, I found that lessons learned from that discouraging experience proved to be of great worth.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

Despite all the hardships that the pandemic has brought, I can actually see a lot of positives coming out of the past year. I was working on this business idea pre-pandemic, which helped me to analyse the pre-covid situation of the market. Covid-19 will actually be an opportunity for our business, as we support local shops in bouncing back. Operationally, the most significant change for us was switching to 100% remote working.

Describe your first breakthrough.

My first breakthrough was winning a Sky TV ad campaign which allowed us to publish our company TV ad on the Sky channel for an entire month. I also became an Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 finalist in the West Midlands, from the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. I was chosen from 4,700 nominations.

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

At this stage, we haven't noticed any particular impact from Brexit, although we are aware that we may encounter issues when we expand in the European market in the coming years.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

Don’t wait to be perfect to start, as perfection is the enemy of good. The second piece of advice I would like to share is, follow a passion. Because if you're passionate about something, you'll be good at it. You'll invest the time, effort, and energy because you love it, and by doing that thing, you’ll get better at it.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

My resolution towards my business is linked with our mission and value to bring back life to the UK high street by providing independent shops with equal digital power and outreach through our application. Every business is unique in its way, and we consider it as its power.

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

In the coming year, our major goal is to build the credibility of our business by providing a tangible value to our customers through our product and giving them equal digital outreach.

If you're a business owner with a startup that's less than six months old, apply now to feature as one of our Just Started business profiles.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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