In a nutshell

A startup based in Singapore and the Silicon Valley wanted to rewrite the rules of how big consumer brands connect with current and prospective customers. The Sweet service allows big brands to make offers to its millions of users, where the user is actually paid, or given a discount, if he avails of it through the Sweet app.

Challenges, not problems

The service and its app needed to serve large user communities across various countries, various regulatory regimes, and various demographics. The service therefore needed to target the right offer to the right user in the right country, and in compliance with the regulations applicable to him. For instance, you don’t want to deliver an offer for discounted bottle of brandy to an underage user, or a user in a country which does not permit alcohol, or a user in a country where the brand does not sell its brandy.

Sweet also needed to remit money directly from the manufacturer to the user who availed of an offer. Hundreds of thousands of users may click “Accept” on a popular offer in a day and then all of them would need to be paid $20 each, straight into their bank accounts. So, Sweet needed automatic funds remittance interfaces through partner banks. This meant that it needed to remember bank account details of all its users, which immediately brought Sweet under the purview and control of banking regulations of each country it operated under. It is one thing to offer a service, quite another to withstand the audits and compliances of a dozen different federal reserve banks and regulators.

Sweet needed to cross the “English divide”. The biggest growth markets for such services are outside the English speaking world. What makes the challenge bigger is that these markets do not even use the Roman script — they come from the R2L and CJK parts of the planet. These are any UI designer’s favourite nightmare.

Finally, Sweet was aiming for a very large multi-country footprint, in which case, the sheer scalability of the service needed to be next only to eBay or Amazon. Not an easy ask.

Solutions, not ideas

We designed the system to be scalable from the word go. On the server side, everything could be spread across multiple servers, with loosely coupled processes communicating with each other, providing great flexibility.

The server-side code was written in PHP, and the app was in Ionic.

The code was heavily parameterised to support language switching, and the UI was designed carefully for fast market penetration and quick user acceptance with minimum effort from the user’s side. The UX and UI for the app was designed by one of the leading design houses of Silicon Valley, who have ex-Apple designers on their team.

Now that’s value

This system was designed and built with very tight resources and timeline, as is the case with most hot startups. We used a tightly managed sprint based development process, and included key managers from the client’s team into each sprint for feedback and course correction.

The service was launched at GITEX, a giant consumer electronics trade show in the Middle East. There was a team on ground to persuade attendees to sign up for Sweet, and more than 11,000 new users signed up in five days. Offers were delivered to these users in this event itself, with hyper-local connects with exhibitors at GITEX. We operated a customer support call centre out of Mumbai, India to facilitate this campaign. It was a huge success.