How Animesh Ghosh, Founder & CEO of KornChain built the global network of loyalty programs using blockchain and artificial intelligence.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Animesh Ghosh: 2020 has been one of the best years for me. As a family, we minimised the physical contact with the outside world to make sure we don’t get infected by COVID, and we were ordering everything online. While doing that, it helped me understand what our priority as a business should be to build something that will be useful for the industry, post corona.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded KornChain.
Animesh Ghosh: I have been in the banking and finance industry for 20+ years. Before starting KornChain, I was functioning as the Chief Architect in the Payments domain. That was the time I had the opportunity to explore blockchain technology and realised that the cost of payment and time taken for the money to the recipient can be brought down to a fraction of a second if we could use Distributed Ledger technology.
That kept me thinking that this technology can be used in the rewards industry. We checked the data and found out that more than half of the members in loyalty programs are inactive, and the majority are not happy with the redemption options. The inefficiency in the industry also led to eroding the value of loyalty points. Overall, leading to a stalemate in the industry where customers are interacting lesser with the programs as they don’t get much value, and businesses do not get the customer’s interaction data for personalisation.
We found KornChain in January 2018 and set out to create a reward points distribution network on blockchain for all sizes of businesses to issue globally exchangeable & redeemable points. Businesses can acquire customers, derive intelligence for personalization & drive repeat sales. Our aim is to make reward points as liquid as money to maximize customer interactions with businesses and benefit both businesses and their customers.
How does KornChain innovate?
Animesh Ghosh: The ultimate objectives of a reward program is to help businesses to acquire customers, derive intelligence for personalization & drive repeat sales. Those objectives can’t be met unless both earning and redemption of points are made effortless. Redemption is the engine that drives repeated engagement and deepens the relationship between customers and brands. The experience and satisfaction of getting a reward is what really motivates customers.
Our innovation is focused on the actual customer’s need that is ‘Redemption.’ We created the distribution network that enables redemption of reward currencies without eroding their value so that customers can use all the points, anytime, globally. Only that will drive customers to earn more and stay loyal to the brand.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Animesh Ghosh: We are in a business that is dedicated to creating a network of loyalty programs. This means it is all about connecting businesses and collaborating with them to build the network. When COVID struck, suddenly, it all stopped. In a way, it was disastrous. Most of our partners paused the project, and none of them was prepared to initiate any new partnership conversation. We realised that spending time and effort there was not going to help us. Hence, we took inspiration from Sir Isaac Newton. During the pandemic of 1965-66, he left Cambridge, and when he was in total solitude, he invented Calculus, discovered the science of motion, unravelled gravity, and more. We focused all our energy on building a product that the industry would love to have after this pandemic. Today, we are proud to say that we have one of the best products in the market and have more traction than we ever did.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Animesh Ghosh: Of course, we had to make difficult choices. We were about to launch our product, but we realised that spending money on product launch might not work as most businesses were closed. We chose to stop our sales activities completely and focused on building the most innovative solution with the existing team.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Animesh Ghosh: We kept the team motivated while everyone was continually working from home and did not have many options to reboot or entertain themselves. We shared our stories and communicated with each other to find strength together. All of that helped each one of us navigate through the crisis.
How are you doing against your competitors?
Animesh Ghosh: COVID was really a test for any organisation whether their existence was really needed. We used to wonder how some of our competitors with the minimum product features and some without an actual product were creating headlines. We saw some of our competitors go out of business during COVID. In a way, this situation supported us to prove to our customers that we have a product that will add value to their business. During the lockdown, we focused completely on the product with zero expense on marketing. We utilised all the time in the last one year to have the complete product ready.
Your final thoughts?
Animesh Ghosh: Every now and then, there will be something that will hurt the businesses. The most important thing is to create a product that is quickly adaptable to new circumstances. Marketing is important, but the genuine effort has to go into building the product that not only solves today’s problems but can easily adapt to future needs. The glory of the ‘Brand Age’ has gone, and this is the ‘Product Age. If there is a genuine product, customers can easily find out from the internet or other sources and not rely just on the ‘brand’ and get fooled.