The card connect

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 09, 2018

Playing the cards right Eight (right) ups the ante for card apps with a social network element

Japanese business cards social networking service Eight arrives in India and aims to connect professional contacts seamlessly

It’s the age of exchanging contacts digitally, yet the paper visiting card refuses to die. Often you return from a conference and find you have collected over 50-60 business cards. But then comes the challenge of organising the cards and re-connecting with the people you met.

Not all of us are efficient enough to punch in the details immediately and send a LinkedIn invite pronto. This is where apps that digitally organise your business cards come in. CamCard, Fox Card, SamCard are all easy-to-use apps that help you scan and digitally organise your visiting cards.

On Wednesday, Japan’s leading business contacts management service Sansan entered India launching its B2C cloud-based app Eight with the aim of connecting professional contacts digitally.

So what’s special about Eight, and how does it differ from other apps?

According to Chika Terada, CEO and Founder, Sansan, “Eight is different both on the utility side as well as in its network capabilities.”

The app, launched in 2012, not only digitises the contact details, but also has social network-like features that allow you to email or chat with the contact and even updates you when he or she changes jobs. Suppose you have changed eight jobs in your career and you feed in all. The app can seamlessly create a job history for you based on your cards. Additionally, you can feed in personal information in the Profile section. The app also has features such as Feed, where you can exchange business information. Of course, you need to register yourself on the Eight network first to do all this. In Japan there are two million verified users of Eight and the app is downloaded 5,000 times daily with three lakh business cards digitised every day.

How it is differentiated from other card digitisation products, explains Terada, is that in other apps, the data is entirely transcribed by machines so there is room for error. Indeed, if you read the reviews of most business card apps, company names and job titles are often mixed up. In the case of Eight, the transcription process is partly done manually so the accuracy is better.

What about data privacy? According to Terada, when the human inputting is done, it’s done in bits and pieces so the entire data is not seen by any human eye, thereby protecting privacy.

To popularise the app, Sansan will be setting up scanning spots at co-working spaces, popular coffee shops and hangouts frequented by office-goers, where the first-time user can bring a pile of business cards and get them scanned. “In Japan we have 500 such scanning spots,” says Terada. All major cities in India will have these scan spots, eventually, he says. “We also have a feature where you can scan five cards at one shot from your phone,” says Terada.

The app is free to use. However, like LinkedIn, there is a premium service whereby your contacts can be downloaded and synced with your phone book. “It is a one-way sync,” clarifies Simon Chapman, global marketing manager, Eight. “The app cannot take your contacts.”

Monetisation like other social networks is through ads, says Terada. “In Japan we have started monetisation only this year after four years of being around,” he says.

Sansan started its journey in 2007 with an enterprise business cards management service called Sansan which has features wherein you can share your contacts with your colleagues. Some of these B2B features are available for Eight’s premium customer.

Interestingly, Sansan has chosen to expand outside Japan with Eight and not with its enterprise app. Earlier, this year, Sansan received $38 million in Series D funding, which, Terada says, will be mainly used for international expansion. India is the first country it has ventured into outside Japan. “We will be targeting English-speaking countries in Asia to begin with,” he says. In total Sansan has raised $84 million and investors include DCM Ventures, CRM powerhouse Salesforce and Future Creation Fund, which is backed by Toyota Motor Corp and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

Eight is promoting the app in India through a campaign called #TogetherMade starring Gul Panag. “This is a play on the phrase ‘self-made’ because we believe nobody can be truly self-made,” says Terada, breaking into a sudden smile.

Published on November 22, 2017

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