Sci & Tech

Oostaa Helps Consumers Review Businesses

Auto & Tech Desk
Oostaa Helps Consumers Review Businesses
Oostaa Helps Consumers Review Businesses

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when businesses focused on pleasing critics to receive favorable reviews of their products and services.

While expert opinion is important, it tends to miss the mark: Whereas critics look for specific details to form an opinion, a vast majority of people look at the bigger picture and judge a product based on common needs.

With the advent of review websites and smartphones, the everyday consumer has found a platform to play a more influential role. At present, expert reviews and user opinions currently receive the same attention.

To help ensure people have access to their peers’ opinions, a team of young Iranian entrepreneurs launched Oostaa (meaning “master” in Persian) a year ago by using the tagline “Let your opinion impact the decision of others.”

In short, Oostaa is a platform where people express their opinion about different products, businesses, places and events based on their own experiences.

“We aim to help our users save time and money,” Mehdi Garakani, the founder of Oostaa, told Financial Tribune.

The 31-year-old founder finished his undergrad studies in computer science at the University of Tehran and went on to finish his Master’s in information technology (e-commerce) at Amirkabir University of Technology.

For several years, he had worked on the areas of data migration, data warehousing and business intelligence systems mainly in the banking industry until he quit his job to focus on Oostaa.

“The idea for the business first formed when I was looking to build a platform that would aggregate consumer reviews, extract knowledge from data and create a feedback loop to businesses thus establishing an ecosystem which would translate into better consumer experience,” Garakani said.

“This would eventually provide insight for businesses looking to improve their products, services and customer satisfaction.”

  The Idea and Its Development

What Oostaa is now, Garakani says, is very different from the original idea.

The team started doing a lot of research and read into to Nielsen Global Trust survey which showed that people mostly refer to the opinion of those they trust before buying a new product while referring to online reviews comes next.

Oostaa started with two backend developers, the CEO explained. Later, two frontend developers and an android developer also joined.

Currently, the team comprises just eight people handling the whole gamut of development, back office, sales and marketing.

Although Oostaa is a startup launched without an accelerator program, it is held privately with two seed fund investments.

There are famous examples of foreign prototypes that Oostaa can be compared to, such as Foursquare, Yelp and Amazon Reviews. However, Oostaa’s perspective toward the online review landscape is somehow different.

The startup is focused on two main areas: social networking and expanding reviews categories to as many products and services as possible.

The categories listed on Oostaa are vast and varied. They include local businesses, restaurants and cafes, historical places and tours, household goods, movies and TV shows, games, applications and books, to name just a few.

The frequency of searches shows applications, movies and books are the most popular ones, followed by restaurant and cafes.

The website and its mobile application, which have more than 20,000 registered users, were nominated in the business reference category of Iran’s Web and Mobile Festival last year. The website won the top prize in this category.

The service is not exclusively focused on local businesses, as product reviews constitute a major part of the content. This is why it has not been limited to any specific cities.

However, Tehran and Shiraz have had the most local businesses reviewed.

  Challenges and Future Plans

When asked about the challenges faced by the team, Garakani said everyone knows that sustaining a startup is not easy.

“Although you learn a lot and the experience is amazing, you should be prepared, money-wise, mentally and even physically. Working as a team is very essential,” he said.

“Building products that aim to change the habits of people is quite difficult. Iranians are generally reluctant when it gets to writing. There is an inertia that keeps us from generating new content. It takes time for people to get used to writing about their experiences and expressing themselves.”

The team plans to make solutions for businesses available and take Oostaa to a completely new level. This feature will enable businesses to receive feedback, build an online reputation and expand and improve digital presence.

According to Garakani, Oostaa has specific plans for Iranian small- and medium-sized enterprises that are using social media apps such as Instagram and Telegram as their e-commerce platforms.

“We will help those who want to build their reputation and get new customers using word-of-mouth marketing,” he said.