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TheFutur: Connecting Mauritians to local businesses

Mauritius’ first search engine in the form of a mobile application, TheFutur, created by the Orion Group was officially launched on the 1st of January 2021. The Managing Director of Orion Group, Yudhistir Mungur, unpacked what TheFutur is really about from how it works to how it came to life. 

How does TheFutur work? 

We have a Search function button. Just one function. But one that offers so many extensive possibilities to our users to find businesses in a never-experienced way before. 

Imagine Mauritian Mr. X is looking for, I will include my company for this exercise, a company called ORION Technology. The first action he would do is to Google it (the second being searching for it on Facebook). Now, the way Google works is that unless you have your SEOs well sorted (and this comes to a price), my company would probably feature on top or maybe not. Most small companies in Mauritius do not have their SEOs well regulated (because, most of them don’t even realise its importance – they have other worries of handling their business, and fairly so).

This works the same with Facebook.

Now, this whole exercise comes with one basic assumption: Mr. X needs to know or have heard of the company to be able to look for it. Not just that. He would need to know how to write the company name correctly to find it.

Not with TheFutur… 

TheFutur’s Search button has been coded in such a way that the second he starts typing in the search button, a list of companies start appearing based on his input.

But is that it? Well, no. Of course not. We have more. 

Mr. X can now find any company (even if he hasn’t heard of a company’s name before) simply by typing in a category in which he is looking for a business. For e.g, Mr. X could type in technology, and my company along with other companies would appear. The beauty of the Search button is that Mauritians do not have to know each company name anymore, they just need to find the businesses based on their input.

Imagine Mr. X and his other friends using the app to look for someone who does aluminium, or haircuts, or massages, or simply looking for uniforms. All they would have to do is to type in what they are looking for and BAM!

Now, imagine typing Aluminium on Google. You can do the exercise and see how tough it is and how many processes are involved before getting to the information. TheFutur gives you this information in two taps. As simple as that.

How did you come up with the idea for TheFutur?

The idea came to birth following the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only big companies had been affected by this wave, but also small businesses took a major hit due to a lack of their usual day-to-day visibility with their consumers.

TheFutur is a mobile application. First of its kind to offer today our Mauritians a clean and rapid platform to search for businesses in Mauritius.

TheFutur was created to serve the Mauritians and also our local businesses by being on the same platform of communication for local trade.

Fast forward a year, we find ourselves again in the same situation as last year; even worse with the number of cases currently registered.

However, TheFutur is here this time.

Was there a need in the market or was it because of consumer behavior?

In the current consumer market, most Mauritians normally use platforms offered by multi-international companies to find businesses. This mostly works for businesses that are strong on their social media network. TheFutur is a platform to help the small and medium businesses. We are so driven by this purpose that we have made the application absolutely free to all Mauritians. TheFutur’s purpose is to bring a maximum of Mauritians on a mobile application for businesses to increase the visibility of the business services offered in our island. The small businesses no longer have to enter the rat race of having the most number of followers or likes when you already have 1.3 million people available as followers through the application. They can now start building their businesses through organic engagement with their audience.

TheFutur currently has only one prime button: Our Search button.

Our Search button has been built in such a contextualised way that users can now find businesses by typing any word that relates to their search and companies on TheFutur will start appearing. From typing legal to mechanical to uniform, from construction to bakery, the users can use the Search button to find which business offers the type of service they are looking for. The users can also now find businesses in their region by typing in the name of the location they stay in.

Our interface has been built on a simple layout because our aim is to help the young who understand technology but also for their parents to use the application seamlessly. For the persons who have a difficulty in understanding TheFutur, we are happy to be branded as a mobile directory. However, for the young, we wished to be recognised as the most powerful search engine on the island.

To smoothen the process of the user interface, our application does not require any login details. TheFutur does not believe in tracking the data of our users and is driven to keep a user experience as simple as possible. Besides, not having the data of the people is one of our main challenges in our development team.

The consumer market will be glad to know that TheFutur also does not entertain any advertisements (commonly referred to as ads) on our application. We have an equal bearing system for all businesses and our vision to provide a search only in the control of the user without influencing them is the prime need in the current market.

And the size of the app is only 14MB and offers the possibility of having a 1000+ contacts on an app and not on your phone space. We hope that the market will understand the thought process built into TheFutur, only then will the mother company of TheFutur, O R I O N Technology will be able to confirm if there was ever a need for such an app.

The app is available for download for Android users on PlayStore and for IOS users on App Store.

How expensive is TheFutur?

Well, TheFutur is actually free to download for all Mauritians. Yes. Free. You would think that if it’s free, then we are making money through ads. Well, there are no ads on our interface. We do not believe in such things. There will never be a company that can pay us to appear on top. It is an equal bearing platform for all businesses, regardless  of the depth of their pocket.

How is it monetized?

Very simple. We charge the businesses that appear on the listing. As simple as that. No hidden fees.

We have 2 packages: Basic and Premium.

The basic package has been created for small companies that do not require social media platforms. Their phone number and a description of their company is made available on the app. Businesses, from small to medium to even entrepreneurs, can utilise this platform. We currently have a massage therapist who is using this package. But we also have a lawyer using this. None of them require a social media page for their business operations. We have set an extremely affordable price of Rs 100 per month for the basic package. Rs. 100… That’s Rs. 3.5 per day to appear on an app that is free for Mauritians to view and use. 

And then we have the Premium package. Same offerings as above. But, we also integrate their social media platforms (for those big companies who display their services online so that the clients can visit their page at the ease of being in their homes) and a Google map location that is linked directly to their location of business. All in one interface. This is the premium package because that’s the maximum information that a Mauritian will ever require to know on a business. This package cost Rs 300 per month. As you must be aware, being in the media enterprise, ads (by our dear Facebook) are extremely expensive and sometimes do not convert the leads into actual engagement.

How many businesses do you have in your directory so far?

We currently have 200 companies who are supporting TheFutur so far.

And, with COVID-19, closing businesses by phone is one of the toughest challenges that we are currently facing as in our Mauritian culture, businesses are rarely used to closing deals by phone. But we are hoping that we can change this mindset slowly by providing a team that responds to the queries to each business owner to ensure that we have an engaging and organic growth with our customers.

The registration can easily be done on the app itself for businesses who already understand the concept and would like to be part of this community.

And, our best way to showcase the app is by telling our business owners to download the app to view how it works and how this could help their business. Or visit our Facebook page, TheFutur.

How long did it take to finalize the application?

TheFutur took 88 days of relentless work by our team to make this idea turn into a reality. We actually officially released the app on the 1st January 2021 as a free gift to our people with no major publicity. We wanted it to take its time to grow organically.

TheFutur as the name says may never be a finalised application. We are constantly growing and evolving the app through various updates to ensure that we can help the user experience. Our biggest strength remains in the feedback of the users and they can do so by rating the app and leaving their thoughts about their future wishes in TheFutur.

In our quest to help the people, we have launched a game changer for now the app offers the ability for Mauritians to now apply for jobs. This is done using the Search button by typing in the field of work and to view businesses that have vacancies for such positions. A sample can be also viewed by either typing ORION Technology or the word Developer. This feature is an important test to see how companies can now offer job opportunities to our young generation through just a mobile application.

TheFutur is here to stay and will continue growing as long it has the backing of the people.

What are your expectations for the app?

I expect TheFutur to be able to continue offering a clean, honest and ethical service to its users. TheFutur will always remain free-of-charge to download for our end users. TheFutur will never offer any ads on its platform for we are not driven by money, but by purpose, velocity and direction. And TheFutur will as far as possible never require any login details from our end users. Unless they would like to see more smart updates as the community grows. We will always be open to listen to the people of Mauritius to help and guide them. I hope that businesses start realising the potential that TheFutur may contribute to their businesses and eventually join this growing community.

TheFutur is also looking to include public services such as Police and SAMU on the application for Mauritians to reach much faster to these prime services compared to today’s current search.

I believe that the application will only be successful when the mindset manages to change and alter the way we systematically use technology on other platforms that are not just expensive but also track our data. We lay a lot of emphasis on data retention and we believe that the people’s data should be handled with utmost respect and care.

We hope to become an application that in terms of economic and societal impact, it can reduce traffic pollution by allowing buyers to contact businesses without moving and to reduce the unemployment rate in our country.

TheFutur is for the people who believe in change can happen with the simplest of ideas.

Hope the young generation gives it a little push as we really believe this could change things in our island for everyone. TheFutur is inclusive and is brought by the firm O R I O N Technology.

Yudhistir Mungur | Managing Director of Orion Group