Khawar Naveed Bhatti is a graduate from the University of Kent’s Business School who, along with his team, came up with an innovative idea to set up an online platform, GenSpec Ltd., to support Canterbury’s retail industry, especially for small and local businesses. With support from an EIRA microfinance grant, he was able to perform market research into the value of such an idea, especially relevant for the retail sector post COVID-19.
Collectively, Canterbury high street businesses all spend on digital advertisement, but the current mediums available are cost heavy and are often not very effective. On the consumer side, the lack of Wi-fi and network coverage across the high street is cited as a problem by visitors.
GenSpec aims to counter these issues by providing local businesses with a digital platform using an app to advertise and reach potential customers across the high street, whilst also providing a Wi-fi network on Canterbury high street for free to capture the user base.
The microfinance grant was used to gauge market response to the concept of this proposal, as well as learn more about consumer habits across segments. This included looking into issues and challenges faced by small and local businesses in Canterbury in reaching customers online and creating footfall in order to support the development of the app.
There was a great response to the survey, which showed affirmative signals and has given key insights to continue development for the project. The project has helped find some key business types which can be used as GenSpec’s beachhead market. This is a small market with specific characteristics that make it an ideal target to sell a new product or service, in particular, charity shops & small niche independent stores. These stores can miss out on council-wide programs, so the research has highlighted that GenSpec should target these customers, for whom they could provide the most value. The survey results also informed the business about the pain points of consumers in their shopping experiences. This will help GenSpec formulate the development of the app.
Using insights from this project, the next steps are to apply for further funding to aid the development of the in Canterbury app.
Khawar Naveed Bhatti, Co-Founder & CEO of GenSpec said:
The Enabling Innovation: Research to Application (EIRA) Innovation start-up microfinance grant provided the opportunity for students and recent graduates from across the EIRA network to apply for a grant of up to £3k to help kick-start a business idea. Speak to our dedicated innovation gateway team to find out about similar opportunities.
“We maintain a firm belief that now more than ever the local and small businesses will need to adapt and use technology to extend their sales beyond their physical stores. We are in a good place to be able to provide a solution that allows just that as well as creating foot traffic (once lockdowns are over). The 2020 and persisting lockdown period will possibly work to our advantage. The businesses that would not have adopted technology before are now more likely to do so. Councils are focusing on largescale projects to support high streets – We are in contact with the Council and contractors to try to be part of this recovery effort.”
Khawar Naveed Bhatti, Co-Founder & CEO of GenSpec