How startups help spend less

How would you save your money? Source: Alamy / Legion Media

How would you save your money? Source: Alamy / Legion Media

During economic crises Russians change to a lifestyle of permanent saving. And recently launched Internet projects can teach to be economical.

According to the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, in the fourth quarter of 2014 56 percent of the population had continuously been limiting its spending; and 21 percent said that it started economizing only recently: in comparison, at the end of 2012 only 13 percent of Russians were saving money. Now, creators of services that help optimize family budgets believe their time has come.

Renting instead of buying

First of all, consumers are refusing to buy items for "one-time" use. That is why Arkady Meshkovsky, founder of the Rentmania Internet service, is convinced that rental services will now be in demand. Rentmania helps private individuals share their goods. One can rent, for example, sports equipment, appliances and electronic devices, reconstruction instruments, clothes and toys. Registered users place 10-20 new rental proposals on the site daily, and about five of them result in a transaction, Meshkovsky confirms.

Source: Press Photo

Neovent, the company that owns Rentmania, earns a 20-percent commission from each payment, which for now is taken only from the rental companies.

The Arendorium Company, which belongs to Alexander Olekhnovich and Andrei Scherbovich, also does not recommend buying superfluous items. This Internet-service, which aggregates proposals from various rental companies, was established in 2012. Arendorium takes a 15-percent commission from each transaction. Currently, it has 150 registered clients who have posted at least one announcement. 80 percent of them are rental companies and the rest are private individuals.

Source: Press Photo

Arendorium plans to merge with supply companies. In the words of co-founder Andrei Scherbovich, it is still difficult to say if there has been an increase of interest among Russians in joint consumption, since the "crisis has just begun."

Graduates of the Moscow State University Economics School Yelena Shabusova and Olga Lobanova created a book rental service in 2013 called FriendsBook. The company offers a subscription to rent a certain number of books in one year or an unlimited amount in three, six or twelve months. The cost is between $15 and $120, according to the January 13 exchange rate (from 990 to 7,500 rubles).

It is possible to receive or exchange books at the FriendsBook partner points or through a courier with an additional cost. Currently, books can be exchanged at 70 mini press markets in Moscow. The FriendsBook catalogue contains more than 100,000 titles and the company has more than 5,000 users. 95 percent of the readers are Muscovites and the rest are from St. Petersburg.

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The clients' accounts are linked to their bankcards. This ensures that users will not keep the company's books and that FriendsBook will not need to take a deposit. Shabusova says that one book has a payoff term of 3-4 reads and that the lifetime of a book is about 12-14 reads, however, she does not mention the company's revenues. "Users read everything that they can buy in bookstores, only three times as cheap, and later they don't have to keep the books," explains Shabusova.

An assistant for optimizing expenses

Creators of the Dr. Tariff service Alexander Voloschyuk and Vitaly Kuliev believe that there will be a demand for services that correctly analyze expenses. Voloschyuk remembers that once, having woken up "with zero credit on the telephone," he spent a substantial amount of time trying to understand where the money had gone. He realized that he had to change the tariff plan. Thus was born the idea of a service that would analyze the user's telephone activities, compare the telephone company's tariff plans and choose the most economic one.

Dr. Tariff's beta version went on the market in November 2012. It helped select a tariff plan from one of the three major telephone companies in 20 large Russian regions. A year later the service had more than 120,000 installations. Then investors became interested in developing the service.

Today Dr. Tariff analyzes expenses and user activities, keeps track of the user's credit (which can be increased directly from the application), helps receive notification about additional options and money removed from the account, informs about bonuses, and recommends new options that can provide with more opportunity for communicating for the same amount of money. The information is juxtaposed with the telephone companies' tariff plans, which are renewed in the application every two weeks. The creators of the service affirm that users are able to save up to 30 percent of their initial monthly expenses.

Dr. Tariff has more than 500,000 users, 200,000 of whom use the service every month. The company's revenues range from $4,000 to $15,000 a month, according to the January 13 exchange rate (300,000 to 1 million rubles). The project began yielding profit in October 2014.

First published in Russian in RBC Daily.

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