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This Bengaluru Based Startup Building a Social Network for Metaverse

Flam, which debuted in May 2021, is the first platform that allows people to consume UGC via a smartphone camera.

Shourya-Agarwal (1)“FLAM” founded by three BITS Pilani Graduates, offers a transformative experience of images and videos to its customers. The company debuted in 2021 is the first platform that allows people to consume UGC via a smartphone camera. They use FlamCards to turn a 2D photo viewing experience into consumable 3D virtual content. Shourya Agarwal, CEO, and Co-Founder, Flam during an interaction with Nitisha Dubey elaborates the value of metaverse in the social networking world. He also shares his future plans and strategies.

How is Flam exploring the metaverse?

We at Flam believe that a wave of Augmented Reality-based interactions will precede the adoption of the metaverse in our lives. In this context, democratizing AR content creation, sharing, and consumption as the first point of entry for today’s internet users is critical to our ambition of building a social network for the metaverse. This is only possible if users are given the ability to produce and consume content via a camera-first interface. We saw a gap in the market for a platform that combines physical reality with an immersive digital overlay. Flam, which debuted in May 2021, is the first platform that allows people to consume UGC via a smartphone camera. We used FlamCards to turn a 2D photo viewing experience into consumable 3D virtual content. At Flam, our goal is to accelerate the metaverse adoption through bite-sized AR experiences and eventually harmonize virtual and physical worlds so that people can live, create, and socialize in the Flamverse in the most immersive and engaging manner possible.

What is the technology powering Flam?

Flam’s proprietary on-demand marker-based AR tech works on 4 key components. Detection, the camera on the app should be able to detect a FlamCard in the frame ready to be scanned. Recognition, the app needs to recognise the particular FlamCard from a sea of millions. Real-time tracking, once the Flam card is recognized by the camera, we shall track its real-time movement – be it horizontal, vertical, forward, or being rotated lastly augmentation which stands for superimposing computer graphics, which in the existing form is a video and 3D effects on the FlamCard. It took us almost a year to develop this scalable AR infrastructure that could optimize speed, accuracy, and device compatibility at an efficient cost.

In order for this process to take place smoothly, we rely on perception engineering, computer vision, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), and graphic eEngineering. Our entire infra is built on AWS cloud. We adhere to all of their prescribed security protocols. Furthermore, we have an internal team of security engineers and external penetration testers who have regular security drills to ensure non leakage of any user data.

We provide complete access control of content to users via signed URLs. Only a user has the right to share it and grant access to any other particular user.

AR still seems to be a new concept for the Indian market, how do you plan to tap this market and enrich acceptance across the customers?

Augmented Reality, which has been hailed as a promising technology in recent years, employs technology to supplement reality with digital elements. Consider it a virtual layer over the real environment. And this layer, which is largely visual with some audio or haptic elements, forms a composite view that may be used to convey extra information and give the user a more immersive experience. It is simply a real-time enhancement of the physical world. While there are several challenges that are being addressed and will be overcome as the technology advances, there are tremendous opportunities for developers to create unique applications that target a variety of use cases.

To put it in context, Augmented Reality will be central to the Metaverse experience. With Flam Cards, we have empowered the users to adapt to an AR-driven ecosystem where content can be consumed and created with a click. We have already seen great acceptance among the Indian youth, especially GenZ and Millenials. In the past 8 months, Flam app has seen 600,000 augmented reality creators and witnessed 700+ million interactions. This has primarily been achieved at the back of capturing various use cases of the FlamCard in our target audience’s everyday lives.

What are your future plans for business growth?

Flam is in a hyper growth phase, we are doubling our business as we speak. With a high virality factor, the platform has seen 700+ million interactions and has boarded 6000,000+ AR creators, making it one  it one of the leading metaverse companies in the world. In line with this robust growth, our vision for FlamCards is to enhance the current experience through 3D depth perception and extended reality to make it even more immersive. We are also aiming to elevate our distribution strategy in order to deliver 100million Flam cards in the next 12 months. We are also exploring multiple partnerships with various businesses across the printing, gifting, and photo industries through our SaaS tool.

In the longer run, we are gearing up for the launch of Flamverse, the first social media platform for the metaverse. The platform will allow users to share spontaneous content on open networks powered by multiple personalities, multiple realities, geo-based AR.

Talk about your investment plans and what kind of investor you are searching for for your company?

In 2021, Flam raised $3.5 million in a seed round led by Silicon Valley Quad, Inventus Capital Partners SV, 9Unicorns, and Kwaish Ventures. The round was also attended by several angel investors. As the conversations around metaverse increase, investors are actively looking for opportunities in the Web 3.0 and Metaverse space.  We are also witnessing peak interest from investors to invest in Flam. We have been receiving numerous inbound and external funding offers. However, we have kept them on hold for now.

Kindly share the advantage and disadvantages of the metaverse.

Metaverse is the successor of the Internet. Everything that happens today on the internet will happen in the metaverse. The world as we see it today will shift to the metaverse creating several use cases in social, gaming, retail, marketing, education, and HR practices. The only differentiating aspect is Experience. For instance, Flam recently launched OneAbove, the first of its kind recruitment experience in the metaverse. Through OneAbove we have shifted our entire recruitment process to the metaverse. Subsequently, we received great feedback from recruiters and potential talent as the platform allows for a more empirical recruitment process which was not possible through regular calls. Hence metaverse will enable enhanced immersive experiences. Another big advantage is interoperability which will enable users to seamlessly move from one metaverse to another, which does not exist in the present generation internet. Moving from Facebook to Twitter or other platforms is not possible.

The biggest challenge that the metaverse might create is a sense of utopia. But if platforms are designed to keep user happiness in focus this can definitely be avoided.

Overall, the metaverse cannot be a purely virtual world; it has to be a blend of the real and the digital world. As we are in the foundational stages of the metaverse, we need to ensure that the technology is built on the right principles hereon.

Tell our readers about your Launch in the US market and what made the deal between you and Walgreens happen?

After a solid success in India, we always knew that we had to launch in the US as it is one of the biggest and more mature markets for our product segment. One of the advantages of a mature market is that there were a lot of companies who were looking to offer something new to their customers. Even the customers were looking for a change. We got a lot of interest from companies asking for exclusivity over the product and the technology, which we refused.

For a new brand to gain a foothold in a new market it is always important to partner with a big household brand and Walgreens with 82% US citizens as its customers was an obvious choice.

When we showed our product to the Walgreens Photo team. They were really awestruck with the product and the possibilities. On the first call itself they gave us a go ahead to do a test run at no cost using their distribution to understand how users in the US are reacting to FlamCards. Within the next 1 month the integration was done with Walgreens, this gave us a way into their 8000+ stores across the US. Our customers could place an order on Flam and get it picked up at the nearest Walgreens store within 60 minutes of ordering for absolutely free. This was a beta launch for Flam in the US market to understand how the consumers are reacting to the product. In the span of just 1 month we were able to get 10,000+ FlamCards orders via around 5000 customers.

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Nitisha Dubey

I am a Journalist with a post graduate degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. I love reading non-fiction books, exploring different destinations and varieties of cuisines. Biographies and historical movies are few favourites.

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