How many times do you unlock your phone in a day? How about the idea of earning reward points every time you do so?

Unlockar, an Android app, serves as a content serving platform that transforms your old and boring lock screen into a new and intelligent one, which not only displays user-preferred content, but also rewards you for each unlock in the form of uCoins and Rupees.

Be it peeping into the past or staying updated with the current facts, girl’s chit-chat or boy’s code language, local deals or amazing places across the world — Unlockar brings variety of content to the lock-screen by subscribing to the channels in which a user is interested.

The channels that are currently being offered in the beta phase include Wanderers for Life, Who Said It, Incredible India, Blast from the Past, ROFL, Bro Code, Girl Gang, Fundoo Facts, Deals and Discounts, and Mad about Ads, on which the users get paid real money every time they swipe left for ads displayed on their lock screen.

The startup received its initial funding from GM Venture Partners in November 2013.

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The untapped real estate on mobile
Owing to the brisk growth of mobile app industry, Team Unlockar decided to use the lock-screen space for social-local updates. It all started with a late evening beer catch-up between Pulkit Ahuja and Piyush Paul, ex-teammates from Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ, where the first draft of the concept was discussed. With Paul having already quit his job in March, and working as a marketing consultant to a tech company, the idea was quickly picked up and was further researched by both friends. They started seeking guidance from experienced entrepreneurs, running a pilot project, conducting research on feasibility study and drafting documents for implementation process. In October 2013, Ahuja decided to quit his job and in the meanwhile, the duo approached Gopal Yadav (Paul’s MBA friend from FMS, Delhi University), and Manish Garg (Yadav’s batch-mate from engineering days in BITS-Dubai) to form the core team at Unlockar.

“There was a flurry of apps that were involved in pushing non-relevant commercial content (aka spam) on users’ phones and in turn making them micro payments. It took a discerning eye to realise how unsustainable this model would be in the Indian market where high value users needed to be engaged, otherwise you risk losing out on the fluid audience,” explained Paul, Founder, Unlockar Apps.

There were 7000+ users within first month of Unlockar’s official public launch and there have been more than 1.5 million impressions served on users’ lock screens.

Redemption of reward points
uCoins or Unlockar Coins is the virtual currency that users earn every time they unlock their phone. The uCoins can currently be used at uShop to either buy deals which are otherwise available for a certain amount of cash, or bid at auctions. The auctions take place every day at various time slots. Players bid with the uCoins that they have collected by unlocking their phones and the highest bid winners get prizes that are being auctioned, which includes movie vouchers, recharge coupons, among others.

“We have already collaborated with KhauGaliDeals.com, Teesort.com and PosterGully to accommodate uCoins against exclusive discounts. Additionally, we are in talks with big e-commerce giants across various industries such as travel, clothing, food and beverages, to give our users the pan India advantage of deals in lieu of uCoins,” explained Paul.

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Real Money points are earned whenever a user swipes left on the Mad about Ads channel content. The Rupees/Real Money points earned can be utilised for transfers on FreeCharge, BookMyShow and Paytm. It can also be donated to PETA, CRY and AkshayaPatra, an NGO that provides food for 1.3 million school children across nine states and 20 locations in India.

Competition from coupon vendors
There are various coupon vendors available in India such as CouponDunia, CupoNation, Couponzguru, CouponDekho and Coupay that offers deals and discounts through coupons for online purchase. Unlockar’s uCoins can also be redeemed at e-commerce platforms; hence, it will face competition from the existing players. However, Paul does not consider coupon vendors as competitors. He said, “Our primary business model is to beautify the lock-screen and transform it to an infotainment channel for satisfying our user’s social local appetite.”

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It is difficult for the startup to make content providers/advertisers realise the potential of the real estate. “Finding the right talent for team’s expansion, creating awareness and understanding about the concept is a big challenge for us,” Paul said.

Unlockar plans to expand and diversify its offering, going deeper into localisation, socialisation and mobile users’ analytics. “One can expect to see Unlockar in mobile app arena as pioneer of infomercial that is an essential source of entertainment and rewards for mobile users and an indispensable platform for merchants to target the right audience at the right time with the help of analysed and localised content push,” he said.

The second tier cities are very important to Unlockar and the company wants to have a strong footprint in India and expand globally thereafter. “We plan to stabilise and come out of the beta phase on Android platform first, before launching our concept on any other smartphone OS,” concluded Paul.