ReturnHound Makes Lost and Found More Efficient than Ever
I once forgot a shirt in a Dubai hotel. When I called the next day, a very kind receptionist asked me to describe the item. It was a small blue Fruit of the Loom t-shirt with a Banksy illustration of a girl holding a heart-shaped balloon. The receptionist took down my details and said they would call me within 24 hours.
48 hours later, I called again, got a hold of another employee, had to go through the whole story again, and was promised an answer within 24 hours.
A week later, I went to the hotel in person. After almost two hours, I was handed… a large, plain white shirt! with a gift voucher for the hotel spa. That day, I lost my shirt but I learned two important things: a) hotel staff really want to give their customers the best service, b) sadly the process isn’t well managed.
Fast forward a few years, and a new startup might just have the answer. ReturnHound has made it its mission to help guests and visitors find the personal belongings they left at hotels, restaurants, airports, and other venues.
Better than Lost and Found: Tracked and Returned
The concept of ReturnHound is so simple and intuitive that it is surprising nobody thought of building it earlier – around the time when I lost my favorite shirt, for example.
The system is cloud-based, so integration is seamless and completely free of charge – and it gets better. When staff members at a partner venue find a lost item, all they have to do is log it in the system and enter search parameters. When customers realize they have lost an item and eventually contact the venue, they will be given a web link to the system where they can search for it by entering their own parameters.
The system then goes through its log entries, and once a match is found, it alerts hotel staff in order to conduct a final manual verification. If all goes well, customers are immediately notified by email. They then have the option of picking up their item directly, or having it shipped to the address of their choice via Aramex (with a tracking number), in exchange for the regular shipping fee.
In case customers find their items, they pay ReturnHound a $5 charge which is divided among the startup, the venue, and the Right Horizons foundation, a charitable organization used for making donations to underprivileged children in Africa.
Going to Market with a Bang
The product should practically sell itself. Not only is it free to implement, but also participating venues actually get paid for every item returned to its owner!
Second, the lost-and-found process is simplified to the maximum, creating economies of time for participating venues. In fact, a huge chunk of the search and follow-up process with customers is handled online, requiring minimal input by the venue.
ReturnHound works virtually anywhere people lose things, but it is particularly attractive to the hotel industry. Hyatt hotels and resorts are currently user-testing the system in the UAE, and will formally roll it out in June 2016.
“So far we received pretty positive reactions from hotels around the UAE, whose feedback is really proving to us that lost and found poses significant strain on the hospitality industry. As this market is one of the most globally representative of hotel chains and properties, we will leverage off the positive momentum we create with clients here to spread the word as we activate in cities around the world,” said Kavit Handa, founder and CEO of ReturnHound.
A Startup to Look Out for
Not surprisingly, Handa also had firsthand experience with lost belongings in hotels, namely his daughter’s stuffed toy. In fact, some 250,000 belongings go missing in worldwide hotels, airports, airplanes, etc. every day.
A few “lost items locator” apps exist today, but they mostly work through social platforms where users describe the item they lost and tag the last location where they had them, in the hope that someone would find it and contact them. As far as we can tell, there is no similar offering in the market.
“Lost and found is generally a widely overlooked area, as it is neither revenue generational, nor a core service. It was the frustration of having to deal with the current systems, and the amount of time I personally spent doing so, that led to the creation of ReturnHound,” said Handa.
It took only four short months to build a working version of the product, thanks to a dedicated team that included Hand’s equally entrepreneurial wife, Salina, founder of the UAE’s largest independent spa chain SensAsia Urban Spa.
The startup currently employs 14 people of 8 different nationalities, split between development, sales, and operations. ReturnHound has received investments from the international courier company, Aramex, as well as GD venture capital.
“They were both quick in recognizing the potential of ReturnHound, and have been fantastic partners to work with as they both embrace new ideas. We are well funded through our 18-month runway and will look for additional funding in the future, as required,” said Handa.
The startup is currently focused on Dubai and the UAE, but has plans to roll out globally over the next 12 months.
“Having looked at various rapid expansion models, we believe that a targeted city activation program is the way to go. Which cities, and the timetable we work to will be determined by various factors, such as number of hotel rooms, international visitors and access to the correct environment and on-the-ground resources,” he concluded.