Petoo to Bewakoof.com: why do start-ups adopt quirky names?

The urge to stand out from the competition and create an immediate brand recall has led to many firms experimenting with unusual names

Some want it to be just quirky, others want to make sure it has instant connect with potential customers and recall value.

A brand name that could tickle your funny bone, grab eyeballs and help snare those first few thousand users.

Well, that’s what sells with most investors, and of course, the target audience—young Indians.

The desire to grab users, the urge to stand out from the competition and create an immediate brand recall in the competitive start-up ecosystem has led to many young companies experimenting with unusual and rather odd names.

Ritesh Dwivedy, 34, named his four-month-old Bengaluru-based start-up Petoo—a Hindi word meaning “glutton". Petoo gets food cooked in its own kitchens and then delivers it to customers.

“We don’t think Petoo is negative. It is rather funny. We wanted to combine food with fun," said Dwivedy.

“A Hindi word was apt for the brand name as we want to stick to only Indian food items. We will have cuisine of different states of the country," he added.

And it worked too. The start-up claims to be getting 1,000 orders a day. It has over 15,000 registered users.

“Given that we have spelt it in English, customers would call us trying to pronounce it in different ways. We explain them it was no science but the Hindi word petoo. They would then laugh and tell us it was very innovative before placing their orders," said Dwivedy.

Gurgaon-based Saurabh Singla thought of calling his hyperlocal mobile commerce business LazyLad.

“Everyone has the right to be lazy at some point in time," said Singla. He explains that the idea behind the name is to ensure that his customers laze around while his company will do the work on their behalf.

And of course, the name sticks.

Mumbai-based e-commerce portal Bewakoof.com (bewakoof means “stupid" in Hindi) has become an old name by now in the segment. In January, it raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Snapdeal founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal.

“Quirky helps you stand out. There is huge clutter in the start-ups industry. One way to stand out is by having a unique brand name," said Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer of brand and business strategy firm Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

According to him, the country has over 11,500 start-ups, with 5,400 of them based in Bengaluru alone. These numbers are growing exponentially.

“The young want to be irreverent. By having such names it becomes easier for brands to connect with their target audience—the youth. It helps them in having the initial stickiness on the platform," he added.

To some extent, the theory of in-your-face brand names has been proven globally in the offline space.

Fcuk, a UK-based retailer and wholesaler of fashion clothing, has been able to build a strong presence in markets such as India apart from UK, US, Canada and China.

But Dilip Cherian, a communication consultant and founder of Perfect Relations, said that in the process of giving themselves a catchy name, start-ups have been ignoring some basic rules.

“An inappropriate name with a negative connotation has higher chances of failure or eventual trashing by both consumers and investors. It also reflects badly on the thought process behind the start-up. It can be interpreted as lack of genuine creativity, a cowboy attitude towards the naming process, even though the business landscape is a bit like the Wild West right now," he said.

Experts say that a weird name might stay in the mind but does little to establish credibility. “Brands and start-ups need to become more self-aware about the environment and what works with larger audiences," Cherian said.

Two other start-ups that have tried to do business by making people laugh at their names are education portal Pagalguy.com and online shop for adult lifestyle products IMbesharam.com.

Quirky names may succeed in attracting visitors in the initial days, but in the long run, a catchy name alone will not be enough.

“At the end of the day, names are not the primary consideration. It is about the entrepreneur, his team. How big the market is and how is the competition going to emerge," said Hemant Kanakia of Indian Angel Network.

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