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Why Touchnote thinks tablets will help it evolve a centuries-old tradition

by Doug Drinkwater

December 15 2011

Raam Thakrar, the CEO of UK-based Touchnote, explains how his company could herald the end of unsatisfying, impersonal shop-purchased postcards

Thakrar established Touchnote with co-founders Paul Burdin and Razia Ahmed in November of 2008, having heeded the advice of his sister-in-law, who couldn’t understand why it wasn’t easier to buy and send a postcard.

As a result of this conversation, and talks with his co-founders, Touchnote was born - a digital postcard service which can be used to create personalized postcards, either on a smartphone or tablet.

Touchnote started out by developing its service for the web, a decision which was born more out of necessity than out and out choice. "At that time, people were much less receptive to app stores," said Thakrar.

Touchnote moved onto develop for Ovi, Symbian, Windows and Palm, before settling on Android and iOS. Thakrar explained that the company, which has 14 staff based in Camden, London, has generally built the service for mobile, but now supports the iPad and Android tablets. "The tablet is a very social thing and I think there will be some interesting questions as to what needs the tablet can fulfil in future."

The Touchnote app is itself a simple, yet attractive design which is easy to use. The user simply has to open up the app, select an image from their phone/tablet camera roll, and write on the back, as they would with a traditional postcard. iPad users can draw doodles, add a text greeting on the front, and do a finger signature, while multiple addresses can be input on the rear.

The resulting design is submitted as a bunch of JPEG and XML files to Touchnote's server, and these designs are then generated into PDFs, which will be printed at the firm's printing stations in New York, London and northern Germany.  

All of this, and the postage, is taken care of for a pretty reasonable price of $1.49 in the US, €1.49 in Europe and £1.49 in the UK. Postcards can be bought via credit card, by using a PayPal account or by using up credit from their Touchnote account.

TabTimes was curious as to what impact Touchnote’s business model could have on the traditional postcard makers, and Thakrar left this writer in no doubt as to how the emergence of Touchnote and like-minded services could herald the end for the shop-purchased postcard.

“I think we are having an impact on traditional postcard makers, who haven’t really thought about how the postcard can evolve in the modern day.

 “It’s a bit like with Sony, when they just didn’t see iTunes coming. We think that there was a big opportunity around photo and mobile, and that this area was just not being attacked," said Thakrar, who marked Touchnote as being something more than a Facebook photo, but less expensive than Apple Cards.

“Touchnote is more permanent than an SMS or email, but it’s more personal than a conventional postcard. A traditional postcard of the Eiffel Tower is very nice but it isn’t that personal. Our postcards fulfil that personalization and also give you a great return of investment, at least in a social sense."

TabTimes asked what user trends it has seen since Touchnote set-up and Thakrar said that the user base is slightly slanted towards women, with an increasing number of users' recent retirees with a fair amount of money and time.

Thakrar did note, however, that Touchnote is also used by those at ‘interesting’ life moments, like when people get engaged, married or have children. "These photos are a little more valuable, and while people are willing to share these images, they are looking to do so less instantly."

Touchnote is experiencing rapid growth across all platforms; having hit 400,000 downloads on Android. Thakrar also conceded that the company had enjoyed a ‘surprising’ take-up since launching for iPad.

The firm is now looking to ramp up its sales and marketing activities over the course of the next six months, with the company also continuing product development. The group has just announced that it is working with BBH Creative Agency, the company behind Google’s marketing, for ‘Hugmail’, a similar service which allows photos to be shared with older folk.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.
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