Gurpeet Singh Rai, popularly known as Gurps Rai, is the co-founder and CEO of droppTV, an interactive media platform that enables viewers of video content to perform “on-screen shopping” with just a simple click.
Rai started his career in financial services at the London-based specialist broker First Rate, where he handled foreign exchange transitions for large businesses based in the commodities market. After leaving the company, he became a prominent figure in the global carbon market, a key tool in encouraging businesses to help mitigate climate change. During that time, he was the architect of an international offset deal with sportswear giant Nike, WinRock, and the American Carbon Registry, and at age 29 he was the host for an event related to the United Nations’ COP 17 international summit in Durban, South Africa with Sir Richard Branson’s company Carbon War Room. Rai was also one of the early investors and partners in the crypto currency Ven, and in April 2011 he was part of a team of crypto enthusiasts who to successfully facilitated a commodity trade using virtual currency.
Outside of financial services, Rai has helped the United Nations NGO United Sikhs build a drug rehabilitation clinic in Punjab, India, and was also the creator of what the media branded “the world’s most expensive trainers.” Named “The Fire Monkey” in celebration of the Chinese New Year, the shoes were encrusted with several hundred white diamonds and blue sapphires set in 18-karat gold and cost $4 million. The shoes were created to raise funds for Soles4Souls, a non-profit that fights poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing. In 2017, he helped fund the first stage of a state-of-the-art boxing gym at a sports facility in the Cayman Islands alongside boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.
In 2020, Rai officially launched droppTV, the world’s first shoppable streaming platform. The platform is powered by the company’s proprietary artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision algorithm which recognizes products in video content and tags them in real-time, allowing for quick and simple one-click purchasing. In addition to creating a streamlined shopping experience, the app has the potential to become a huge alternative marketplace for talented musicians and video content creators, allowing them to generate sustainable income without having to depend on third parties such as record labels.
Where did the idea for droppTV come from?
droppTV exists today because of a jacket I saw in a music video. The artist in the video was wearing an amazing jacket and I had to have it, but after wasting an entire day trying to track it down, I only fell further down the Google “rabbit hole” and eventually gave up. It occurred to me that I should be able to simply tap on the screen and purchase the jacket right from the video itself, and I wondered, “Why hasn’t anybody thought of that yet?” After doing some research I quickly realized that a lot of people had thought of it, but all attempts to pull off a shoppable video experience previously had failed. But why?
The first thing I realized was that no one had truly invested in figuring out how to integrate the purchase organically from within the actual video itself. Instead, they had surrounded the video with links and a clunky user journey that seemed more like advertising. With droppTV, we basically found a way to turn the entire screen into shoppable real estate. You can literally watch a video, a movie, a TV show, a music video, see something you want on the screen, tap on it, and buy it. Now when someone sees an actor wearing a jacket that they want they can just touch it and it’s theirs, so I guess you could say we solved my “I want that jacket” problem and created the perfect shopping experience to service consumer impulses.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day starts around five in the morning. I know every day is going to be crazy, so before I look at a single email or even pick up my phone, I dedicate the first hour to meditation – it’s my way of starting each day from a grounded space. The next half of my morning is spent educating myself, usually through articles of some kind. I try to not singularly focus on articles that are within the scope of droppTV’s business and make sure to dive into any and every subject that inspires me or gets me to look at the world in a different light. After my reading, I start to tackle my calendar invites. Like most people these days, all of my meetings are on Zoom, and it’s amazing what is achievable in the digital space. I’m even able to executive produce our video shoots remotely, and I have found this new way of remote working actually gives me a better ability to focus and has improved my productivity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring my ideas to life by writing them down. Putting my visions down any way I can – whether that be written down on paper or typed on the computer – forces me to find the best way to communicate them to my team. In this way, I can help them execute my vision more efficiently. Everyone has good ideas, but if you don’t write them down and create a roadmap with either your team or yourself on how to actually execute them that’s all they’ll ever be – good ideas. The easy part is coming up with the ideas, the hard part is turning them into a reality.
What’s one trend that excites you?
People tend to ask me what consumer trend continues to excite me: experiential shopping. It’s becoming fashionable to talk about “the death of retail,” but I believe that research and history shows that retail is not dying, it’s evolving. We just have to look toward consumer behavior. If we follow where the consumer is going and what they are seeking, and instead of trying to push items on them give them a reason to be there – an experience – both consumers and brands win. The companies that nail the best buying experience for customers will be the ones that see monumental growth and obtain large chunks of market share, whether that be an online experience or an offline one. We have to stop selling to people, instead giving them experiences they want to participate in and aspire to become a part of. You will see a trend of retailers changing their distribution model in store from products per SQFT to experiences per SQFT.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Nothing helps me focus like putting on a good song or playlist while I work. Music really helps me to sit down and just focus on the task at hand, but you’ve got to have the right soundtrack. I feel like I can do weeks worth of work in a day with the optimal playlist. I don’t know if it’s the beat or the rhythm or something else, but music just really helps me to lock in and focus.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Even if I could go back and give my younger self advice I’m not sure I would have listened. I grew poor in a disenfranchised area, and we were taught that any dream we had would always be nothing more than that – a dream. “Possibilities” were not an option for us, so if I could I would convince my 15-year-old self that truly anything is possible. If you can think it, you can do it. If someone had been able to get that through to me, I know it would have definitely made a huge difference.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Augmented reality will be bigger than the Internet. So much of our science fiction has been dedicated to the idea of the future being filled with virtual reality where we fully immerse ourselves in a virtual world, but I believe that augmented reality is the direction we are actually headed in. We’ve seen what it can do at an entertainment level on Instagram and gaming apps like Pokémon GO, but its applications extend into nearly every sector from retail to healthcare to tourism.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read! Knowledge is the key to everything. If I could spend my whole day reading I would. Anything in life you wish to achieve is derived through knowledge. All obstacles or goals from fitness to business to daily living come down to how much knowledge you have on the subject, and most of it comes from reading.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
At droppTV, we have built our strategy on one thing: creating cool experiences for our audiences, also known as “gamifying” them. The goal of gamification is to engage with consumers to inspire, collaborate, share and interact, and we are constantly pushing ourselves to build new experiential moments on the app, running from the type of content they can shop to the types of products they can purchase and how they purchase them. Gamifying the moments allow us to create an ever-changing customer experience that keeps the consumer coming back to droppTV, while also inspiring them to share their experience with their friends. This flow helps drive user growth and revenue so we can continue to take the platform to the next level.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
If you haven’t failed at least a dozen times, then you must be doing something wrong. Failure is inevitable when you push yourself, the key is to learn from your missteps and keep going. In 2016, I tried to launch a pre-IPO exchange that allowed regular investors like me and you to invest in tech companies before they went public. Unfortunately, the market took a nosedive and the business never saw the light of day, but I was able to transform this failure into one of my biggest successes. I was able to maintain all of the investors and the tech team from that project and pivot them into developing droppTV. Now it’s 2021 and droppTV is growing at a rapid pace, and that initial team of ten has turned into 40 strong with $8.5 million raised in our series A round.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I truly believe that whoever creates a robust last-mile delivery system for the marijuana industry will win big time. As each state legalizes marijuana there will be a growing demand for home deliveries from dispensaries, just like grocery stores do now. The regulated nature of marijuana will make it difficult for apps like Uber Eats or Corner Shop to move into the market, leaving a space for new players to enter. Hopefully that company partners with droppTV, allowing our views to order Premium Trufflez Cannabis straight through a music video. If anybody pulls this off, send me some stock!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I said before that I created droppTV to solve my own problem, so of course I’m my own best customer. I just purchased a hoodie from A$AP TyY’s video premiere on droppTV. The hoodie sold out in minutes and is now reselling on eBay for $500. That’s what you call a great investment (although I have no plans on selling mine.)
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I run my entire business through Zoom, even more so since the coronavirus pandemic. My employees are based all over the world and some of them I have never even had a chance to meet in person, but Zoom has helped me build relationships with all of my team members and execute some pretty cool projects as well. I even co-directed music videos for top-tier artists over Zoom! At this point it sounds like a paid endorsement, but I really do just love the product and couldn’t run my business without it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I have one book that has never left my nightstand: The Four by Scott Galloway. I honestly believe Scott Galloway nailed the next ten year of our world from a tech and business standpoint, and the book was a great resource as I strategized droppTV’s roadmap. It’s a fun read!
What is your favorite quote?
Conquer your mind and conquer the world. – Guru Nanak
- If you don’t read you won’t succeed in your endeavors.
- Augmented reality will be bigger than the Internet.
- droppTV is the only place worth shopping!
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.