Within a span of three and a half years, a small ecommerce startup grew many fold and become an one- stop shop for both online shoppers and e-commerce merchants, each complimenting the other. CouponDunia today receives 2 million visits a month, serves coupons from more than 1600 brands and has more than 1.2 million email subscribers. While coming to India from US, Sameer Parwani, Founder and CEO, CouponDunia shared his experiences and vision in an exclusive discussion with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet.
The excerpts of the interaction:
- What are the key opportunities you foresee in areas of Customer engagements and customer loyalty?
Businesses need to start going beyond conventional marketing and connecting with the consumer. They need to not only resonate with the consumers’ need but to develop a relationship with them on the personal level in the form of outreach and customer care that they engage in. They should not only engage in transactional communications but also have to establish an emotional connect.
What role can be expected from mobile and digital tools in customer engagements?
Mobile and other on-the-go devices are useful for pushing notifications & updates. You can send the consumers notifications right in their pockets. With the coming up of Apps, there are much more direct lines of communications established with the customer and a higher user engagement in general.
What is the level of focus been given to Couponing from Marketing managers and customer relationship managers of brands?
Marketing managers should have a very heavy focus on coupons as it is much more effective in terms of price. It helps in making the brand’s investment much more efficient by reducing the risk of incurring loss as brands are charged only when a transaction goes through as opposed to other methods like Adwords etc. It makes it easier for them to control their budget. Coupon users, who have gained by saving money while shopping from a brand are more likely to return. This, thus, helps in building up loyalty. The engagement and return rate for people using coupons for a brand is much higher in this case than clicking on ads.
How does CouponDunia differentiate itself from the competition?
Our biggest competition is really the challenge of making people aware of what we do. Most people are unaware there is a resource like us where you can find a list of thousands of coupons, all for free.
The concept of couponing is still new in India. We were the first quality coupon website in India to bring together the best discounts available online, all in one place.
“Quality and accuracy of our content differentiates us from the competitors. We are constantly working on providing a better user experience through design and algorithm upgrades as well as exclusive discounts.”
As a young organization, how was your own experiences as an entrepreneur in the field of nascent Coupon industry?
I was an avid online shopper in the USA and would often use coupon sites as is prevalent in the culture. The elegant yet simple business model of coupon websites hugely inspired me and therein arose the idea to replicate the same elsewhere. I was looking for markets with large populations that were still developing to set up my venture and India seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Thus, was born CouponDunia. Running a website for Indian consumers while in the USA came with a whole set of challenges. It was virtually impossible to hire people and meet clients. Apart from this, I hadn’t ever lived in India, so there were even cultural barriers to overcome. I shifted to India to allow CouponDunia to reach its full potential. And within its first year, we saw good growth and a lot of future potential. We even ended up emerging as India’s top Coupon Website.
CouponDunia has, in a way, created the industry from scratch. When I moved to India, the e-commerce industry was in its nascent stage and the couponing sector had barely emerged. We have been market leaders right from our early days. Apart from getting the early mover advantage, CouponDunia has also been responsible for introducing the entire concept of online couponing. Initially, it was hard for us to convince brands to the idea of coupons or to join the affiliate marketing networks. However, it has yielded us a lot of success which has paved the way for our future. As a new entrepreneur, I was told of being careful of trying to cannabalise existing users however what the company has done is bring new users in the fold.
When was the company formed, with what level of initial capital? Please share the brief detail, if you have raised venture capital so far?
I started CouponDunia in December 2010 while living in Boston.It took a very minimal amount of money to get started. And once we did, we started making profits almost immediately. Using those profits we have grown and continue to do so. However,we’ve been recently acquired by the Times Internet Group, and are now a Times Internet Ltd Property.
Are you open for raising venture capital? If yes, what are the key expansion plans of your business?
Like I mentioned earlier, we have been recently acquired by the Times Internet Group, and are now a Times Internet Ltd Property.Our acquisition by Times Internet will help us expand our ability to reach consumers and attract more merchants. Apart from increased distribution, the media access will enable us to substantially increase the awareness of coupons in India.
As part of our expansion plan, we are planning to venture in the offline space. Although online shopping has gained popularity in the recent years, it is yet to overtake the shopping space completely. In a month you physically purchase hundreds of things from food to clothes. But less than 10% of that is actually online for even the most avid online shopper.
Our goal over the next several years is to include ourselves completely into these offline transactions that make up 90% of people’s shopping whether it’s eating at a restaurant, calling for delivery from that restaurant, going to the spa, buying grocery from Big Basket, and so on. People are realizing the value in using CouponDunia for their online shopping and we intend that to happen for offline shopping as well.
What are your action plans for making this plan a reality?
To make this happen we’re putting a very strong focus on mobile. As we look towards having offline offers, the best distribution method is our mobile app. Just pull out the app and see a long list of offers very close by.
In the next two years, we want to continue partnering with retail stores and food outlets in order to provide our users discount options in the online as well as the offline world. We envision CouponDunia to be the one stop destination for people looking to save no matter where they are shopping.
Also share a brief glimpse of milestones achieved so far.
We’ve also been recently acquired by the Times Internet Group, and are now a Times Internet Ltd Property. We push over 20 crores worth of sales to our merchants every month and drive sales worth 500 crores annually currently.
We haven’t kept ourselves restricted to India. Since the past year, we’ve expanded to Indonesia, Poland, Brazil and Turkey.