“Couponing websites are an easy way for e-tailers to distribute and advertise their coupons. The traffic on such couponing sites is of high intent shoppers who are hunting for bargains”, says Sameer Parwani, CEO & Founder, CouponDunia, in an exclusive conversation with Progressive Grocer
Tell us something about CouponDunia. What was the idea behind its formation, when did you start it, and how has it evolved over time?
I was an avid online shopper in the USA and would often use coupon sites. The value proposition was very clear; I, as a shopper, was getting additional savings while the online store acquired a sale and a customer that they may not have converted. For this assisted sale the coupon site gets paid a commission. It was such an elegant yet simple business model that I admired it instantly and therein arose the idea to replicate the same elsewhere.
I looked for markets with large populations that were still developing. I was looking for unsaturated markets and India seemed to fit the bill perfectly so India it was!
I started CouponDunia in December 2010 while I was still living in Boston. Running a site for Indian consumers in the USA came with a whole set of challenges. It was virtually impossible to hire people and totally impossible to meet clients. Even calls were tough due to the time difference. I had never lived in India and did not speak Hindi so there were cultural issues to overcome. But despite these issues we did really well. On the people front we hired contractors in the Philippines to add coupons. It then got to a point where it became clear that I needed to shift to India to allow CouponDunia to reach its full potential.
In 2011, we completed our first full year in which we saw good growth and a bundle of future potential. We even ended up emerging as the top Indian Coupon Site. CouponDunia was no longer an experimental project anymore. It became crystal clear there was some promise here.
In August 2012, I moved to Mumbai to set up a proper base. In the beginning we had 4 employees, a number which increased to 10 by end of year. The next step was capital. I raised a seed round from my friends and family.
In 2013, we managed to grow exponentially and crossed 40 employees internally. This was the most exciting period for CouponDunia.
In 2014, we expanded our horizon to Bangalore. CouponDunia had 100 employees and it was acquired by Times Internet.
In July 2015, we launched the first ever FMCG weekend coupons. These coupons are distributed in 3 cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore
Which are the particular sectors you are focusing on? Which are the most popular business categories for the discounted coupon business?
The major chunk of business comes from online coupons and this continues to be our focus. Soon we will be launching new categories.
What is unique about your concept and customer proposition?
The concept of coupons is still new in India even though it is very popular in some countries across the world. We were the first quality couponing platform in India to bring together the best discounts available online, all in one place. What differentiates CouponDunia from other websites is the quality and accuracy of the content. We’re constantly working on providing a better user experience through design and algorithm upgrades as well as exclusive discounts. Since we have the largest audience of discount seeking users, merchants are more willing to share better coupons with us rather than with our competitors. Better offers and a wider range of merchants means our users stay loyal to us.
I also applied lessons I’d learnt as a user of American coupon sites to differentiate myself from the other Indian coupon sites during my early days. I recalled how back in the late 90s or early 2000s, there were multiple American coupon sites but most of the coupons listed were out-of-date. In fact, they were so unreliable that I stopped using coupon sites for at least 3-4 years in the middle. And then, out of the inefficient lot, emerged RetailMeNot, a site with a reliable and consistently-updated list of coupons. This finally convinced me to start using coupons again. So the lesson learnt was that creating a reliable resource is the key to gain returning users. We then made it our mission to create an experience that would not be frustrating to our users. There was a need to not only create a tool but to make it a good one and have a loyal customer base for your product despite multiple competitors emerging every other day. This focus made us quickly move to the top of the Indian coupon industry and we have remained there since.
Can you offer us an account of your strengths in this space vis-a-vis the competition; what is your market share and which are the categories that you dominate?
It all depends on the offers provided by the merchants to us. Last year we witnessed the growth of Recharge category immensely followed by electronics, travel, fashion and apparel, food and dining etc. On a monthly basis we witness more than 10 million visits on our platforms. We have over 7 million newsletter subscribers who receive curated coupon offers. We have partnered with over 2500+ merchants both online and offline. We have over 2 million app downloads with a 4.4 rating on the Android Playstore. Some of our online couponing partners include sites like eBay, Amazon, Jabong, Myntra, Flipkart, Paytm, FoodPanda, Shopclues, MakeMyTrip, GoIbibo, Lenskart, Indiatimes Shopping, Ola etc.
In your opinion, what explains the surge in interest levels for discounted coupons? In your estimate, how large in value terms is this industry, and what is its pace of growth?
According to a report, the Indian e-commerce market was set to reach US$ 16.3 billion by the end of 2015. 95 per cent of buyers search for deals online and 75 per cent among them search coupons via couponing portals. After the boom of e-commerce industry, couponing business in India has gained traction. Indians are known for discount hunting while buying any product. Couponing companies aim at stimulating consumer interest by providing deals and discounts. The future of couponing business in India is bright.
Tell us about your current phase of development? How many merchants have you tied up with so far and what has been the rate of expansion on this front? Also, what is your consumer base currently and what has been its growth rate?
We have consistently achieved double digit growth year on year. We have over 2200+ online merchants and over 100 FMCG brands. On a monthly basis we witness more than 10 million visits on our platforms. We have over 7 million newsletter subscribers who receive curated coupon offers. We have partnered with over 2500+ merchants both online and offline. We have over 2 million app downloads with a 4.4 rating on the Android Playstore.
What are your marketing and promotional strategies?
Since our bread and butter is online shopping, our focus will be on online marketing.
Please explain your revenue model?
Its a pretty straightforward business model. We send our users to our partner merchant sites where these users make purchases. For every purchase made by a customer sent by us, the merchant pays us commission.
What is the market size you are looking to tap and which regions are of interest to you? Which are the challenges that will test the efficacy and popularity of your platform?
Our aim is to save money for users for any transactions that they make. Entire retail market is our playing field. We have been the pioneers of couponing business in India, the most trusted couponing company, and will continue to launch new and innovative ways to save users money.
How do you see the market moving, trends and developments and how you are positioned to play the market?
Currently 13.5 per cent of the total e-commerce shopping in India happens via coupon sites and other affiliates. E-commerce sites often put out attractive deals and coupons for products they wish to promote heavily, new products and to clear stock of old inventory. Couponing websites are an easy way for e-tailers to distribute and advertise their coupons. The traffic on such couponing sites is of high intent shoppers who are hunting for bargains; thus it is a great way for e-commerce sites to drive conversions and for shoppers to save money.
How has the growth and development of retail industry and modern trade helped in the rising popularity of discounting platforms?
In order to stay ahead of competition and to safeguard their loyal customer base, retailers want to give unique shopping experience to its customers. To make the customer’s shopping experience more valuable, they have developed various promotional policies. As a part of this, retailers give exciting discounts to lure consumers. Consumers can avail these discounts through coupons and it becomes a win–win situation, as consumers find value in shopping with coupons, while the retailers gain more footfalls and traffic.