Ambala is a small town towards north of Delhi which probably is best known to people for Puran Singh ka Dhaba and cantonment. Swati Bhargava, co-founder of CashKaro.com whom we caught up with for an interview, grew up and stayed in Ambala till the age of 16 before being offered a scholarship to study in Singapore and then another scholarship to the London School of Economics. She joined Goldman Sachs right after LSE and worked in the Investment Banking Division and Executive Office for 5 years.
Be persistent. Just the fact that you lasted and kept on going will be a competitive advantage because not everyone would have done that.Swati’s husband and co-founder of Cashkaro.com, Rohan Bhargava also grew up in India and studied in the US. He also studied at the London School of Economics where he met Swati. “He always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I think his passion rubbed off on me”, says Swati. Feeling at some point that they had to take the risk and go for it, Rohan quit a great job in the hedge fund/asset management industry in London to get into entrepreneurship.
Rohan started his career with Washington Square, a hedge fund right after he graduated in 2004, where he grew the asset base from $50 million to $750 million over a period of just 5 years. Rohan then joined Aladdin Capital, a large US-based hedge fund company, where he led a $1 billion acquisition of Solent Capital and ran that fund for 2 years. Swati joined Goldman Sachs in London in 2005 immediately after her graduation from the LSE. She left Goldman Sachs in 2010 to start her own enterprise, Pouring Pounds, with Rohan. Swati Bhargava was also shortlisted for the Asian Women of Achievement Awards in the UK in 2011 after launching Pouring Pounds. Swati is a frequent speaker at conferences regarding the role of affiliate and performance marketing in driving sales to retailers, how to grow a business, importance of cash back sites & more.
In an exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, Swati talks about how they started Cashkaro.com, got it funded, their challenges, entrepreneurial tips and lots more…
Inception of CashKaro
Both our fathers are successful entrepreneurs, and our families were supportive despite being scared that in recessionary environments we are leaving safe and well-paying jobs to start on our own. It was not easy but sometimes you have to take risks in life and go with your gut feelings.
We started our cashback business, Pouring Pounds, in the UK in 2011. It was more of a B2B play where we ran cash back sites for large organizations like the Daily Mail newspaper. We raised £50,000 for this in October 2012 when we pitched at the London Business School Angel Investing event. We expanded to India and launched Cashkaro in 2013, and raised $750,000 in July. Fundraising is never easy, but I think investors could see that a cash back model that is hugely successful in the West is bound to do well in India too. Cashkaro was at the right place at the right time so we got great investor interest, closed our round really quickly and actually got great press coverage on the back of it.
So far, through Cashkaro we have driven over Rs. 20 Crores of Sales to our Indian retailer partners and over Rs. 125 Crores to the UK retailer partners.All in all, this was the right time for a cashback business like Cashkaro.com to establish its foothold in India and be instrumental in contributing to this growth by providing an effective and high ROI way of driving sales to e-commerce sites and incentivising people to shop online by way of discounts & savings.
Cashkaro.com is a cashback and coupons site; in fact we are India’s No.1 Cashback site. Through Cashkaro, members can get cash-back on all online orders on shopping sites like Snapdeal, Myntra, Yatra and others from more than 500 e-commerce partners. When you go to any of these sites via Cashkaro and shop, retailers pay us commission for that sale.
Initially Rohan and I invested our own money to start Pouring Pounds. Then we raised $75,000 seed money in October 2012 when we pitched at the London Business School Angel investor’s event. In July 2013 we raised $750,000 from a group of angel investors in the UK to grow Cashkaro. These investors believed in the Cashback product and its scope for growth in India. Currently, we have a 30 member team based in Gurgaon and Chennai. So far, through Cashkaro we have driven over Rs. 20 Crores of Sales to our Indian retailer partners and over Rs. 125 Crores to the UK retailer partners. Cashkaro has over 2 Lakh members already and drives over 1,000 transactions to our partner retailers every day.
Our vision and plan for Cashkaro is to continue being India’s No.1 online destination for all kinds of cashback, discounts, offers and coupons. We are also launching other ancillary but useful services on the site which can further improve the user experience. Our new site is also launching this month with improved User Interface. In the next 4 years we are targeting Cashkaro’s gross revenues to be over $30 million and to gather a large user base.
Challenges and Learning
Hiring has been and continues to be the biggest challenge. It’s people who make a company and we’ve tried to recruit the very best talents. We always look for people smarter than us, so that they can own various verticals and different parts of the business can grow in parallel. We have a fantastic team; but as we are growing fast, ensuring that we keep bringing in great talent remains a key priority. I don’t know if we’ve overcome this challenge yet, but we just try harder by getting more recruitment agents involved and doing a lot of online searches and interviews ourselves.
My experience of being an entrepreneur has been incredible! It happened by chance but am glad that it did, and since then there has been no looking back. My advice for all the budding entrepreneurs, based on my experience is:
1. Just go for it. There will always be many arguments for and against, but go with your gut, it’s seldom wrong.
2. Invest in getting a good team together. It will really improve productivity and reduce brain damage, which in turn will increase your productivity too.
3. The world belong to roll-up-your-sleeves entrepreneurs, so ensure you are in that category.
4. Be persistent. Just the fact that you lasted and kept on going will be a competitive advantage because not everyone would have done that.
5. Read ‘The Secret’. It has changed my thinking and surely will motivate you too!