Our aim has always been to meet interesting people and bring them and their stories all together to one platform. In this quest, we have been lucky enough to have met some quite interesting people in a very short span of time. I got introduced to Himanshu Joshi by a childhood friend and found him to be quite a person. While we were discussing his latest venture Guppit, some interesting facts got uncovered. Himanshu, an IIM-B alumni, is also a photographer having held many exhibitions, and a musician, percussionist to be precise, who was also a part of his office band in Noida. He was also a player of the organizational cricket team in one of his previous jobs. His business partner and co founder at Guppit is no less either. Punnet Poddar, also an IIM-B alumni, is a movie maker at heart and has been involved in theaters all through his life. Himanshu was working in a big MNC as a Senior Manager in Corporate Strategy and New Product Development role when the idea of Guppit struck him. He discussed the idea with Puneet, who got interested in the concept and Guppit was born.
In his exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, Himanshu talks about his entrepreneurial history, his current venture Guppit and lots more…
The Entrepreneurial History
I have always believed in extracurricular and doing something out of normal naturally came to me right from my college days. I played sports, won quiz contests, sang songs, played instruments and scored good in my academics. I got placed in CSC and joined it as a COBOL programmer in 2003. However the mere thought of working on something 30-40 years old did not excite me. I wanted to work in the latest technologies such as Java, VB etc. but somehow did not get the chance. Web technologies always excited me, so I learned all these technologies myself and started developing small VB apps and basic websites. The first VB application that I developed in 2004 was an email client that was similar to outlook but very basic in nature. It was less than 1 MB and was very fast. However all these applications were made just to prove to myself that I am equally good at these things as well.
My real interest in dot com started to grow in 2006 when I went to France. I started a web forum for software engineers for sharing their skills and getting solutions for their problems. It was called Software-Gang.com. Long after Software-Gang, Stackoverflow was launched. The website was based on PHP-Nuke and was just a basic installation without much technical changes. The site got hacked within a month, and so I had to close it down. Then came puzzlesforu.com, which was a puzzle site that had lots of puzzles based on various interests. I actually earned 280-300$ from this site and then closed it.
Molu was the first major thing that I did. Molu (www.themolu.com) was a search engine that aggregated results from 28 sources and presented them in a tree form – easy to use for a user. Molu had inline viewing of websites 3 years before Google had launched it. It got featured in various big blogs of the time.
Post MBA I launched another website known as ilovelongurl.com that got featured in lots of startup blogs. It was a simple service that converted a short link into a long one showing the user about the potential dangers of the destination website.
The Guppit Story
It was April 2012 when I was randomly wasting my time on Facebook. I had shared a link the day before and it was re-shared by 17 other people. I thought that I had driven at least 100 visits to the destination website without any incentive. So I decided to build some platform that will enable a user to earn revenue for sharing links. I built the platform, but I did not want to launch it casually. I wanted to make a business out of it. So when I met Puneet, I discussed the idea with him. He became interested and this is how it all started to take shape.
Puneet left his job in December 2012 and I left in March 2013 to work full time on Guppit. We worked hard and launched out the first product, an affiliate advertising platform, in June 2013. By August, we had more than 9000+ registered users with close to 500,000 ad impressions per month. However, we found that we can provide more and better value to the users. And that was when we decided to release the chrome extension. Guppit is all about saving money while shopping online. We help users save money through deals & discounts, cash backs and price alarms.
Unlike any other coupon or cash back website, we directly sit on the browsers and thus the user will automatically get discounts related to the store he is visiting. He does not need to go to any coupons website to search for the deals.
We did a detailed analysis on internet usage in India and found out that most of the online shoppers still prefer shopping through their laptops or PCs rather than their mobiles – reason being the concern over secure payments on mobile. Mobile is definitely the next big thing in online shopping, but what about the needs of people today? We should think for the future but without ignoring the present. A recent report says most of the Indian shoppers who buy online visit coupon sites before making a purchase. We do not feel that going to a coupon store is required.
The roadmap for penetration of ecommerce and associated businesses in India looks as under:
There has been absolutely no play of technology in couponing and cashback space. Today if you see coupon sites in India, they all look exactly the same – flooded with irrelevant coupons and advertisements. We want to clean up that mess using technology. The biggest advantage that Guppit provides is the ease of getting coupons. Through our browser plugins we provide coupons right on the shopping store that a user is visiting. This reduces a lot of pain that the user goes through in finding the coupons through any coupon website. You take any coupon website in India today – you see a lot of clutter, ads flowing on all the corners of the websites, overwhelming with deals. It does not make sense for a user to see a deal for mobile phones when he/she is looking for deals to purchase diapers.
We are trying out various mixes of social media, word of mouth & Google AdWords marketing and will continue the same. We are also planning to recruit some platform evangelists to promote us on social media. We bootstrapped from the beginning until Kyron put some minimum seed funding in us. Fortunately we have credits to take care of our technology infrastructure so we need not worry about funding immediately but yes, in the near future we do look forward to raise angel funding. We plan to build a solid team and so we need to recruit people who have passion for working in a startup kind of environment, taking the responsibilities, rather the ownership of tasks, and deliver more than what is asked for.
We do not want to operate in the couponing space alone. We want to launch more products that can save money for any user. The savings can be through deals, discounts, cashbacks or probably free samples. We have learnt a lot about these spaces, so we will start through them first and later move into other venues.
The Challenges and Learning
I will not say the challenge has been finance because that is one common problem that everyone has and you need to manage it smartly. For us the biggest challenge has been marketing. We tried various ways to market our product. Someone suggested taking the social promotions path, someone else suggested taking the AdWords path. When we started, we were absolutely confused how to go about marketing.
Well, we took some time to understand that whatever we do should appeal to the user. So we started to organize new contests for which we had some goodies as rewards. Most of these rewards will actually be equivalent to our user acquisition cost that we had budgeted for. The contests were held inside a user’s profile. So a person had to register before answering any question. This I believe was the most creative way we found out to tackle the challenge.
I am not a businessman who thinks about only money. My aim is to build something that adds value to the user who uses it. I strongly believe that if you are able to make your place somewhere in the value chain, you will automatically make money. For me, analysis means a lot. I randomly do surveys and researches to validate my hypothesis. I also do not believe in closed and secretly done surveys and researches. I am willing to share the data for all my researches if it helps someone.
We all have witnessed many Coupons & Deals websites coming and vanishing over the last couple of years. What we found different with Guppit is that it comes with a robust technology behind it and a group of people who are focused more on customer value-addition than the profit they want to take home. However, only time will tell the distance they will cover. We, at LifeBeyondNumbers, wish them luck and the spirit to make a change.