CashKaro is an online portal where you get to make an enormous amount of savings through your purchases. We got an amazing opportunity to interview the co-founder of CashKaro, Swati Bhargava to share her successful journey and has managed to inspire startups and entrepreneurs.
Durofy: How would you describe CashKaro in 1 sentence?
A one-stop savings destination for all online shopping
Durofy: How did the idea of starting CashKaro come about?
My husband Rohan and I came across the Cashback concept when we were booking our flight to Maldives for our honeymoon and we got Rs 25,000 in Cashback via a UK Cashback site and totally loved it. We thought it was so simple and easy… if someone knew about a Cashback site, why they won’t use it! We felt there was a gap in the market so we ventured into the world of entrepreneurship in 2011 with Pouring Pounds – a B2B Cashback and Rewards website in the UK before launching CashKaro.com in India. While coupon sites and the deals model were doing well in 2013, we were sure the Cashback model which was a proven, tried & tested model in the West can bring value and sweeten the deal for the deal-savvy Indian online shopper. This led us to start CashKaro.com in India in mid-2013. We were also inspired by the success of Ebates.com, largest US Cashback site and Fanli.com in China.
Also, Indian e-commerce was growing really fast and we thought adopting the Affiliate route was an effective and less capital-intensive way of partaking in this growth. Indian e-commerce is projected to reach $100 billion by 2020. Affiliate marketing would account for about 20% of these sales, making the market size for CashKaro about $20 billion.
Durofy: How different is CashKaro in comparison to its competitors? And how do you cut through the competition?
Our first mover advantage has helped us stay far ahead in this game. We are the largest and the only VC funded cashback site in India so that has helped us remain at the top and grow at 30-40% per month. What gives CashKaro an edge over Coupon-only sites is the added “cashback” element that a CashKaro member can earn. While coupon-only sites provide coupons to their members, CashKaro provides the same coupons too but with additional Cashback on top! This makes the savings from CashKaro more than double compared to Coupon-only sites as now members can get both Cashback and coupons in one place. We believe that once you shop through CashKaro you will never shop at a coupon site again. Also, time and again we have introduced new features which enhance user experience and this has strengthened our market leader position. We have also added Product Discovery & Price Comparison feature which empower users to compare various Cashback offers and Coupons at a product level, thereby making an informed buying decision across sites.
Durofy: What were your biggest challenges faced while running CashKaro?
Hiring has been and remains the biggest challenge. For any business, and especially a start-up to succeed it is important to find a way to motivate everyone in the team and to induce the same passion in everyone that the Founders have. We are really lucky that our team is absolutely awesome. Similar to other start-up ventures infrastructure issues, talent availability and retention were major hurdles. We took risks and worked with third parties and developers who over-promised and under-delivered but it all worked out in the end!
When we started out, only coupon sites existed in India. We had to ensure that our concept was understood by potential partnering e-retailers first, and only then could we speak to customers. Building partnerships with e-retailers took us roughly 6 months before we started out. We also had to put in processes that ensured retailers paid commission on time and play fair, so that our customers get paid on time. As we drive a lot of sales & affiliate marketing is growing, these challenges are lessened and the sector is gaining clout!
Durofy: What are main marketing channels for promoting CashKaro?
We put in a lot of time, money, thinking, and effort on strategies for reaching our target audience. We invest in Google ads, Facebook ads, Emailers, Social Media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram etc) and work on attracting a different audience pool from each vertical. Our Facebook page is very engaging and informative. We also have an engaging Twitter account @Cashkarocom and are always doing creative activities on our social media.
Durofy: What were the most memorable or funny moments in this journey?
Two months after we launched CashKaro, there was a lot of traction in the business and figured that it was a good time to raise money and scale it up. We were looking to raise USD 250K and by the end of the evening, I had about 20 responses from people who were interested. After having back-to-back meetings in 48 hours, we closed a round of USD 750,000 from a group of UK based angel investors working for companies like PayPal, Investec, Gumtree.com, and so on. To close funding in only 48 hours was totally an incredible and an unforgettable experience!
Durofy: What’s in store for 2018?
Over the next few years, our efforts will be towards solidifying and cementing our market-leading position in India in the Cashback & Coupons space. Also, we will be looking at expanding our presence in South-East Asian countries. In the near future, we will primarily be working on extensions and derivatives of our mobile initiatives including the launch of CashKaro’s mobile app. We’ll continue to work in parallel on our recently launched price & product comparison feature which has made CashKaro the smartest and easiest savings destination. Lastly, we believe that offline retail will remain a large opportunity in India hence, we shall be focussing on further developments in our Card Linked Offers product since we are the pioneers for the same in India.
Durofy: What would be your advice for budding entrepreneurs starting out?
Work hard and have faith in what you have set out to achieve. You’ll only be able to do justice if you really believe in the idea and your ability to execute it! If you feel that the going is getting too tough… just stay at it. It’s not been easy for anyone who was there before you too. Sometimes people are successful just because they lasted.