Sunil Mantri: Could you please tell us something about yourself?
Rohan Bhargava: I have completed my education from the London School of Economics after studying in the US. I started my career with an asset management fund called Washington Square right after college in 2004. Here I grew the asset base from $50 million to $750 million in just over 5 years. Thereafter I joined Aladdin Capital, a large US based hedge fund, where I led a $1 billion acquisition of Solent Capital and continued to work with it for the next 2 years.
My first entrepreneurial venture was Pouring Pounds, a B2B cashback business which I started with my wife Swati business in the UK in July 2011. After its success in the UK, we launched CashKaro.com in India in April 2013. At CashKaro.com, I am leading the online marketing, strategic product development and innovation. I also work closely with the Chief Technology Officer to strategize and execute key projects.
Today, CashKaro.com is India’s largest and fastest growing cashback & coupons site.
SM: How did the idea of CashKaro come to your mind?
RB: The Cashback business has been an extremely successful model in the West. The growing Indian e-commerce industry and the innate trait to SAVE MORE led us to start CashKaro.com in April 2013 in India. We believed it was a great product/market fit for India as people here love savings and are naturally inclined to seek EXTRA whenever they shop online. Our first venture Pouring Pounds also served as a great predecessor to CashKaro.
SM: You also have co-founded Pouring Pounds. What is the difference between CashKaro and Pouring Pounds?
RB: Pouring Pounds is a B2B Cashback business in the UK. Here our model is to set up branded cashback and vouchers sites for newspapers, corporates, and large transactional websites that are looking to offer another incentives to their customers. This strategy allows us to inorganically achieve a large market reach without incurring the massive customer acquisition costs. Our partners promote the white label website to their own audience, while we take care of all other aspects like technology, retailer relationships, customer support and hosting. In the UK, we ran five cashback websites, including the website for one of the UK’s largest newspapers, the Daily Mail. We also operate Pouringpounds.com a Cashback and Voucher website works with 2,500 popular brands like Tesco, Debenhams, M&S, Expedia, and Argos.
CashKaro.com on the other hand is a B2C Cashback & Coupons site. We are the market leader in this space in India and provide EXTRA CASHBACK on more than 500+ sites including Amazon.in, Paytm, Snapdeal, Jabong etc.
SM: Is it easier to do business in India or London and why?
RB: Doing business in India is quite different from working in the UK. The Indian mindset is comparatively more flexible as people are ready to discuss work even at odd hours. On the other hand, in London everything is scheduled beforehand and is systematic.
While Indian e-commerce is expected to be a $100 Billion industry by the year 2020 access to elementary infrastructure like internet or clarity on digital commerce guidelines are the biggest roadblocks.
Finding the right talent or human resource at the right price is a challenge irrespective of the country.
SM: Did you raise any funds for CashKaro? How easy or difficult was it?
RB: We raised USD 750,000 in seed funding from a group of UK based angel investors working for companies like PayPal, Investec, Gumtree.com, and so on. We are the only externally funded Cashback site in India.
We met some of these investors at E100 event, which is an angel investing arm of London Business School. We pitched there for funding for CashKaro.com and were overwhelmed by the confidence they invested in us. Our presence and success in the UK market for two years as Pouring Pounds did have a positive impact in getting funded by market giants like them.
SM: Do you think you being in US/UK help found CashKaro? Or would you have been still founded CashKaro if you were in India.
RB: It definitely did! We were inspired by the success of Cashback businesses abroad. India has been on our mind since the time we started Pouring Pounds in the UK. But at that time e-commerce in India was still gathering momentum and investor confidence. Deal sites were becoming popular but people were not exposed to the CASHBACK model and its benefits. Cashback model is a great product/market fit for India as people here love savings and are naturally inclined to seek EXTRA whenever they shop online. Also the pace at which the e-commerce industry was growing it did not take us much time to decide to start a similar Cashback site in India as well.
But, starting business in UK did help us in building our foundations here.
SM: Could you share some current facts about Cashkaro
RB: We are the largest and the only externally funded cashback site and it has helped us remain at the top and grow at a rate of 30-40% per month. The CashKaro brand name is now synonymous to Cashback and savings and we are 3X – 10X times larger than other cashback sites. Thus far CashKaro.com has driven over Rs 150 crores of sales to its partners and given over Rs 10 Crores of real cash as Cashback to its members.
CashKaro has a savvy user community of over 1.5 million shoppers and manages over 5,500 transactions a day. We expect to cross Rs 500 crores in GMV and credit more than Rs 25 crores as Cashback in the next 9 months.
SM: How do you reach out to your customers now and plan to reach in future?
RB: We have a robust marketing team which continuously works on customer acquisition via email, SEM, SEO and referrals. We also reach out to and engage with our users on social media like Facebook or Twitter as most of them are there. From time to time we also spend on conventional methods like Radio to reach out to our users.
Going forward while we will continue with above said we will have a larger spend in ATL promotions to reach out to newer users.
SM: Being one of the fastest growing cashback company any chances of cashkaro being brought out by bigger companies?
RB: We are performance driven model and generate high ROI for retailers. The largest cashback site in China, Fanli.com already has over 70 million members. Rakuten recently bought ~10% stake in Fanli valuing at $1 Billion. Ebates.com, largest US cashback site was bought for $1 Billion by Rakuten. These activities have already set a great precedence for us and attracted a lot of investor interest. We will look at proposals should they align with our business strategy.
I believe the opportunity in India can be even greater as we are at the start of the e-commerce era which is here to stay.
SM: How do you see future industry of eCommerce
BG: Booming economy, endless opportunities and rapidly increasing Internet population have set the stage for incredible eCommerce growth in India. According to a recently released report by Goldman Sachs, the e-commerce market will account for 2.5% of India’s GDP by 2030, growing 15 times and reaching $300 billion (about Rs 19,200 crore) from $20 billion (about Rs 1,280 crore) at present. The report also stated that India will have the second-largest digital population in the world with one billion users by 2030, powered by online mobile penetration. Lastly, the lack of infrastructure in many cities in India make ecommerce a necessity so we are very bullish about the growth of ecommerce in India.