Is Freecharge.in on path to becoming the ultimate Indian Cult Couponing Brand?

Free ChargeSomeone said, “There are no free lunches”. Whoever did, certainly wasn’t net-savvy. Because ranked among the top 10 Indian websites based on number of transactions per day, Freechrage.in does complete justice to the term ‘Free’.

In conversation with Jubin Mehta for YourStory.in, Kunal Shah, founder of Freecharge.in tells us how his venture made it big in the very short amount of time it has been in existence.

Freecharge.in has become a household name with the college-crowd, when was it started?

In India, the word “Free” is more often than not associated with numerous hidden terms and conditions that often end up killing the entire proposition intended for the end customer. Freecharge.in was conceived based on the idea that this mould should be broken. We wanted to ensure that customers received true value from their recharges, which would encourage repeat purchase behavior, thereby increasing footfalls for the couponing partners and retailers. Freecharge.in was officially launched on 15th August, 2010.

What triggered you to start Freecharge.in?

I have always been a big believer of “free” concepts and these kind of ideas occur to me all the time. Accelyst’s earlier venture, Paisaback, looked at innovative ways to market cashback promotions. People like free things, but at the same time, I believe that free products and services offer no value if there is no effort on the customer’s part. While I was looking at ideas for club promotions via mobile telephony, the idea of Freecharge occurred to me. Further brainstorming with my team led to the refinement of the concept.

How many transactions take place on an average per day on Freecharge.in?

We have to refrain from quoting this number, but we are already amongst the top 10 websites in India in terms of number of transactions per day.

What is your revenue model?

Free ChargeRecharge is a “thinner-than-wafer” margin business, and so are the profits. But having said that, we are doing good numbers in terms of recharge volume. Our business model is based on commissions from couponing partners as well as advertising.

How did you manage to bring in all the big names to give discount coupons?

The business model itself is very simple, clear of any hidden terms and conditions. We aim to provide maximum value to the end customer while maintaining increased footfall to the retailer. Having said that, our offerings come with a “too-good-to-be-true” tag. It took a while before people started believing in what we had to offer. We started with McDonalds and Barista, and today have associations with about 35 partners and the list growing by the day.

What were the challenges you faced while starting up?

We faced all of the challenges that most startups face, but we were lucky enough to get great customer buy-in. Further, the viral effect saved us because we didn’t have to spend any money on advertising like many companies have to. One of the biggest challenges we face even today is supporting our infrastructure. Payment gateways, telecom gateways, and courier companies all have a huge scope for improvement. Also recruiting talent is never easy.

How big is your team, currently? Share with us your expansion plans.

At present, our team consists of 35 members who work within customer care, sales/ marketing, technology, and logistics. We plan to increase our head count to 100 members within the next two to three months and expand our offices to Delhi and Bangalore. We are always looking for great talent to come help us make this big.

Finally, share with us your vision for Freecharge.in

We are all aware of instant online recharge, but with the advent of Freecharge.in, the times are changing for sure! By understanding the psyche of the consumer (letting them self select coupons) and serving customers pan India, we are changing the rules of the game. With the soon to be launched DTH and Data Cards, our vision is to be the ultimate ‘cult’ couponing brand.

What are you waiting for? Do try freecharge.in and let us know your feedback by leaving a comment.

Jubin Mehta

Jubin Mehta

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about more than 1000 startups. With an engineering background and a keen interest in data analysis, his passion for writing and entrepreneurship makes him a perfect match for Yourstory. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he also runs a hackbase. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at jubin@yourstory.com