The flourishing eCommerce industry in India has something in it for all concerned parties. Competitive prices, multiple choices and convenience for the shoppers, a great market for the retailers, booming investment opportunities for the funds and a good buck for associated service providers. TheResPage, which has recently stepped into this space, has gone out-of-the-box by including a social angle to online shopping.
Founded by Ankit Dutt, Akhil Suhag, Nishant Baghel and Akshay Suhag, TheResPage was launched in April 2013, to make ‘free’ contributions to social causes, whilst engaging in online retail.
We spoke to co-founder Akhil Suhag about their motivation to startup, their passion for social causes and their ambition to make a living out of it.
Marrying entrepreneurship and a social cause
Akhil’s interest in online businesses, his belief of ‘internet being a really powerful medium’ and his desire to marry entrepreneurship and social causes motivated him to startup. But it was the e-commerce boom catching Akhil’s attention, that brought the pieces of the puzzle together.
“The idea to use the e-commerce buzz to make donations free, came to us a couple months ago. We thought this would be a unique advertisement for the online stores, which so far have been relying on the usual methods of advertisements, which are unable to ‘assure’ them of any sales” says Akhil, of the crux of the business. The opportunity to ‘donate’ while shopping, particularly since it does not cost anything to the customers, Akhil says, would be a good reason for many to shop.
How does it work?
The process is simple -- log on to their website, choose from the list of NGO’s you wish to support, select the retail site you wish to shop on. You are redirected to the homepage of your chosen e-store, where, its business as usual. The navigation which adds a few extra clicks to the shopping experience, does not charge the customers for the donation (which also means that the product price remains the same when you choose to navigate your purchase through TheResPage). The business generates money out of commissions that the retail websites pay (at varying rates) for any purchase generated through TheResPage. The company retains a part of the commission and 80% of the money generated, is passed on to the NGO’s. Speaking of the business model, which is explicitly set out on their website, Akhil says, “transparency is key in what we are doing. We need people to trust us. Only then will they use our platform”.
Since the launch, the website has already partnered with 20 retail sites including Flipkart, MakyMyTrip, Infibeam and Jabong. Currently, TheResPage allows contributions to three NGO’s, though Akhil says, they are looking at adding to that list soon.
The obvious challenge for the company is to generate awareness of their website and increase traffic. Akhil says, this problem manifests in two ways, “even though using our website adds nothing to the cost, it is an extra step. People are impatient and also, until the trend catches on, we are worried people may simply forget to pass through our site”. The team is engaging in extensive online and offline marketing, with offline campaigns creating awareness about several social causes, which they hope will bring attention to their business. “To start with, we are also partnering with known NGO’s, who are using their own network and social media presence to create awareness about us”, says Akhil. The strategy is to try and get people to adopt TheResPage as their ‘homepage’.
While the team is really optimistic and ambitious of their venture, they are realistic about their expectations from it. “Social impact is our focus. That is what we will measure our success with, not what the business generates for us”, says Akhil.
For a young team and their maiden venture (while Akhil and Nishant, both computer engineers from Manipal Institute of Technology have work experience under their belt, Akshay and Ankit, will be graduating soon from NIT, Allahabad and IMT Ghaziabad respectively), TheResPage is dreaming big and doing it the ‘right way’. How did the values outweigh the commercials, we ask? “We didn't over-think the challenges, which often results in manufacturing problems that does not exist, and it is impossible to get past something that doesn’t really exist”, says Akhil, of their ‘week long project’ which they have managed to take online in a month.