Sahil Chalana is a BITS Pilani alumnus who went on to startup 3.14 Digital in early 2011. “Our specialisation was Lead Generation for clients like NIIT, Educomp Raffles, and Policybazaar,” says Sahil. In May 2012, 3.14, as a network, was doing close to 5 million emails per month for lead generation and had a tele verification unit of 4 people. This was also the time when eCommerce industry was growing, and they got Rocket Internet backed Foodpanda as their first eCommerce client. Facilitated by growth in eCommerce, in June 2013, their network capacity had become 35 million mails a month.
Growing to 25 people in terms of team strength, many of them were big online shoppers and had many ideas around eCommerce. Around February, Nishit who had just joined the team, pitched an idea to develop a coupons aggregation platform and the thought went well with most in the team. They decided to put in Rs 20 lakh and incubate the idea which got the name- Zoutons, with 6 people working on it. “Many of the people from our team are compulsive online shoppers and regularly hunt for best coupons, discounts etc. In a way, our passion for Discount hunting and the thought of Zoutons as a product being a logical extension to our affiliate marketing company made us internally incubate the Zoutons,” further explains Sahil.
Based out of Delhi, they launched the product in July 2013 with the main focus on coupon quality. “Majority of time is being spent on training teams to deliver the best available deals on all stores. We are now delivering coupons, deals and discounts on around 300 top eCommerce stores, 50 banks and 450 brands for our users,” says Sahil, and the aim is to cover 700 stores and 1500 brands by the end of 2013.
More on the couponing space
There are numerous coupon aggregators, and eventually a handful will remain. Looking at it from the entrepreneur’s point of view, the couponing space has two major components -a. The merchants space - This includes eCommerce stores, banks and brands. eCommerce stores regularly release coupons. Around 15-20% of online sales on top stores today comes from affiliate marketing out of which around 60% is through coupons. For these players, new customer acquisition cost (CAC) through affiliates is around 30% lower than other marketing channels like Google, Facebook, etc., according to Sahil.
The monetisation for couponing websites comes when there is an actual sale (Cost Per Sale model), and the affiliate commission may vary from 5 to 20%. This is the primary business model for most couponing websites.
b. The couponing portals - There is an obvious overcrowding but in the long run, the portals which have high recall value will win. This is the reason why players put in a lot of effort to ensure that they have the largest coupon repository for every store and are deliver the newest coupons fastest.