Online shopping research and discovery startup MySmartPrice has just raised series A funding of $1 million – around INR 6 crore – from Helion Venture Partners and Accel Partners. "Till date, we have been doing reasonably well in electronics and books categories. This round of funding will enable us to transform MySmartPrice from a category player to a true horizontal player with all product categories listed on our site," Sulakshan Kumar, co-founder, MySmartPrice, told YourStory.
This Hyderabad-based startup's price comparison engine helps you find the best products in several categories, including mobiles, electronics, computers, fashion and lifestyle, cameras, books, appliances and personal care. Both Helion and Accel, earlier in July 2012, had pumped in INR 2 crore to help MySmartPrice fine-tune their products and hire talent.
The secret sauce
Ecommerce was the sunrise sector when Sitakanta Ray and Sulakshan Kumar started MySmartPrice in late 2010. They didn't have much capital or operational experience in the field, but were armed with enough technology expertise. Sitakanta is an alumnus of IIM Bangalore, with seven years of work experience with Oracle and ICICI Bank. Sulakshan is an alumnus of NIT, Rourkela, who had worked with Sitakanta at Oracle. He had earlier worked at Infosys.
Their dream was to become the Shopping.com of India. The US-based company, now part of the eBay Commerce Network, pioneered online comparison shopping over a decade ago. "Right from day 1, our focus was on accuracy. Yes, we wanted to have a comprehensive set of products from premier brands and trusted online stores, but it was important to ensure that the information we had on them was accurate," Sulakshan recalls. This, he says, was a huge engineering challenge for the two-member MySmartPrice team. But they cracked it, and within a year of registering their company in July 2011, they managed to find funding.
There are several other players in the price comparison space. What really worked for MySmartPrice? "Besides accuracy of price and product information, from the beginning we focussed on marketing as well. We also listed several products across categories," says Sitakanta.
One of their key learnings has been that to be really successful in this space, "one needs to become a destination site providing the user much more than just price comparison". They realised this early on and tried to provide the user with much more details like product reviews from experts, video reviews, coupons applicable, accurate product specifications and filters apart from just the best prices.
"Comparison shopping products are a function of the e-retail market. The bigger the e-retail market, the bigger a comparison shopping engine will be. India is a new market. There are many players in this segment, which is definitely a good sign. More competition means better products, which will ultimately benefit the consumer," Sulakshan says.
Even when they raised the first round of funding in 2012, they were just a two-member team. They had about 2.5 million monthly users then. Now, they have a traction of close to 10 million visits per month. "We have grown almost 2.5 times in the last 12 months," Sulakshan says. Now they have over 30 members in their team.
"What has helped us is that we have been maintaining good relationship with all our partner stores and try to pass on to them and our users as much benefit as we can. We can confidently say that we are one of the least expensive and most effective marketing channels for our partner stores," he says.
"Philosophically we believe in growing together and adding real value to the whole e-retail ecosystem. This thinking has really helped us to grow and add value for our users and partners," he adds.