Photo: Vasiliy Yakobchuk
Photo: Vasiliy Yakobchuk

Firms that help you find the best bargain

Mint has profiled four price and product comparison sites, based on interviews with some e-commerce companies

Mumbai: The e-commerce boom in India has spawned many price and product comparison sites. While there are many such sites, Mint has profiled four of them, based on interviews with some e-commerce companies to know about the price comparison sites that give high conversion rates and reasonable commission rates, and have backing from private equity, venture capital and individual, or angel, investors. With e-commerce in India forecast to reach $20 billion (around 1.2 trillion today) by 2015, according to a report by Motilal Oswal Securities Ltd, one can only expect more price and product comparison sites to crop up even as sustaining such a business will remain a challenge.

OFFLINE FOCUS TOO

ENTERPRISE: Solvy Tech Solutions Pvt. Ltd

FOUNDER: Surjendu Kuila and Neeraj Jain

YEAR: 2011

LOCATION: National capital region

BRAND NAME: Zopper.com formely known as Reviews42.com

While most price comparison sites have a focus on online shopping, this company looks at offline retail too. “E-commerce is just 0.4% of the entire retail market in India, hence our focus is providing price comparison services for offline retailers," said Kuila over the phone.

The company provides price comparison services for around 2,000 e-commerce firms and more than 300,000 stores across 600 cities in India across 12 categories of products. Kuila reasons that even in the US, online retail is less than 10% of the total retail market. The company charges a fixed subscription fee to offline retailers of 20 for every lead made to a consumer who makes a purchase. In case of e-commerce firms, the commission charged is between 1% and 25% of the transaction value, depending on the category of products.

Surjendu Kuila (left) and Neeraj Jain.

“Even though India has a large online population, only 14 million make purchases online. Our investors are backing us on this idea," he said. The company raised $1.5 million in its first (Series A) round of funding from Blume Ventures and Nirvana Ventures Advisors in 2012. Tiger Global and existing investors invested $5 million in the company this year.

The company has about 1.5 million registered users who transact between 1,000 and 1,500 on average every month.

COMPLEMENTARY SERVICE

ENTERPRISE: MySmartPrice Web Technology Pvt. Ltd

FOUNDER: Sulakshan Kumar and Sitakanta Ray

YEAR: 2010

LOCATION: Hyderabad

BRAND NAME: Mysmartprice.com

By 2010, the e-commerce sector began to receive a lot of investment and the company’s founders were bullish on the growth of this sector. “We wanted to do something in the e-commerce space, but did not want to set up a retail site. We thought of setting up a branched out e-commerce service," said Kumar over the phone.

The company was set up with an initial investment of 1 lakh that was funded by personal savings. In 2012, it raised 2 crore in the first (Series A) round of funding from Accel Partners and Helion Venture Partners.

Sitakanta Ray (left) and Sulakshan Kumar.

MySmartPrice works with around 50 e-commerce firms and charges them a commission of 3-10% of the transaction value. The company provides price comparison services for around 250 categories of products. The commission varies depending on the type and category of products. It has registered an average of 100,000 users monthly and about 20% of these are repeat consumers.

“The price and product comparison businesses will follow trends similar to that of e-commerce. There will be 4-5 major players in the market and only 1-2 will own 50-60% of the market share," Kumar said. The company is targeting a revenue of 10-15 crore in the current fiscal year with a target to reach a gross merchandise volume (GMV, used in online retailing to indicate a total sales value for merchandise sold) of $500 million by end of calendar 2015. It is also looking to raise a second (Series B) round of funding early next year.

GETTING MORE PRODUCTS

ENTERPRISE: Accentium Web Pvt. Ltd

FOUNDER: Vivek Pahwa

YEAR: 2013

LOCATION: Gurgaon

BRAND NAME: Priceraja.com formerly known as Pricebag.com

When Vivek Pahwa thought of buying a television set online, he realized there were so many options to choose from—like flat screen, high definition, etc.—that would flummox most online users. He realized it was not just price comparison, but even product comparison that must be looked into. This prompted him to start a company with an initial investment of $200,000 and raise $2 million from wealthy individuals.

Vivek Pahwa.

“We currently work with 10-15 e-commerce companies, and provide price and product comparison for six categories of products," said Pahwa over the phone. The company is launching its services in the apparel, home decor, furnishings and fashion categories by the end of this year. Accentium charges e-commerce firms a commission every time a consumer purchases a product using the site. The commission varies across product categories. On average, it is 1% of the transaction value. Pahwa said the company also gets revenue through advertising done on its own website.

The company currently employs a team of 45 people and the focus is on adding more categories of products, and providing full information on price and details of the product. For Pahwa, this is the fourth venture that he has founded. In 2011, his company Gaadi Web Pvt. Ltd (Gaadi.com) was acquired by MIH Group, a part of Naspers Group, a South African conglomerate that backs Internet firms.

EARLY MOVER ADVANTAGE

ENTERPRISE: Girnar Software Pvt. Ltd.

FOUNDER: Anurag Jain

YEAR: 2008

LOCATION: Jaipur

BRAND NAME: Pricedekho.com

Anurag Jain began as one of the first movers in this space by launching sites like Cardekho.com and Bikedekho.com. The price comparison site was started with minimal investment that came from the software export services of the company.

“We saw the opportunity way before others did, e-commerce was in its early stage and we knew we could grow with it," Jain said. The company raised $15 million from Sequoia Capital in December 2013. “(A sum of) $2million would be allocated to pricedekho. We may look at raising another fund, but not a specific one to pricedekho."

Anurag Jain.

The company has tied up with around 50 e-commerce firms and provides price comparison services for 11 broad categories of products. “We charge the companies a commission of 2-15% of the transaction value," he added.

The company has an average registered user base of 1.8 million, of which 30% are repeat customers. The average ticket size of a transaction is 15,000 with a current monthly GMV (gross merchandise volume) at 150 crore. The focus of the company is to create an integrated solution of price comparison, cash-back offers and coupon codes by the end of the next two quarters.

OTHER PRICE COMPARISON AND CASH-BACK SITES

Pricehatke.com

Cashkaro.com

GoPaisa.com

Junglee.com—owned by Amazon, doesn’t provide prices for Flipkart, eBay and a few other competitors

Pennyful.com

WHAT EXPERTS SAY

“There are very few price comparison sites that are backed by PE/VC investors because there is very little to differentiate among these sites," said Anil Joshi, venture partner with Unicorn Ventures, over the phone. He explained that graphical user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) play an important role along with strong algorithms to provide results in the shortest possible time. VCs would prefer supporting a company which has a strong tech team on both algorithms and UI/UX, he said.

“Unlike with e-commerce, where there is room for several investor-backed companies to succeed—the ‘enabler’ space works differently," said Rahul Chowdhri, partner at Helion Venture Partners), in an email response. According to him, there is a clear consumer need for technology solutions (called platforms) that help customers discover products, in terms of selection, fair price and the right choice of e-tailer. That said, a few product discovery platforms should be enough to support Indian e-commerce.

Joshi said the challenges associated with the business models of these sites include tie-ups with as many sites as possible to garner more revenue share, spending on technology such as algorithms to get the best results, having a good UI to appease customers, and spending on advertising to make customer visit their site for price comparisons.

“The price comparison value proposition alone can be hard to scale since the cost of customer acquisition will not justify the money you make per transaction," said Chowdhri.

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