Buying a new tech product whether it’s a smartphone, laptop or tablet can be a daunting decision. There are many criteria to factor in such as the specifications, usability and most importantly value for money. Pricebaba founded by Tirthesh Ganatra, Annkur P Agarwal, and Dhruv Patel gives customers an answer to the all-important question- “Which one should I buy?” while giving them the best local and lowest online prices. The platform currently serves Mobile Phones in 10 cities across India as well as popular ecommerce platforms. We chat with Annkur about the venture. An excerpt from the interview:
- What made you start your venture?
We all have that one friend in the group, whom we ask for suggestion while buying any gadget. Well, in my group, I was that friend who everyone called. That’s when I realised that many people face this dilemma when it comes to finalising their buying decision and thus Pricebaba happened. Overtime many others who like me are influencers in their friend circle have joined in to help make Pricebaba better. We at Pricebaba help our users to decide which phone to buy, where to buy it from, how much to buy it for and what to do after the purchase. We also inform you if there are any good deals or offers on products which you shouldn’t miss.
- What has been the key to your business’s success?
We started Pricebaba with a simple aim to offer our users the best possible data for shopping locally. In process we offered a wide catalogue of products, unmatched local shopping data for mobile phones in 15+ cities and a very usable web interface. It would be safe to say that our consumer focus has given us over 100 million visits on Pricebaba.com till date. Association with 500 Startups, the exposure in Silicon Valley during our time at the (Business Accelerator) there and the mentorship has really helped us over the past few years.
- What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
One of the major challenges for us was to bring local retailers online. These are unorganized retailers with low intent to use the internet & no systems at their end. Getting their data online was tough. We created simple browser based interface for these retailers and gave them assistance for the first few days to upload their inventory data. Once they started seeing traction, a decent percentage of these folks started updating data by themselves. Apart from this one of the challenges that online commerce in India faces is trust. For this reason we are very selective and slow in adding new merchants to the site. Be it online or local, each merchant that goes live on Pricebaba is vetted by our team and only after we have a reasonable amount of confidence in their ability to serve our users. This requires some amount of manual & operational effort at our end. We believe that the end result is worth it!
- Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
We have been blessed to have some of the finest mentors & business coaches guiding & challenging us in our journey so far. Two of them being Vinayak Hegde and Aditya Mishra. Vinayak has seen the ups and downs of a startup himself and has worked in a variety of large and small companies including Microsoft, Speedera (acquired by Akamai) and Inmobi. His understanding of technology, big data and business is immense. Vinayak makes us think through our problems and pushes us to take long term decisions that has made a lot of our vision possible. On the other hand Aditya (SwitchMe) has been with us since day 0 as a friend, mentor and angel investor. His expertise in everything startups, leadership and sales is something we look up to everytime. It would be safe to say that Aditya has helped the founding team at Pricebaba sustain and see through the rough times time and again. All our sales and BD effort has learnings from him that we have successfully applied. And the industry connections that he brings to us is only an added bonus when looked in comparison with other things he has helped us with.
- Have you benefited from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
We realised that while the interface that we needed for retailers is very simple and web based, an app is more sticky and doesn’t need as frequent logins. So one of our engineers after a field visit produced an Android app which was basically just a wrapper on our web interface. That helped us quite a bit. It may sound very low-tech, but Whatsapp groups has been a good channel for us to engage our retailers and operations staff.
- What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
There are various ways in which we get input on customer satisfaction. To begin with any feedback filled on the website still comes to the founders so that issues are looked at pro-actively and process changes are accommodated quickly. We mine data of user searches inside Pricebaba.com and find out what our users want. So if someone is looking for Lenovo phones that support 4G, we will give that to them upfront. Or if many users are looking for a particular category of products like Laptops, we add that category. We are big fans of how TrueCaller expanded its scope and also gave us TrueMessenger. Thus understanding user needs is a big part of deciding our direction. We also believe that each team member should be profitable and should bring back good ROI for the company. So our expansion is generally planned such that each addition in the team takes us forward in one way or another. We also do an exercise called Dragon Scroll where everyone across the company goes on the field and tests our product with real users on the streets. This help us to improve our user experience immensely and build more empathy in our team toward real life users.
- What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?