India has become a nation of rising opportunities for entrepreneurs and a breeding ground for young business enthusiasts, but it has not always been so. In fact, the change is very recent.
While many credit the liberal economic policies of the early 90’s as the catalyst for this change, I think the biggest shift occurred in the last five years is that the cost of starting up has reduced while the potential rewards have increased.
Traditionally, to start a technology-enabled company required buying servers, bandwidth, licenses and more, upfront. With the advent of cloud services over the last few years that allow you to pay only for what you use, most of these up-front costs have reduced.
Aside from actual cost reductions, there has been a decrease in opportunity or reputational cost when starting up. Societal ties in India are very strong, and thus, those who want to enter into a ‘risky career’ often need to consider the opinions of those around them such as one’s parents, extended relatives, one’s prospective spouse (and by that extension, their set of family).
To please their families, youngsters would often pursue a safe corporate career. However, in recent years young people have become more assertive and hence more likely to make their own choices. Further, their families are more open to starting up because Indian entrepreneurial success stories have become much more frequent.
Entrepreneurs, of course, require not only the necessary push to jump into self-employment but also a viable business idea. India, with its 1.3 billion strong population and the corresponding surging consumerism especially in terms of technology, is craving for innovative and new product offerings. It will not be long before India is the world’s third largest domestic market.
And that – India’s market potential – is what brought me here. I was born and raised in Boston, and had never imagined living in India. After all, both my parents and, even grandparents are in the US. But as I watched India from afar, I decided this was a story I did not want to miss out on. India is in the midst of a once in a lifetime transformation and I wanted to be a part of. But, I still needed an idea.
In the US, I used coupons regularly to save on shopping, especially online shopping. This desire to save money is a universal trait. Indians, who were starting to migrate to shopping online, were going to need a resource to help them find the latest and best coupons, offers, and discounts for their online shopping. There was no such place, so I decided to create it.
I applied lessons learnt as a user of American coupon sites to differentiate from the other Indian coupon sites during the early days. I now recall how back in the late 90’s or early 2000’s, there were multiple American coupon sites but most of the coupons listed were out-of-date. In fact, they were so unreliable that I stopped using coupon sites for at least 3-4 years. And then, out of the inefficient lot, emerged a site with a reliable and consistently-updated list of coupons, which compelled me to start using coupons again.
So the lesson learnt was: ‘create a reliable resource key to gain returning users.’ It was then my mission to create an experience that would not be frustrating to users. There was a need to not only create a tool but to make it a good one and have a loyal customer base for the product despite multiple competitors emerging every other day. This focus made CouponDunia quickly move to the top of the Indian coupon industry and has remained there since.
It’s been a great journey so far and we expect that as the country continues to shine – especially with the smartphone boom – that our businesses will continue to improve. We are especially heartened by the recent attention of the current government in creating a better environment for startups. It would have been unheard of just a few years back for the government to devote any amount of attention to startups. Clearly, times have changed for the better.