Crowning It Like A Boss A conversation with Sameer Grover, founder and CEO of Crown-It

By Ritu Kochar

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Crown it

Never did it think when collecting those crowns of cola bottles that sometime in the future I will eventually get something out of it. Only this time I did not have to worry about them getting lost constantly as my collection went online, and the false gifts those advertisements claimed turned into cash backs. And all this was made possible because of Crown it.

I think of cash backs as those little amounts of money you find in your pocket. A little gift from me to future me. This is the joy Crown it is constantly trying to bring into people's life.

The idea for Crown-it was conceptualized in early 2014 when, now founder and CEO, Sameer Grover was sipping coffee with a friend in a cafe in Delhi. Since, Crown it has taken a giant step of taking the successful business from Gurgaon to other cities across India. How did that happen? We'll let Sameer answer it.

What is Crown it?

"Just as the online sales are on hike so are the cashback trends. Crown it cashback is also known as Crowns which users can earn by uploading their bills on the Crown it App. These crowns can then be used as money to shop online on various E-commerce sites such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, etc.

The Cashback to customers is credited to their closed Wallet, which the customer uses for talk-time, Bill Payments, Online Shopping, Movie tickets, Charity etc. Crown-it enables the merchants to create customized deals – which are dynamic and targeted to specific audiences based on their gender, location, spending and eating habits, and day of week, time of day etc. The merchants are, in turn, charged a percentage of business driven to them.

Consumers have started to shop at the virtual market and earn cashback rather than opting for discounts or bargaining at the store. Thus, cashback give more satisfaction to customer's shopping experience by choices of cashback refund."

The whole process of how the idea behind Crown-it originated sounds fascinating. Please share your story.

"When I was heading product for Knowlarity, I used to interact a lot with SMEs. And I saw a clear opportunity and need for a marketing solution to help local SME retailers to help them grow their business. And I wanted to make it fun and engaging for the consumer. Hence Crownit was born. Consumer use Crownit to discover local merchants and deals on those merchants. And transact there to earn Crowns and participate in our game.

The startup idea was born in a café in Delhi in early 2014 while sipping coffee with a friend. What's different about this story is that we managed to build a product based on the instant feedback from our potential customers right there. We decided to talk to some customers present at the café to validate the idea. We asked them if they would be interested in a free coffee or discount at the café on their next visit. They dismissed us – saying they don't care about such offers. However, one customer called me back and said, 'If you offered me free talktime, then I will definitely come back here again. I can even go to the other café instead of this one if you do that. This prompted me to create a blueprint for an app which could do this.'

Is it true that the name of your startup originated from the game of collecting crowns from cola bottles?

"Yes, the name originates from childhood game of collecting crowns of cola bottles to get free gifts. Crown it app lets customers collect crowns from local businesses in the form of cashback. And they use the cashback to redeem for goodies like online shopping, movie tickets and talktime."

What's your business model like?

"Crownit business is to drive high volumes of business to local merchants and retailers in domains: F&B, Beauty, Health, Fitness, Hotels, Movies and Special Experiences. We charge the local merchants a commission % of the business driven to these merchants. We started operations in Mar-2014 and for first 15 months we serviced only F&B in one city. Now we service 6 categories in 4 cities. Our head quarter is in Gurgaon and we have offices in Mumbai and Bangalore also."

Any luck with funding yet?

"I am a believer that an entrepreneur should sell his/her idea to investors early on to get validation of the idea. I took angel investment before starting up and then took two rounds of more seed+angel before VC round. Total $300k of Angel+seed and $5.5Mn from VCs."

What's your plan for the future?

"We will end the FY16 with GMV run rate of $120mn. We are currently present in 4 cities. Adding 4 more in 2016. We are operationally profitable in our launch city and others are on path to profitability. As a company we will be operationally profitable by Dec'17. (24 months from now). We currently have 200 staff strength in 3 offices. We have over 600,000 users and over 10,000 merchants on our platform."

What has been your biggest challenge since Crown it's conception?

"Finding great talent is a challenge we are facing currently. We have great people working in the company. We need more of those."

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.

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