Hailing from a humble family, Ravi Kumar completed his engineering from the JSS Academy of Technical Education in Noida in 2009. He worked as a web developer for a year and also got through to NITIE, Mumbai, for a course in MBA. The year was 2010 and the e-commerce wave was hitting India. It was during this time, pretty early in the wave, that Ravi realized the potential of the secondary industry over e-commerce — deals and coupons. And this is how FreeKaaMaal came into existence. There is tough competition in the space with the likes of CashKaro, CouponRani, and others. Let us hear from Ravi how he has braved the competition and is scripting his success story.
How did you begin on this journey?
RK: I always had this desire to start something of my own. College days are the best time for that as you don’t have any pressure and most importantly nothing to lose. In 2010, e-commerce was a big buzz and everybody was talking about daily deals and group buying sites. At that time I started FreeKaaMaal.com with the aim of providing low priced deals, offers and free stuff to my readers. A website which was initially started as a simple blog with Rs.1500 investment (domain purchase + web hosting) has evolved into a big portal within just one year, serving more than 50,000+ users daily. In my final year of MBA, I got placed as SCM Consultant in Gati Ltd but dropped the idea of joining. After leaving the lucrative corporate offer and completing my MBA, I incorporated my company on May 2, 2012, as Gratica Labs Pvt Ltd and began the hiring process.
How has the business model evolved?
RK: Right now we have a team of 17 talented individuals handling everything from operations to marketing. The team consists of professionals from various MNCs like IDEA, Monsters and graduates from prestigious institutes IITs & DCE. FreeKaaMaal.com was founded when everybody was talking about e-commerce in India, but apart from e-commerce there is a second industry of deals and coupons. Initially the aim of FreeKaaMaal.com was just to provide information about various free sampling campaigns run by FMCG companies but with the boom of e-commerce, we have started giving information about low priced deals and coupons. Our model works on the principle of collective intelligence where other shoppers share deals with us and we select the best deals out of it and promote it on the home page. (see forum) Today, FreeKaaMaal.com is more than three-and-a-half years old and serving more than 4.5mn visitors per month.
What are your thoughts about the e-commerce space in India?
RK: India’s e-commerce market has shown rapid growth over the last few years and as the number of internet users will increase from current 11%, the e-commerce market will also grow. Various surveys have predicted that over the next three years e-commerce in India is going to be an $8 billion industry. Our business model runs parallel with e-commerce sites and if they grow we also grow. Affiliate marketing industry is at a very nascent stage right now but as global players are entering, affiliate model is also evolving. Last year with the entry of Amazon.in, we have seen our revenue jump by 20%. Global companies understand the value of affiliate marketing and with competition rising, e-commerce sites, big or small, are exploring this model of sales. Sites like us are getting the benefit out of it directly.
How have you sustained the company?
RK: FreeKaaMaal is a bootstrapped company, we have never raised money from investors or family and have grown from the sales volume of five sales to 1500+ transactions/days in a very short span of time. We were profitable from day one and receive more than 4.5 million hits per month and are currently working with 450+ merchants in India.