Retailer media caught up with Hemang Desai, the Founder and CEO of Giftkarting.com, a portal which he explained is a layer above the traditional and materialistic gifts.
In words of Desai, gifting with Giftkarting.com is not just about flowers and chocolates, but also about an experience of receiving services such as music subscription, auto-service, IT etc.
What was the major challenge for you while launching this portal?
We have heavy corporate experience from the US and did some startups there. So I have complete exposure of how startups are being done, and how entrepreneurship comes into picture. When it came to that perspective, it was not a challenge for us, but the challenge was to address the Indian market. We wanted to take advantage of the industry that is booming from past couple of years. We wanted to address something in the mobile and eCommerce space and finally narrowed down to gifting as it is something people also prefer whether it is recession or upside of the economy.
We started to look at other players and noticed that so far this field was restricted to traditional product-based gifting, mainly cakes, chocolates, flowers etc. and we were keen to enable and build value proposition to the merchant, the user and ourselves. We analysed the need in market for gifts while the focus is on saving time. Next was how quickly and efficiently can we put this together in a place, along with inviting merchants on the board. We built this platform at a very small level and exposed it to some merchants and users internally and that gave birth to GiftKarting.com.
How has been the journey so far?
Performance is always the key. As most of the founders as engineers, even a delay of 2 seconds irritate us. So we paid attention to every line of code, every space and all possible angles to make the merchants automatically sign up and put their gift store in place at our portal within maximum 5 minutes.
So are you acting as a platform for merchants to showcase their products and services?
That is absolutely correct! The idea is to not get mixed up with the typical idea of gifting products. For instance, we have just signed up with Hungama.com and now our consumers can gift music to someone. This would be a subscription based monthly/ yearly customised music based upon affordability, pricing and other factors.
We have also signed up with driving schools, auto industry, and restaurants. Mobile is the next upcoming feature in our site wherein one can send a restaurant’s gift card in merely 2-3 clicks.
It is more like a gift coupon thing…
We call it as a gift card and it is at the receiver’s end when he would like to avail that unlike a typical gift send through a courier and then there is a whole return policy involved. This is a layer above, where a person gets a gift card and uses it towards something he likes. The process is gift card driven which comes from portal to mobile or mobile to mobile.
Challenges while integrating with merchants
The first and foremost challenge was to make them believe. When they came across something like a gifting portal, they were skeptical about its operations and functionality. The brands don’t want to risk their brand’s name and we wanted to have them on board.
Initially, the brands were not willing to come onboard because we didn’t have users, so it was like a chicken and egg problem.
The idea was to convince the merchants without risking their brands. We made sure to not to charge anything from merchants and made them understand that this portal would act as additional channel to earn revenue, while we handled the marketing. This lured them as they had opportunity to be onboard within minutes for zero cost. Now, the brands are excited with success and have gone to next level to pass on more promotional deals and discounts, which we directly pass on to users.
Revenue sharing model
I won’t be able to give you exact numbers but generally it is the transaction based commission model. As soon as transaction takes place, we take our commission and pass on the rest to merchant within 48 hours.
Who were the major investors?
We have a very solid base of angel investors whom we call friends and family. Some of them are from the US while others are from Mumbai. Initially, when we pitched to these investors, some were skeptical. We wanted to take money only from those investors who can add value to our platform and help scale up. We send the progress reports to the investors on regular basis to let them know about the major happenings.
How many categories do you cater to?
We have about 150 odd brands right now in categories such as hospitality, restaurant, IT, automobile, adventures, entertainment etc.
How do you work upon the pricing strategy?
It is a mixed approached depending upon the category and the tier we are addressing. Out of 150 odd brands, some of the top brands are Croma, Lifestyle, Big Bazaar, and Lakme. When we deal with these big brands, we have a lower negotiating power, but the moment they see the growing business, they are ready to give us a little higher commission.
You must be using some customised software for generating codes for gift cards…
One of my partners is a CTO with 25 years of experience. We have built this highly encrypted algorithmic engine, which has been built from scratch and hence, we know how to control the security of transactions.