In the concluding part of this exclusive interview, Rajesh discusses the reason behind diving into the products segment. He also talks about exploring other verticals and how the products space is evolving before giving his final thoughts on the Indian e-commerce space.
Praveen (PR): Koovs offers more discounted products – particularly electronics items – than deals right now. Do you consider this to be a pivot or a natural progression since Koovs started out as a daily deal / group buying site and now is offering branded products – like in other online shopping portals?
Rajesh Kamra (RK): Well, it was a natural progression, as we were receiving a lot of requests from customers asking for deals on specific products. This would continue as there is high demand including for ones that are not being offered at present. And it’s not specific to electronics alone. It could be lifestyle, services, travel, ticketing, events, etc. We try to provide what our customers ask of us. We want to that “be happy” kind of place where, for any user who comes to our site, there’s something for each one of them.
PR: You mentioned travel, which is an extremely lucrative vertical that many players are trying to cash in on, given the nature of the deals (high ticket value). SoSasta (Groupon India) and SnapDeal have their own exclusive travel deals section on their homepages and a new entrant – Vamoose - concentrates exclusively on travel deals. So, will Koovs also jump into travel space in a big way with a dedicated section on the site?
RK: In terms of the categories, we have already run many deals in the travel space. We’d tied up with local resorts in and around major metros. We have had some travel sites put up their ticketing offers on Koovs, airline tickets and things like that. So, we have already done that and into that space. We will continue to offer travel getways and resort offers. But, there may not be a particular section for it on the site though.
PR: Do you believe that there are other verticals apart from the ones deal sites have already explored, that has high potential?
RK: Definitely. There are a lot of merchants who contact us everyday who want to put up offers on our site. We are not able to scale because we’ve not entered that vertical as of now. So, there’s always scope for the other verticals which may be education, insurance or others.
PR: So, are deals from the education and insurance sectors something that we could look forward to in future? Because those are two verticals that deal sites have not yet entered (except for Groffr which has started offering Group Home loans)
RK: (smiles) I cannot confirm that. But yes, we are always open to discussion and we’re still in talks at the moment.
PR: In the US, there are 500+ deal sites. China has got another 500 or so. India has 50 (as per our blog) – there could be a few more. Is this too less a number or is it already overcrowded? Do you believe there’ll be consolidation in this space? Acquisitions, mergers and partnerships being forged in the future? What are your thoughts?
RK: First of all, I do not consider Koovs as a ‘deal site’. We are a company who market & sell products and services. There’s a very fine line between a deal site and an e-commerce site per se. But, we do not consider ourselves to be one (deal site). Secondly, the Indian market is quite huge and the market penetration has improved drastically in the last couple of years and with 3G becoming popular and more people accessing the internet through their mobiles phones, things are going to be much better with more opportunities out there. Just look at the volume of transactions done each day on the IRCTC site. It’s phenomenal and from parts of India which are not only tier-I cities. The market size is very big at the moment and it is growing.
Will there be consolidation? Yes. But then again, if you look at the number of OTAs (online travel agencies) operating currently, there are loads of them. But many are doing pretty well and getting traction. There are some 3 or 4 players at the top but still others are doing well too in the geos or segments they cater to. Similarly, deal sites could to cater to a particular category or a vertical or a region or provide a local language based service. So, there would be demarcation coming in and businesses will find their niche areas and would stick to it. Even if somebody wants to enter this space today, it is still very much possible. They have to identify their area and if they do it right, while keeping their heads on their shoulders… I mean it shouldn’t be like I’m going to become a multi-millionaire or start a multi-billion dollar company! But, if you do it right then there’s definitely plenty of scope as the market is just really big.
PR: There are major international players entering the Indian deal space. We already have Groupon India (SoSasta). eBay has also launched local deals. LivingSocial is planning to enter India soon. We also have some established Indian giants such as Times, Rediff, MouthShut who have launched their own deal sites. They all have massive funds and a huge customer base. Not to mention marketing muscle too. How is this going to change the dynamics of the daily deals space?
RK: To begin with, I did not that there were 50-odd deal sites in India until you’d told me. Yes, these are big names actually. Rediff, Times Of India – they have an offline presence as well. I still believe there’s a market space. What is the of quality of the deals that you are offering and what are the margins you’re getting off it. What is the traction that you’re able to generate through your website for the merchant. A lot of these things matter and so there is still enough space for players.
PR: With so many new entrants, is the competition going to make things more difficult? We’ve already seen the same deal being run on multiple deal sites, many a time simultaneously. What are your thoughts on this?
RK: As I said earlier, we’re not just in the deals space. I see Koovs as a place where people can purchase something or try out something new. So, we were the first ones to go out and bring the adventure sports deal, we were the first ones to pivot into the products space, we were the first ones to introduce bulk ticketing for events. So, obviously we will keep finding a space which will keep young India hooked up. So whoever finds an area and is able to build a rapport with the merchant and engage the customer will do great! Now you have other sites who followed us and are offering deals on adventure sports and products. So, the question is – anyone can enter, but can you lead in that space? That’s the real question and to us it’s whether we can provide that and conquer that space.
[End of Interview]