Annkur Agarwal began work as an online retailer in India selling mobile phones, laptops and other electronics on Baazee.com, India’s leading online market place, in 2002. This got Annkur connected to a lot of early adopters who shopped online in India in the early days of ecommerce. As things progressed, Baazee got acquired by eBay, as a result Annkur became one of the youngest super sellers on that platform.
Annkur continued his online retail operations until 2008, when he made an attempt to create a shopping site. He ended up creating OnlyGizmos.com network which was a publication business. Over the next few years, Annkur created a ton of web content, video and audio that attracted over 25 million users. While the media business ran profitably, to Annkur it wasn’t the one that would scale. That’s when he started to sense a need for a n exciting and scalable product. Annkur chose to start PriceBaba.com in 2012 to help his friends who had contacted him often to choose what to buy and where to buy from.
Annkur has been asked to share his journey with The Asian Entrepreneur in this week’s interview.
What do you guys do at PriceBaba.com?
We create an experience that helps consumers In India shop more efficiently. With over 200 million Internet users In India e-commerce has boomed. However more than 90% of these consumers still shop at local stores. We help these local retailers by representing them better on the Internet. Simply put, we help people research offline but buy online.
How did you validate PriceBaba?
I started with a small plugin on my blog OnlyGizmos to give out prices, but soon figured that this needs a full fledged product. I found my co-founder during a journey from Bangalore to Mumbai and that’s where the business mind met the engineer. Tirthesh (co-founder, PriceBaba) does the tech, I look at the business side with some overlap once in a while. We started by renting a small office space with 3 seats and worked 5 months in silo before making a launch announcement.
What kind of growth have you seen with PriceBaba?
We have been growing fast. This year alone we have grown 10 times. Currently we are just under a million users every month. Most of our growth has been by word of mouth i.e. organic.
Could you tell us the biggest challenge you faced during startup?
The biggest challenge was to let go the already running business of OnlyGizmos.com and iPhonehelp.in. I overcame that by handing them over to a colleague who was entrepreneurial enough to take over independent of me.
What is one strategy that you believe has helped grown your business?
Listening to our users. We do not build a new feature till we hear enough consumers wanting it. That has allowed us to concentrate our resources on what is absolutely necessary. However whenever we launch a new feature, we make sure that adds a lot of value to our users.
Have you developed any industry insights that you could share with us?
Very interestingly mobile phone shopping In India is very planned and considered an event. People look for what to buy for months, save money and buy it. There is high brand loyalty and consumers look to upgrade on the basis of large screen size or better camera.
Local brands like Micromax, Celkon, Lava and Karbonn have done well with low price + high feature offering. This has taken HTC, Sony and other struggling manufacturers by surprise. Today these international brands are outshined by the local Indian brands which is a huge win for Indian entrepreneurs.
Do you find that there are stark differences between the industry as it is in India compared to the U.S.?
India market is very different from the US. There are no subsidies i.e. contract phones here, hence people have to pay a large sum upfront to make purchases. However schemes like the Reliance iPhone 5s/ 5c offer are making a small dent to that system.
Buy backs and EMIs are other trends that Indian manufacturers have used effectively In India.
What is your approach to your team and human capital needs?
We believe in hiring people for attitude and training for skills. So if the candidate is willing to learn, good at communications and willing to take a startup challenge, we take them onboard and train them for the necessary skills.
The organization is largely flat with the junior most person having the authority to walk up to the product team and showcase how the product can be better. We keep all our ears open for feedback, both internally and externally.
Would you do anything differently if you were to start all over again?
We would do several things differently right from our fundraising strategy to product roadmap. We have learnt overtime that technical roadmap needs to be much more vision driven and adaptable to business changes that would happen. So spending some more time on planning the roadmap on day 1 helps architect the system much more efficiently.
How do you like, being an Asian entrepreneur?
It is exciting. We spent a few months in Silicon Valley with 500 Startups and realized that a lot of challenges that a growing economy like India has doesn’t exist there. That way, we have the opportunity to solve much more real and hard problems being in Asia.
What is one market trend that excites you?
Internet is both growing and maturing fast In Asia. This brings a lot of opportunities in terms of infrastructure, digitization and building solutions that do not repeat the mistakes of the west. Also since mobile is the anchor for this growth, Asia would be a hot bed for mobile innovation whereas west would adapt slowly to this trend. This is really exciting, for once the growing economies would define the future.
What is one habit that makes you a productive entrepreneur?
Maintaining a daily productivity sheet. Every few hours I go and update on that sheet my activities for the day. This allows me to review where I have been spending my time and optimize accordingly.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I was inspired by my mom who has been an entrepreneur right since I was in school. Seeing her run her small business from home, I got many ideas and my entrepreneurial instincts were sharpened.
What are some important things that entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
If you fail, you are alone. And only you are responsible for the same. So stop blaming things outside your control for your loss and take responsibility for your future !
In your opinion, what are some important principles that are relevant to entrepreneurial success?
Honesty and Integrity. Every large success will come with struggle, however the reputation and network that you build around you would be the strongest when you are seen as a honest problem solver. If you go in to make money for the short term, you may miss out on the larger impact!
Any final words of wisdom for our readers?
Stop reading and start working. Action matters.
What is the future of PriceBaba?
Our vision is to be your one stop destination to make any shopping decision.
Connect with Annkur Agarwal and PriceBaba today: