By Shiv Kumar Gupta, CEO, PriceJugaad
PriceJugaad is an online platform for price comparison where customers get best prices, deals and coupons for books, smartphones and tablets.
With extensive research and product development experience at Motorala, Globallogic and Innominds, I started my own venture 3 years back. The idea always was to leverage the power of latest technologies to enrich consumer experiences at the hand of retail users. Since we started with nothing, initially we executed a few service projects to sustain ourselves. One-year into service projects left us with reasonable cash on our books, and gave us good time to build and train the team for the product. Also, within this time, the e-Commerce boom played out in India, and the market was just right for the product we were aspiring to build.
PriceJugaad – Choice of Product
We always wanted to build a product with a high impact and that too leveraging our strengths, which is Technology. We brainstormed quite a few ideas. One of them was a platform which shall help choose the right product and at the right price.
There were some products that were already there in the market. However, our approach to the problem was quite different. We wanted to build a platform leveraging next generation technologies, which can be used to solve a range of problems. Use cases could be built on top of it based on customer needs. That is how www.pricejugaad.com was born, a big data and analytics based product discovery and price comparison engine. The first category we chose was books. Primarily because of two reasons – 1) Books were being already sold on quite a few portals and people did not have hesitation to buy books online and 2) Secondly there are millions of books and this shall really test our platform based on scale. If we could do books, we could do any other category. Few months of hard work and books went live. This was followed by popular categories like smart phone and cameras.
Learning from Feedback & Pivot
The launch of books, mobiles, tablets and cameras category tested our platform and gave us the confidence that we can go for the long haul. As our product hit the market, we also started receiving feedback about the product. Some of the feedback was like refining the use cases a bit and improving UI and giving a modern look. More importantly, we realized that price comparison is only a part of the problem and we should solve more fundamental problems like Product Discovery and Price Analytics.
Product Discovery is about helping user discover the right product for his/her need. There are many products available in the market with same price range, and similar features, so it’s a daunting task to select an appropriate product. Current user verdict and experience of the product is more important and vital than anything else. Therefore we introduced Sentimental Analysis that captures vibes of the product across the web, distills it and shows it in a very well categorized manner.
Another question a lot of people would ask us is that when should I buy a particular product. Sometimes while buying a smartphone in a difference of few days can cost someone as high as Rs. 5000 -7000 more. Therefore we introduced Price History so that people can view the past trends. More importantly we introduced Price Analytics, which captures the historical prices and many other important parameters of each product. It predicts future prices leveraging this data, and many proprietary statistical and stochastic algorithms. Initially the accuracy was low but it has improved quite significantly as we keep on collecting more and more data.
A team is one of the most important factors responsible for the success of an organization especially in a startup. The good part when we started was that we were hands on and could program and execute decent size projects. In line with our mission and vision, we have focused on hiring selective individuals who strive for innovation, and have strong technical foundations.
The people who have worked with you earlier can become prospective employees. We hired a couple of people we worked with earlier and some through strong references. Equally important is to build culture of learning and fun. You cannot have hierarchies setup in a small team. An informal friendly environment typically works out the best.
It is always great to have a mentor who you could discuss and bounce ideas. We were lucky to have SusantaMisra, IIT Kharagpur Alumni and the Ex Center head of the Software Center of Motorola Hyderabad to be mentor of the team.
A team not only includes your employees, founders and mentors but also investors. Founders should typically work with investors and regard them as an extended execution team. We were lucky to rope in some investors in the last 6 months. They typically are part of middle/senior management teams from world’s leading investment banks and technology companies. The great thing is that the investors are actively involved in guiding the team on a day-to-day basis and driving strategy along with the founders.
Some Initial Survival lessons that are working:
Choose a right problem: Understand the problem. Is it big? Would a solution provide substantial benefit to the users? Is it difficult to resolve? Does it provide enough scope to innovate?
Have a right team. Ensure you have team well equipped to handle the job. Is the team proficient and has required technical and analytical depth?Do the team members have the experience and ability to quickly engineer, and experiment with various solutions and persistence to move onto the next if the current one doesn’t work?
Stay close to your customers. Their needs would evolve and we would need to adapt and evolve our solutions quickly around it.
Have a mission, and stay close to that. Each area in itself is big, try to scope yourself to the sub-area where you would like to focus and add value to. Startups have limited resources, so it’s important to have a scoped direction, and take one step at a time.
Be persistent and focused. If you have done enough groundwork, and know what users is looking at, and are confident about your solution, don’t get perturbed by your competitors. Also don’t deviate from your original direction by looking at what your competitors are doing.
Be an expert in what you do. There is no scope to be number two. It’s been our vision to excel and be number one in whatever we get into. We are the pioneers in sentimental analysis and Price analysis and
continue to improve ourselves to maintain that advantage.
Be passionate about your solution. In our case, the power of data based analytics which till date was believed to be used internally and exclusively within market research and fortune 500 firms, waslaid down for 300 million Indian ecommerce users, all free of costs. The team was really thrilled. Motivated and super passionate about it.
We are learning from our user’s feedback and want to add significant value to their existing experiences. Ecommerce is an expanding and evolving space, and there are many new challenging problems. We do have our sight and focus on quite a few of these, and are continuously challenging ourselves. I would have to keep it confidential as of now as per the company policy and in the interest of our investors. But do stay tuned and we would definitely surprise you with what we have in pipeline. There definitely interesting times ahead.