The temptation of ecommerce is hard to resist. Little wonder then that highly paid professionals are beginning to leave cushy jobs and launching new ventures. Suneil Chawla, 29, and Anupam Agarwal, 30, are two such entrepreneurs, who have taken the plunge by setting up Koolkart, a shopping aggregator and comparison website.
Agarwal was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug right after receiving an engineering degree in computer science from IIT Delhi in 2005. Along with a few friends, he set up Flightraja. com (now Via.com), a travel agency in Bangalore. He worked with the start-up for a year before joining IIM Ahmedabad. That’s where he met Chawla, who had graduated from Loyola College, Chennai.
Chawla and Agarwal first discussed the idea of setting up their own business in the dormitories of IIM Ahmedabad. However, this was put on hold for a few years as both picked up jobs after graduating in 2008. Chawla joined Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, and worked there for four years across offices in Delhi, Boston, Singapore and Mumbai, while Agarwal began his career as a banker with Barclays Capital, London.
Chawla was still keen to set up his own business and quit his job in April 2011. He contacted Agarwal and discussed the idea of starting an ecommerce venture. Enthused about the prospect, Agarwal returned to India the same year. “We were aware of the perils of e-commerce. After all, there are 1,500-2,000 shopping portals and we knew that a run-ofthe-mill website wouldn’t work,” says Agarwal. So, the duo conducted a survey among their friends and came up with two important findings-a friend’s buying choice influenced people, and everybody wanted a good bargain.
In September 2011, the two set up base at the office of Chawla’s grandfather in Chennai, which helped them save on rent. They pooled in their savings to build an investment kitty of Rs 50 lakh and hired two software developers. Their idea was to create a platform, where consumers could discover products being bought/ recommended by their friends as well as compare prices and review retailers. After a trial run between November 2011 and mid-January 2012, Chawla and Agarwal launched koolkart.com on 21 January.
Says Chawla: “The USP of our portal is that it is integrated with Facebook, so if you recommend or buy an item on our portal, it appears on your Facebook timeline. Also, you can compare prices across other portals.” Chawla and Agarwal approached various e-commerce websites to get them on board and joined the affiliate programme of some of the bigger portals. Koolkart now advertises a variety of products, from books and gadgets to decor, and earns a commission on each sale that is made through its website.
Currently, Koolkart employs five people and is getting an average traffic of 2,500 hits a day, of which 3-4% translate into sales. For further expansion, Chawla and Agarwal are visting the campuses of various design institutes to encourage students to sell their wares on Koolkart. The duo plans to hike the traffic to 20,000 hits by year-end and break even by the end of this fiscal year.