‘Penny-wise’ customers flock to start-up by Odisha youths

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By Shubhankar Behera

Bhubaneswar: At 16, he aspired to be an ethical hacker. Co-owner of a four-month old cash-back website at 20, he is now aiming to do business worth an incredible Rs 50 crores by the year end!

Meet Sarada Prasad Sahu (20) who, along with his NIT, Rourkela B. Tech (Computer Science) batch mate Abhijit Sahu, has developed PennyIndia.com, a portal that pays cash back benefits to consumers who make online purchases from e-commerce websites through this website that already has 3000-odd registered customers.

“After studying online consumer behaviour for a while, we realised that even a penny matters for a customer and he/she can switch over to any website to get the maximum possible benefit with the click of a mouse. We named our website PennyIndia.com to emphasise the point that it provides the customer an opportunity to save every possible penny through the best deals throughout the year,” Sarada said.

Explaining the uniqueness of their site, which is currently doing business worth Rs 15-20 lakh a month, mostly in the form of mobile recharges, the Cuttack-born lad claimed that it offers auto-redemption option for customers to get instant cash-back.

“At this stage, we have at least 10 leading counterparts. But the uniqueness of our website is we give up to 95% cash back, the highest in the industry, to our registered consumers while others offer only 25-30%,” Abhijit stated. After 30-60 days of the completion of the product sale, the customers automatically get their cash back according to their payment preferences – either in the form of transfer to their bank accounts or coupons.

He said the company keeps 5% of the total commission it receives from its partner websites for maintenance and forwards the rest to the customers. A major share of this 5% commission goes to unprivileged children and orphanages, he noted.

Till date, around 200 e-commerce websites, including market leaders like Flipkart, Amazon, Paytm, Dominos and LimeRoad, have tied up with the venture and the number is growing with each passing day.

While facing stiff completion from rival websites and other similar ones, the Sahu-duo is hopeful that their start-up will hit Rs 50 crore business benchmark set by them by this December. They believe new add-ons on the site will bring in additional money to help them meet their target.

“Yes, we want to stay ahead of all others in the cash back offer market, which is fast catching on among online consumers. Very soon, hopefully within a month, we are adding components like price comparison, coupon sale and affiliate networking on our website. Price comparison will give the consumers a ‘deal of the day’ option on other websites before they proceed to purchase so that they do not move away from our site. The idea is to retain the customers on our website for the maximum time,” Sarada maintained.

Currently running in self-funding mode with a one-time paid up capital of Rs3-4 lakh, the site needs more investment on design, content and maintenance, he conceded.

“At this point, we want to take a calculated risk. If we achieve our target by December, then we will think of more investments. Till now, we have not approached any venture capitalists or angel investors,” Sarada averred.

After Oyo Rooms founder Ritesh Agarwal (21), who hails from Bissam Cuttack in Rayagada district, the aggressive teens claim to be the second youngest entrepreneurs in Odisha.

A recent media report said India is the world’s youngest start-up nation with 72 per cent founders below 35 years of age. Close to 4,400 technology start-ups exist in India and the number is expected to reach over 12,000 by 2020, the report added.

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