If 2011 was the year of ecommerce, 2012 is the year of meta/aggregator services and while most of the services are focusing on a plain vanilla price comparison model (driven by SEO), PriceCheckIndia is taking a platform approach.
Bangalore based PriceCheckIndia has launched a price comparison site and an interesting aspect of the comparison engine is the API part, i.e. anybody can build their own price comparison service using PriceCheckIndia’s API.
Talking about the main product, the site is nicely done and offers comparison across phones, cameras, Televisions and Home appliance category (surprisingly, no books?) as well as search by product features (“12 MP camera” etc). The design is intuitive and helpful keeping the end user in mind – for e.g. the product page shows the cheapest price (from all the available sites) on the top and importantly, PriceCheckIndia goes a step further and shows the offers ecommerce sites are running on the product. This is very important (most of the comparison sites miss out on this feature), as it gives the entire context of the ‘actual price’ of the product (you aren’t looking for cheapest always, but essentially looking for a good deal).
Having said that, there are a few areas that the team should look into:
1. Guided search vs. .? : The homepage of PriceCheckIndia is a plain text box and you need to select a category pertaining to your query. Given that users tend to treat each and every search box as a ‘Google’ search box, the category selection needs to get more intuitive. Also, showcasing the best of the comparison search helps – for example, showcase the cheapest deal on Nokia Lumia, HTC OneX etc brings more credibility to the site. That is, a bit of guided search helps when there you are targeting multiple categories (and intents).
2. Consumer vs. API Business: I’d strongly urge the team to do different branding for the consumer business (i.e. PriceCheckIndia.com) and the API business. For instance, Infibeam’s parent company runs an ecommerce platform business under a different brand name, BuildaBazaar. Creating a different brand name for the API business makes it much more easier to sell to potential customers as opposed to a brand name which is a direct competitor (i.e PriceCheckIndia) for publishers (who want to launch a price comparison service).
In essence, the team is trying to grow two businesses (1. PriceCheckIndia, a destination site and 2. API business) – so here is a QnA with PriceCheckIndia founding team, Punit Gupta and Rahul Gupta.
1. API is an interesting game. Given that there are very few publishers (with respectable traffic) in India, what’s your plan regarding exposing the API?
No doubt that there are very few publishers as of today but we believe that is about to change very soon. With India’s startup boom happening about right now, we are witnessing so many youngsters quitting their high paying job to pursue entrepreneurship. This ecommerce boom opens up all kinds of opportunities which these budding entrepreneurs are going to take advantage of. A number of deal aggregator websites coming up after surge of daily deal sites exemplifies our belief that a whole another market is getting created out of success of mainstream e-commerce companies such as Snapdeal & Flipkart. Many such entrepreneurs are building interesting and highly innovative applications on web / mobile and other mediums. Several from this league need price comparison functionality for their services / products. We realized the need of such an API service after getting requests from many people wanting to access our price comparison functionality for their applications, simply because they didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. We are enabling such startups to focus on their core business rather than doing what PriceCheckIndia has already championed.
We are targeting variety of customers ranging from big fish to fresh entrepreneurs who want to build ecommerce related services or applications revolving around product pricing. We believe this can be a game changer as it will enable lot of wannabe entrepreneurs to focus on innovation and build a variety of applications using our API.
We firmly believe that we have only seen the tip of the monster ecommerce industry in India so far. That is why we are gearing ourselves by forming strategic partnerships with upcoming businesses. This will pay us off in medium to long term.
2. What’d be the pricing of API?
Beta phase of the API is absolutely FREE for anyone and everyone, we will however start charging heavy hitters later. We essentially want to keep it FREE for upcoming websites and bloggers. It is unfair to charge budding entrepreneurs just for their attempt at building something cool. Being in bootstrapping and self-funded mode our self we are very much aware of financial problems of upcoming startups and we don’t want to put any financial burdens on their growth. As these startups begin to grow and start using resources heavily, we will come up with a pricing scheme which will be beneficial to both of us. We believe this creates a win-win situation for PriceCheckIndia as well as the API consumers.
We are taking a long term approach and are focusing on building long term strategic relationships with promising ventures. We aren’t concerned about making quick bucks; rather we want to build a business model that gives us long lasting results.
3. Creating a destination site ain’t easy. Are you focusing more on creating a platform (and not so much on destination site)?
Yes we want to become a platform for various ecommerce related businesses. We want to focus more on B2B and enable these early stage companies for success. We believe in their success lies our success.
4. What has been the traction so far?
Traction has been phenomenal. Numbers are actually much more encouraging than what we had expected. Our user experience is reflected in low bounce rate and continuous surge in traffic being pumped to us by Google. In a short period of little more than five months since our launch we have achieved a respectable Alexa Rank, which is improving day by day. As of today our Alexa rank is 7447 in India.
We just launched the APIs few weeks back and we already are gaining quite a momentum.
5. Future plans?
Our core belief is that if we focus on quality and effectively fulfill our customers’ requirements, we will automatically gain accelerating traction. So with that in focus we plan to expand into almost all the product categories and serve price information on everything selling online.
We plan to continue to expand the API offerings and build tools to further empower the whole “ecommerce pricing ecosystem”. We believe API is going to be a game changer in coming times and we will see a number of very interesting startups being fueled by the availability of such service.
Since both the co-founders have a vast research experience, we understand the importance of research and incorporating latest technologies. We are continuously investing a major part of our time and resources in research towards exploiting latest advancements in Information Retrieval and Machine Learning to enhance our platform. We are also working towards developing effective search solutions which we can offer to our B2B customers to augment their service offerings.
Do give PriceCheckIndia a spin and share your comments/suggestion with the team.