Interview with Ravitej Yadalam: A journey of success

54315431a1

Formed in 2011, Pennyful.in is one of the first players in the Indian cashback and discount coupons market and is the brainchild of Ravitej Yadalam. Ravitej originally tested the concept of a cashback and discount coupons website in the U.S. market with Pennyful.com, and based on the positive feedback he received, along with the emerging popularity of e-commerce in India, he took the concept to the Indian market with Pennyful.in. Today, Pennyful.in has partnerships with over 250 of the most popular e-commerce merchants like Amazon, Myntra, Jabong, Yebhi, Tradus, Homeshop18 and Flipkart among others. It also has a referral program where one can make some cash by referring friends. What sets Pennyful.in apart from most other players is that a user can request to withdraw their cashback at any time i.e. no minimum payout requirements.

Some quick tidbits on Pennyful:

  • The company plans to break even by the end of 2014
  • Pennyful has also seen an 150% increase in its customer base vis-a-vis last year, and expects to see an increase of 200%+ in the customer base by 2015

After seeing success in the online space with Pennyful, Ravitej decided that it was time to take the online cashback model offline, and into a very niche segment, Healthcare. This is when MediRupee.com (formerly known as MediCash.in) was formed. Launched in 2013, MediRupee.com is India’s first and only FREE Healthcare Rewards Program. MediRupee aims to help people save on their healthcare expenditure by providing them with a rebate on their healthcare expenses. The service is especially helpful for patients who are not covered by any insurance policy. The company currently has partnerships with over 180 of the top healthcare institutions such as Fortis and Apollo, to name a few.

Techaloo got an opportunity to have a direct interaction with Ravitej. Let see what is his say on the success of Pennyful and MediRupee.

 

Techaloo: What motivated you to start Pennyful.com in US?

In 2010, the U.S. ecommerce market was a lot more evolved in the U.S. than it was in India. The concept of ecommerce required for a booming ecommerce ecosystem and hence, U.S. was the perfect geography to start in. This is how Pennyful was born and Pennyful.com was launched for the U.S. market in January 2011. Through Pennyful.com, we began to give real cash back to our customer for every purchase they made through us. We saw a lot of success for our product and today Pennyful.com has 1,300 of the leading U.S. ecommerce brands on board such as Macy’s, Walmart and JCPenney.

 

pennyful1Techaloo: What was your vision/mission while starting pennyful.in?

When we brought the concept of cashback to the Indian market, we were the first. The responsibility of providing a trustworthy user experience for a completely new concept had automatically fallen upon us. Users had to feel safe when they use a cashback site and bearing this is mind, we formed Pennyful.in with a goal to be the best and most trusted player in the cashback and coupon segment amongst merchants and online shoppers in India while providing customers with a unique shopping experience.

 

Techaloo: What hurdles did you face while starting?

User education was one of the main hurdles we faced while starting. When we came into India, nobody knew what cashback was, let alone how it worked. Secondly, to a lot of users, the concept of cashback seemed too good to be true and users were understandably skeptical about getting money back for their online purchases. When we overcame this hurdle, we witnessed that users began to not only trust but also welcome the concept of cashback. In a way, we laid the platform for other cashback websites in the Indian market.

 

Techaloo: Have you got any kind of funding or looking for the same?

Pennyful has been funded entirely by friends and family

 

Techaloo: How does the Indian e-commerce market differentiate from US market?

The e-commerce market in the US is one of the first markets in the world to grow and mature. Transacting online is second nature to a consumer in America. In India, however, e-commerce is a relatively new market with different challenges. That said, the Indian e-commerce market is today one of the fastest growing markets in the world. This is what makes it so attractive to both domestic and international players, in spite of the current relatively smaller size.

 

Techaloo: Why did you plan to move to healthcare through Medirupee?

The move to Medirupee is rooted from the success of Pennyful. Pennyful.in was met with a very favorable response by our customers and the concept of cashback was extremely relevant to a cost conscious market like India. Based on the success we saw with Pennyful.in, we decided to extend the concept to the offline healthcare space. One of the main reasons we wanted to move into the healthcare space is because of our findings based on a preliminary research on the space. We found out that about 9% of an average Indian’s income goes towards health expenses and this number can sometimes go upto 50% for middle and lower income households. And a majority of these expenses happen out-of-pocket. A majority of Indians do not have insurance, and even if they do, no insurance covers the entire gamut of healthcare services like dental, diagnostics, pharmacy, etc. This is the prevalent problem that MediRupee aims to address by helping patients and consumers save on their out-of-pocket medical expenses through up-front discounts and cashback rebates.

I worked with my friend and co-founder Manu Swarup, who previously also ran a healthcare startup and comes from a family of renowned doctors, to bring the dream of MediRupee to life on March 2013.

medirupee

Techaloo: How does the platform work? Is there any burden on the consumer?

Medirupee.com is India’s first and only FREE Healthcare Cashback Program, and helps Indian customers save on all their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for free in the form of upfront discounts and cashback rebates. The principle is the same as how Pennyful works but focuses on the offline healthcare space. Today, we work with over 200 leading healthcare institutes in 6 cities across 7,000+ locations. Almost all the leading and preferred healthcare institutes are accessible through MediRupee, including Global Hospitals, Apollo, Manipal and HCG.

The product, like Pennyful, is completely free and does not levy any charges or fees on the consumer.

Techaloo: How are you different from your competitors in various segments?

We always have our customers’ best interests in mind and every move we make is done in order to deliver the best customer experience for our user, be it in the form of providing them with the best possible cashback, or in improving the UI of the website.

In line with this, as we are focused on delivering the best customer experience to our customer, we want to ensure customer loyalty happens because of this experience. We do not want to force our customers to use us or stay with us, and keeping this in mind, you will see that there is no minimum withdrawal limit at Pennyful.in. What this means is that a Pennyful user can withdraw any amount of money they accumulate as cashback, even Re. 1. This has definitely been one of the reasons our customers love us.

Moreover, we are also focused on ensuring that our customers have access to the biggest ecommerce brands in India. We currently have 250+ ecommerce websites on Pennyful.in, and this means that customers today use Pennyful.in as a one stop destination for any and all of their online shopping needs and are not overwhelmed by an array of relatively unknown “mom and pop” websites only. For instance, we are the only cashback player to offer cashback, and cashback in the form of reward vouchers, on both Amazon.in and Flipkart, two of the biggest brands that exist in India today.

pennyful_logo

Techaloo: What is the difference in user characteristics for Medirupee vs. Pennyful?

Simple. Medirupee is directed towards anybody seeking medical help. It helps patients and consumers get cashback for everything their insurance does not cover. Pennyful on the other hand is meant for online shoppers. Almost everybody shops online, and everybody goes to a hospital. Hence, Medirupee and Pennyful are for anybody and everybody. However, availing MediRupee benefits are restricted to cities that we currently operate in.

 

Techaloo: You have shown a great success, you are about to break even by 2014. Whom would you like to give credits for this success?

The team we have in place is excellent and definitely a credit to the success we have been seeing.

 

Techaloo: What about support from your family, while starting?

The support from my family and friends has been tremendous. Looking back, maybe I have always been an entrepreneur at heart and my family did everything to help me nurture this passion.

 

Techaloo: How is the response till now?

The traction we have received for Pennyful.in in India has been tremendous. The feedback our customers have been giving us so far has been overwhelming. We did expect to see positive traction for the site so early, but the way our customers have been reacting to receiving their money back from us makes me know that we are on the right track. Even for MediRupee, which is relatively new, the traction has been very positive.

We are the first player to ever bring in such concepts to the Indian ecommerce and healthcare markets and the feedback has been great.

 

Techaloo: What are your plans for next 3 years?

We at Pennyful have been seeing tremendous growth over the last few years and we expect this momentum to continue, if not increase dramatically. The future looks very bright.

As of now our Indian customers have access to all the major Indian stores at Pennyful.in. As a next step, we will be looking at bringing not only more stores, but also stores from beyond India, to our customers. On a MediRupee front, we are constantly looking at adding more hospitals to our already large portfolio, and also looking at acquiring more customers.

Our customers are in for some great times, and we will definitely prove to be their one stop shopping destination for any of their needs.

 

Techaloo: What will be your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

I would say either create, or be part of creating, a product and company that you can be proud of, and that is truly valuable to your customer. When a customer benefits from your product, you and your team made that happen. That is an immense power; realize it and you can make anything happen.

 

Techaloo: It’s been a 2.5 yr relationship between Pennyful & Techaloo. What do you think about techaloo.com?

I think it is remarkable to see how Techaloo has evolved in the span of a very short time. As a startup, we understand how important it is for any company to get their name and vision out to the public, and the Techaloo team has been doing a wonderful job of doing that. We have had a relationship with Techaloo since we started, and it is of immense pride to us to be able to continue that relationship. Here’s to a wonderful 2.5 years of relationship with Techaloo, and to many more as well.

Be Sociable, Share!


Mohit Bansal(23) is B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India. He has interest in business and entrepreneurship and has published couple of research articles. He is also associated with various NGOs. He is with Techaloo when it was just in concept stage. The Techaloo site was not existing even then. Currently Mohit is working with Mu Sigma as a Business Analyst Profile.

Leave a Comment

Current ye@r *

Close
Please support the site
By clicking any of these buttons you help our site to get better
Social PopUP by Timersys