Pivot, and pivot quickly – don’t remain married to one idea!
Biswanath Patel co-founded BuyT in 2012 along with Yogesh, Abhishek, and Sunil. Three of them are techies from IIT while Sunil handles affiliate relationships. They call BuyT the product recommendation platform – whenever people are reading anything on the net, or consuming content on mobile, they recommend available options and the best product/service they might be interested in. For example, someone reading an article about the best android phones, can be suggested a list of the best or trending phones available in the market, within a price range most likely favored by her, right on the article – the user can get information about merchants and price lists right then and there, at her fingertips.
They started with a price comparison engine, Buyt.in where users could search for anything available online (across all categories and stores) and then click through to the respective e-commerce site for purchase. They found a few things that were not working in their favour – they thought they knew the market, but realized that even big players in the market had not really become “big” despite time and resources. Another challenge was that traffic for most such sites originated via Google, and thus was highly dependent on one source. That’s when they decided, instead of trying to get people onto a platform, it would be better to take the platform to the people – by targeting sites which people were already browsing.
Since they already had the pricing engine in place and the huge online catalog of the products that were available online, the pivot was smooth. As the most selling category for ecom has been gadgets and electronics, they decided to target content sites and blogs that were popular for articles on best phones, features, etc. Big publishers were the biggest target segment. Using the BuyT ContentLink engine, they partnered with content publishers to create contextual units for information on the product or related products in the category, where specific content could be injected based on context and user personalization. Whenever people would complete a transaction on an affiliate site, BuyT and the publisher share a portion of the revenues – this was the business model.
Biswanath’s advice – Don’t be married to the idea, be ready to pivot anytime based on customers feedback and market conditions. In retrospect, he says that maybe they tried longer than they should have and should have pivoted earlier. They knew about the competition, scale and the challenges but still felt that they could do better than the others. Models keep changing rapidly, especially in Internet powered businesses and he says that they might have to change later to adopt to the market and pivot again if they need to be successful – it is a constant process.
BuyT (http://buyt.in) today has 5 top publishers in India on board as its partners. They have approximately 25 million unique users going through the platform and 3 million plus clicks driven as traffic to their partners, on a monthly basis. They got a seed round of funding from ValueFirst Digital Media last year and since the last month, they have become profitable. They have been featured in “YourStory” as one of the Top 10 start-ups in 2014 in NCR. They went aggressively after the first few customers (NDTV Gadgets, IndianExpress Tech, Jagran.com, etc) and now after the success stories, other publishers are reaching out to them, which is a huge testimony of the product’s need and usefulness in the market. The team is actively looking at monetizing overseas and is looking to raise their next round of funding, to propel them to the next orbit, in terms of technology and footprint.