Born on the twentieth of May, 1983; Kunal Shah is the Founder of one among India’s most Innovative enterprise models – Freecharge!
Kunal become one of the very few who had the imaginative and prescient to see that, the term “Free” turned into one among the largest myths of our instances and this weak factor of our hundreds became brutally being misused via many corporates to marketplace their products as well. But what many humans didn't recognize became that there are not any “unfastened lunches” and that there’s usually some ‘seize’ or ‘phrases & situations implemented’ to it.
And in an try to remedy a ache point that was not recognized to many; he started out Freecharge!
Personally speaking; Kunal belongs to a enterprise family which mostly deals in pharmaceutical distribution in South Bombay and is married to Bhavna Shah who is a contract Graphic Designer.
An MBA dropout by means of preference from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS); Kunal has completed his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from the Wilson College in Mumbai!
Life as an worker…!
Just like many other a hit entrepreneurs; Kunal’s adventure also commenced at a totally early age!
Soon after completing his commencement, Kunal went towards his family fashion of becoming a member of the circle of relatives enterprise and took up a process in a start-up BPO referred to as TIS International Inc as a junior programmer in 2000.
The organisation that ran the BPO in Mumbai become called “Tandon Advance Device Pvt. Ltd.” and that they have been specifically involved in Healthcare coverage and Accounts Payable initiatives.
Around the identical time, Sandeep Tandon – an investor in the begin-up had come down from the US, to take in a more lively function within the functioning of the employer.
Sandeep saw the way Kunal used to work and without a doubt loved his strength. Sandeep ought to imaginative and prescient the ability the younger boy held and quick promoted him to the brand new Business Head. He labored there for a period of 10 years.
In this section; Kunal with the assist of Sandeep, grew the enterprise to a 1200 sturdy outsourcing team.
Around the equal time, Kunal additionally went on to start his first actual project PaisaBack in 2009, however extra on that later…!
In 2010; Kunal ought to see himself geared up to take the soar into entrepreneurship and conveyed the equal to Sandeep. And in place of leaving him on his own, Sandeep invested in his organisation, as a result turning into a co-founder and together they founded – Freecharge.
Life as an entrepreneur…!
While Kunal was working with Sandeep at TIS, the entrepreneurial malicious program bit him and he determined to attempt some thing of his personal. But the question became what?
Now he turned into surprisingly satisfied with the idea of “Free” and wanted to capitalize on it too. And after a number of brainstorming, the advertising and marketing mastermind came up with this superb business version which proved to be a win-win for all!
As a first, he formed a company called Accelyst Solutions Pvt. Ltd and under this enterprise released his very first project – PaisaBack!
So what was PaisaBack?
Formally speakme; PaisaBack was an internet portal which used to run a retail coins-lower back rebate (refund) marketing campaign control program via tying-up with some of the large on-line shops of India.
Well, in simpler phrases; PaisaBack had tied up with a massive bite of large on-line outlets in India and used to provide a sure sum of money-again to its clients on buy of any object via their list of tie-ups. Basically, they used to good deal excessive with lots of top manufacturers like Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and so on, to get its clients the best cash-again and in go back, those brands used to get massive quantities of visitors thru their website.
All one needed to do changed into: –
– Visit their website – www.Paisareturn.Com
– Create an account without spending a dime
– Click on the Brand emblem of the website online one needed to store on and it would take them to their determine website
– The Cash-back provide you need to get hold of will be defined underneath the respective emblem brand
– You can save and pay as you'll generally achieve this
– And performed! You get the offered cash-lower back from PaisaBack inside four-12 weeks
The enterprise model become so unique and beforehand of its time, that it grabbed quite a few clients very quickly and was making a respectable 1-2 crores a year.
Now that the market turned into matured and equipped, it became time to conform to something larger, higher and greater complete-proof than PaisaBack! Enter – Freecharge….
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Unlike earlier, he wanted to take the “Free” idea to some other level, however this time he desired a business model that had the potential to remedy the ache factor of the hundreds! And while working on PaisaBack, he had stumbled upon the concept of Freecharge!
But in the course of that time he become also running with Sandeep Tandon’s TIS too and with the idea of Freecharge in region, he determined to position down his papers.
Hence, in 2010; whilst Kunal should see himself prepared to take a complete-fledge soar into entrepreneurship, he conveyed the equal to Sandeep. And Sandeep rather than leaving him on his personal, invested in his corporation, as a result turning into a co-founder.
Together they founded – Freecharge!
Formally speakme; Freecharge turned into nothing however a portal wherein one should carry out invoice payments / recharge facilities for diverse merchandise like mobile phones, DTH connections or records cards, and so on, in go back for bargain coupons worth the identical amount absolutely unfastened, from reputed brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Costa Coffee, Café Coffee Day, Barista, PVR Cinemas, etc. And plenty of greater.
Freecharge once more turned into shaped underneath the wings of Accelyst Solutions Pvt. Ltd. Wherein a part of the new task was funded by way of PaisaBack and the rest through Sandeep.
Moving on; now that the enterprise turned into shaped, it turned into time to create the product!
During the equal time; Naman Sarawagi (modern founder of FindYogi) had written a visitor piece on NextBigWhat. Kunal cherished the insights mentioned with the aid of him around the recharge commercial enterprise model and for this reason without delay contacted him.
After a short change of mind, Naman joined Freecharge as their 1st worker. Naman changed into given to lead the preliminary product management + characteristic decisions + improvement part (with handiest 1 engineer).
To sum it all; there has been no serious tech that changed into built – the whole lot become like how we Indian’s do it – ‘Jugaad’! In fact, most of the later tendencies have been made after receiving client feedbacks.
During this phase, they came throughout numerous hurdles, most of which were quick prevented also, but one of the major hurdles that they came across was that, huge groups had a mindset which went in opposition to the idea of “loose” and convincing such customers become almost not possible.
This idea being totally new, they had to go through a whole lot of efforts to convince them that this idea will now not damage their logo in any way.
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Eventually, a number of those businesses saw the blessings they might achieve thru this sort of version and the relaxation tagged alongside as soon as they saw others on board.
Other than that; the ones had been the instances when on-line payments have been just selecting up and the complete version in the back of it wasn’t that flexible too, consequently, Freecharge also needed to undergo tough bargains whilst it came to price gateway commissions.
There had been additionally some issues related to integration of the fee gateways with their internet site as properly. But anyway, those issues in the end faded and situations smoothened out!
Freecharge constantly very without a doubt knew that youngsters had been their target market and for this reason its advertising strategies have been simply focused toward it.
In their beginning days, they reached out to the IIM’s and IIT’s to urge them to recharge thru them. But as they had been college college students most of them didn’t have playing cards, so for them a person physically went there to recharge via his card, collected the coins from them and then passed over the coupons.
You gained’t believe this, however their group had also created a fake Facebook ID with a random lovely lady’s snap shots which glaringly got lots of pals. So now, one put up of theirs reached to thousandsss & thousandsss! Apart from that, Freecharge also used every other technologically possible medium to spread the word.
Due to such techniques; Freecharge was protected through exquisite websites like Pluggd.In, Trak.In, Alootechie, telecomtalk, Rediff, The Hindu, Outlook, and ET Now aired a story on them too.
And glaringly, considering then, their boom turned out to be so fast and viral that, within only a yr, Freecharge were given indexed as one of the most promising era startups from India via Pluggd.In (now: NextBigWhat) and to top that their staffing had additionally substantially elevated to 35 members.
If that was now not enough for you to digest then beat this; in November 2012, Freecharge proudly made a shout-out that they had been doing an internet recharge really worth $ 6-million in line with day and roughly $ 2.19-billion a 12 months.
By 2013, the organization had correctly constructed their base in Mumbai & Bangalore and now had over million energetic customers who contributed to over 50,000 a hit B2C transactions per day.
Soon, Freecharge also tied-up with numerous manufacturing homes like Sony Pictures, Yash Raj Films, UTV Motion Pictures, Viacom 18, and so on to promote their movies via Freecharge’s portal and in the end additionally backed Delhi Dynamos FC which plays in the Indian Super League as well.
But the icing on the cake changed into their most unconventional advertising and marketing sixer (if I may say!) which made them go virtually viral.
In May 2013, Freecharge in association with TVF – ‘The Viral Fever’ (an online youth entertainment network), created a spoof on the then well-known TV display Emotional Atyachar. With limited however more-than-sufficient interest, they launched this video on YouTube and agree with me once I say this, within no time they'd 1.5 million views.
Interestingly, the year of 2013 additionally noticed an unusual flip in their events! Kunal who till now acted because the CEO of the enterprise, announced that he turned into formally stepping down to attend to different making plans and operational factors like growing their merchant & consumer community, and had now appointed Alok Goel (Ex-COO of redBus.In) as the new CEO.
Many specialists and guru’s believed this to be a sensible choice, as Kunal’s strong point lied in Planning, Ideation & Strategizing and execution became doing nothing but diverting his attention.
And proving that belief right; the agency due to the fact that then became a ways more established & streamlined than ever and the numbers proved the same too!
By September 2014, the transactions through the mobile app had elevated with the aid of 30x and now 70% of the enterprise came from the cell itself.
To pinnacle that, the organisation had also received Preburn & Wishberg and their respective teams have been now running to build new referral applications of Freecharge.
Freecharge now had extra than 10 million registered customers and accounted to extra than 400% YoY boom.
Apart from MobiKwik and PayTM; now not even one corporation became even remotely near sufficient to compete with them!
And eventually in April 2015; Kunal formally introduced that Freecharge had now been received with the aid of Snapdeal for $450 million (over Rs 2,800 Cr), making it India’s biggest startup acquisition deal to date.
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The primary purpose for the enlargement turned into that; Kunal could clearly envision that this become a saturation factor for him and, for Freecharge to similarly expand into wider markets with none regulations he needed to be a larger player.
A lesser regarded fact was that; Snapdeal’s co-founder Kunal Bahl and Freecharge founder Kunal Shah have been doing commercial enterprise collectively for plenty months earlier than the purchase befell and had gotten to realize each other nicely too. Hence, there have been no Investment Bankers, no protocols, and so on; it turned into simply Kunal calling Kunal and the deal turned into finished in 22 days!
More currently it has also been announced that Alok Goel could be stepping down from the location and will now be in rate of locating new commercial enterprise opportunities for the mixed Snapdeal-Freecharge entity whereas Kunal Shah would again be taking over because the CEO after two years.