Raj Kothari is the founder and designer of Styleupindia, a leading cashback site of India. It was a dream since his childhood to create something that’s silly yet makes sense. Raj completed bachelors in technology from NMIMS and started working in Infosys. But, that was not all he wanted from life. This young and enthusiastic mind finally founded his startup with a college friend Shruti Kalathil.
In the first month only the site got 1400 visitors. Having said that the journey of establishing this online business was never easy and put him across all difficulties that new startups face. His perseverance and will to win sustained the dream and brought Styleupindia at a point where the team is focusing on expanding business. Read his interview to know more about his success story.
Please provide a brief overview of your product/ service.
Styleupindia.com is an online portal which provides cash back to its users whenever they shop online at Flipkart.com , Amazon.in , Paytm and many more. These merchants provides us a commission whenever a successful transaction happens i.e when a user purchase products at these stores via Styleupindia.com.
Styleupindia.com then share some of this commission with the users in the form of cash back. The Merchant wins, Styleupindia.com wins and the users get free cash back. A Complete Win-Win Situation.
What inspired you to build the above product/ service?
Seeing the ever rising ecommerce growth in India as well as knowing the fact that lot of people go to search coupons first(even today) to get discounts. We entered the market keeping this in mind and modified our model instead of providing coupon’s, we offered them coupons + cash-back. Initially we had partnered with Flipkart and Amazon in India, we saw lot of people beginning to love our concept (the cash back concept was new) and they became our permanent users. Providing extra money with a click (Coming to our website first) became a trend. Now gradually we have tied up with Jabong, Paytm, Shopclues, Fashion and and many more.
What is your life mantra?
Always believe that you can do it. Keep trying more and more. You have a story to tell, make sure its worth reading.
What was the most challenging part of your journey till now?
A lot of obstacles came in the journey, be it getting delay payments from the merchants as a result giving delay payments to our users. You tend to see lot of users distracting (going away), believe me that is the worst feeling. This happens to every websites at some poin , as a result how we come back and put ourselves together in acquiring that user again becomes a challenging part.
How did you overcome those challenges?
We are a small team of 3 people, as soon as any user registers on our website, instead of emailing and sms, yes we do that as well but along with this we add them to our daily text list (watsapp). This helps the users to interact with us for even a small query. This reduces the gap and helps us build a trusted community.
Share some details about the investments that you have been able to fetch for the business till now.
We are self funded startup
How do you protect yourself from the problem of Brain Drain?
We are a small team that believes in each other and are constantly building awesome environment to work for.
According to you, what are the three qualities an individual must have to achieve success?
1. Believe (Listen to your heart)
I would like to tell a short story of myself on this and elaborate why I think ‘Believe’ is the most important thing to achieve success. When I was in 3rd year of Engineering(2011) (NMiMS University), I had faced a major car accident and had got around 11 fractures and 26 odd cracks on my left hand. The most important people in my life (My family, Dean, close friends, teachers) everyone suggested(but obvious) to take rest and that rest was almost of 9 weeks(recommended by Doctors after 11hrs surgery).I had 2 options in front of me either to take rest for 9weeks completely at home, get KTs in your semester, miss every opportunity at your placements and regret forever OR believe in yourself, take 3 weeks rest, struggle, survive, suffer, clear semester and do not regret. Yes i chose the latter one and guess what, after a lot of initial struggles and setbacks, I was able to clear exam with 1 hand (other being fractured) and secured 66%. Well the only thing what I did is believing in me. And now when I look back this incident have probably changed my life forever.
2. Focus and Confidence
When you are set off to your journey, lot of times it happens that you tend to forget your sight where you leading (because of few failures). As a founder, this is the crucial time where lot of people look upon at you (employees, investors) and your decisions will change not only the company’s future but your people future as well. An individual needs to be focused, have clear vision, confident and plan so as to get close being a successful entrepreneur.
3. Knowledge (Technical, Domain, Networking) and Health
Many times first time founders hire talent at a very high cost rather than digging the hole and understanding themselves. For a tech startup to be successful at initial level, CEO/Founders needs to know the domain knowledge(end to end) about the product the team is building. Health is another factor that lot of individuals ignore and work 18-19hrs a day to keep up with the product expectations. Taking proper rest, giving time to your family and friends, going out on a short vacation stabilizes mind and increase productivity by 3x.
Which online tools/ services/ apps do you use the most and would like to recommend as well?
I would recommend
- Google for Work (Gmail, Docs, Calendars, Drives, Chat internally, Hangouts)
- Watsapp to stay in touch with your users(customers) directly
- Github for code sync
- Naukri.com to search for Interns
- aasaanjobs.com to search for Data Entry Operators etc
Share any one habit which you think makes you more productive.
Achieving small goals everyday.
Share any one habit which you wish to change in yourself.
Getting proper and regular sleep.
Answer in less than 50 words
One tip to success:
Believe in you and your dreams. Forget what others are doing, focus on building your own army. Write down the larger milestones you want to achieve and set small goals daily in achieving that. Never ever give up on your dreams.
One mistake you believe every individual must avoid:
Trusting people pretty often.
One most important lesson that you have learnt till now
There is no time as right time. If you have a dream, just go for it. Hurdles, setbacks will come ,yes they have to come because it is in the process, but the process will bring out the best in you. If you give your dreams one chance to achieve along with dedication and hard work, I am sure life will have something will special to offer for you. As I say, to take the first step is what separates you and your dreams.
What are your plans for next 3 years?
We are constantly adding merchants on daily basis. Soon we will integrate Wallet system in our portal along via NEFT. This will enable users to get cash back in their Wallet and later they can use at different online shops. We have a milestone of building a large user community who are fond of cash back and love cash back. We are already in a good position to and heading towards that direction rapidly.
If you get a chance to start your career again what would you do differently this time?
I would have started Styleupindia.com much earlier rather than joining a corporate. I joined Infosys for 2.5yrs after Engineering. I am not against corporate jobs, yes they offer job opportunities, but now when I look back I am sure I can tell that I enjoy being in a dynamic world of startups more than any other things.
Share a quote that inspires you the most.
“If you really want something, you will find a way to do it, there will no stopping you” – Enrique Iglesias
“Before you quit, think about why you started” – Unknown