People and prosperity

Our big break: from students to entrepreneurs in six months

Business founders Abhinav Choudhary and Hitesh Kumar on how India’s e-commerce boom transformed their college start-up

Company snapshot

  • Name: Smartprix
  • Founders: Abhinav Choudhary and Hitesh Kumar
  • Location: New Delhi
  • Number of employees: 25-30

How it all began

We started Smartprix in our third year at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. That was back in 2011, a time when the smartphone market was innovating at a very fast pace, and it was getting increasingly difficult for the average customer to choose between the different phones on offer. We saw a gap in the market to help consumers save time and money by comparing options on a single platform. From smartphones we expanded our product range to over 5,000 electronic products. We help buyers find the products they need, then direct them to various online electronic retailers, including Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart and others. We can’t believe our little college venture has grown to attract 25-30 million people each month.

Our toughest lesson

The most important lesson we learnt was to always stay ahead of the game. If a competitor is doing something better than you, it means you are not working hard enough. Back at college when we first started the business, our toughest challenges were time and money, but this ended up being an advantage as it compelled us to become more efficient – the survival of our start-up depended on it. We relied on using and developing technology wherever we could, to eliminate the possibility of errors. We both wrote programmes and our efficient approach meant it took us just 5-6 months to set up the website.

Our biggest regret

If we had to do something differently, we would have hired people sooner. To scale up a new venture like ours, having a good team is essential. We delayed building a team by a year because we were focusing on getting the technology right. We are now hiring from technical colleges across India and hope to double our staff numbers to 60-70 people this year.

Our lightbulb moment

During our final year at IIT, we were lucky enough to have investors approaching us, but they demanded revenue numbers, and ours were not big. So we started selling advertisements on our platform, which helped us to generate attractive returns in no time. However, the biggest turning point for us was when Amazon entered India’s e-commerce market in 2013. This revitalised the whole industry, majorly boosting our revenues.

Finding funding

In the beginning, we funded our business out of our pocket money. After we graduated, getting funding to scale our start-up was not difficult since investors were keen to invest in the e-commerce industry. The difficulty came in choosing the best investor to support our growth ambitions. Once we found the right seed funding partner we began working on our venture full time. Then came day-to-day challenges around managing payments and transactions, which is when we partnered with Standard Chartered. They helped make our transactions more efficient and hassle-free, and everything, from money transfers to our employment payroll, runs smoothly now, thanks to their fast service.

We owe our success to

Our university, IIT Delhi, for helping us take the first steps on our entrepreneurship journey. We learnt many things from the brilliant people around us, including our fellow students and professors, and we would not be where we are today without that experience.

Standard Chartered has been providing business banking services to Smartprix since 2015.

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