With a wide variety of stuff being sold at different prices at different e-stores, it is impossible for a shopper to survey all the online stores before buying any product. Be it a lawn dress, shoes, watches or mobile phones, people are looking for the best thing at most affordable prices. Adnan Shaffi, Adeel Shaffi and Awais Imran have provided this luxury of getting our products at the most reasonable prices by introducing an online portal named PriceOye. These young lads hold expertise in business, technology, social media and also blogging.
We had a discussion with one of the co-founders, Adnan Shaffi. Let’s hear from him:
Q: PriceOye was previously named as “Khareedo”. Why did you change the name from an Urdu one to a funky English name?
A: We named it Khareedo.pk because it is simple and pretty easy to remember. But then we did a market research and asked people what comes in their mind when they hear the name “Khareedo”. 90% of the people answered that they think it’s an E-commerce store. But actually we are not an E-commerce store, we are a comparison place for E-commerce stores. The idea was being misunderstood due to the name. So we knew we have to change our name. The word “Price” relates to our purpose i.e. we are providing a comparison of prices and we did a research and found that “Oye” is a word common to 12 different languages spoken in Pakistan. Hence, we came up with the name “PriceOye”.
Q: Price comparison websites have proved to be a success in the west, but relatively new to our country. So what’s the idea behind it?
A: The trends are changing. More and more E-commerce stores are opening in Pakistan and there’s a reason behind it. The middle-class of people in our country are one of the largest growing in the world. The growth of the middle class is directly related to the growth of the E-commerce stores. With the growth of these E-commerce stores comes the need of price comparison websites. The user has a lot of variety with these many E-commerce stores emerging, but they want to buy the best at cheap price. So PriceOye caters to this need.
We have started with the “Cellphone” category. It’s specifically for females because they face a lot of issues when they want to buy a mobile phone. They usually don’t survey many shops in this regard and hence end up paying higher prices for a phone which is either not worth it or is available elsewhere in a better deal. With our price comparison website, females can easily compare and contrast prices of a certain phone from different websites and can buy the same set at a much cheaper rate.
Q: As you mentioned earlier, your particular target customers are females, so are you keeping a check on your users? How successful have you been in attracting female users towards your website? Or do you have a marketing strategy for this?
A: Yes, we are observing our users and largely they are females. We are not spending much on marketing because when it comes to a startup every penny is important.
We believe in organic growth, it involves observing your users and then improving accordingly.
To assess user response to our website, we went to different universities and offered them pizza to use our site. As they were using the website we were recording their responses like how they are controlling the cursor as they open our website, which categories they are clicking. So these activities gave us an idea what the users look for in our website. We generated heat maps and then improved on those things.
Q: Well, you are one of the most risk averse entrepreneurs…so you are three co-founders and we heard that two of you are brothers. Is it a good idea to have a brother as your co-founder?
A: (Laughs) Yes! Adeel and I are brothers, whereas Awais is a really good friend of ours. I think it’s perfect to have your brother as a co-founder. Because it’s all about teamwork, you have to gel in perfectly with your co-founder. And if you are working with someone as close as your brother, you know his personality and you are at a comfort level with him. It becomes easier to get along.
Q: Since you are a price comparison website and you have to collaborate with a lot of companies and review their products. What were the specific challenges you faced?
A: Every startup has to face challenges and we would be lying if we said we didn’t. In the initial months there were many problems. The biggest challenge so far was to convince the local existing stores for partnerships. On the other hand some of the Indian stores we approached were really helpful.
Q: Why is that so?
A: Because the Pakistani market is yet to mature. Our local stores are not really willing to establish partnerships, their existing infrastructure doesn’t allow them to work well with partners.
Q: So how did you overcome these partnership challenges? Having partnerships with different companies is very vital for a startups like yours.
A: We had to go an extra mile to convince than and bring them on board. For some we even had to build a technology module ourselves. But this is how things work. You have to rethink your plan every step of the way and make it possible.
Q: Many of the startups go for incubation at different incubation centers where they get mentoring. Why PriceOye isn’t incubated anywhere?
A: I believe entrepreneurs do not need fancy chairs to sit. We have our office at Islamabad. These incubation spaces surely provide mentorship but as Adeel and I are both MBAs, we have studied under professors and people who provide mentorship at these incubation centers. So we already had the basic knowledge.
Q: There are some other price comparison websites in Pakistan. How do you compare yourself to them?
A: First of all, we are true to ourselves. We don’t make false claims and are realistic. We spent 8 months in research and coming up with a strategy and we would like to stick to it regardless of what the competition is doing.
We believe that the market is big enough so we don’t have to waste our energies worrying about what our competition is doing. We are focused on making ourselves better.
Q: What are your future goals?
Q: What advice would you like to give to the emerging entrepreneurs?
A: The biggest lesson I have learned is to be persistent, you should stick to your idea, hang in there and it will work.