Interviewed By: Charu Madan, Corporate Editor, The CEO Insights
The CEO Insights: What triggered you to start the online gifting platform, Giftology.com?
Varun Vummidi: As most people are beginning to realize, the online gifting space is an untapped market in India. Rather than starting a typical ecommerce gifting site, we thought it would be a huge value add to create a portal that helps users give causal gifts for any occasion and provide online businesses lower acquisition cost, as compared to other marketing companies, and offline stores the power of online visibility and drive footfalls to the store, at the same time.
The CEO Insights: In next few years, what challenges do you anticipate in online retail space?
Varun Vummidi: In online retail, I think the race towards becoming profitable or even cash flow positive would become a big challenge. That is in addition to managing customer expectations, since online businesses have gone all out in pleasing the user, which may not necessarily be in the best interest of the business.
The CEO Insights:Giftology uses Facebook alone as a platform; are there plans to move to other social media platforms?
Varun Vummidi: For now Facebook will primarily be the platform on which we will operate. We don’t see any other platform being as engaging nor providing the possibility to fully communicate the brands message. Google Plus is definitely a platform to watch out for; it will reach that tipping point soon.
The CEO Insights: Giftology acts as an enabler between the customer and the merchant; what is the revenue model adopted by Giftology?
Varun Vummidi: We follow a simple principle. “When the merchant wins, we win.” We get compensated only when the customer makes a transaction. This, we believe, is fair and pushes us to work hard to deliver results and working with us is a low risk option for the merchants.
The CEO Insights: In India, social gifting is at its infancy today; how do you see its growth in India in the next 5 years?
Varun Vummidi: We are at 71 million FB users today. The growth potential is tremendous if we imagine even a small fraction to participate. Since it has an element of virality – more gifts mean more users – at its core we see a high rate of adoption as well.
The CEO Insights: Who would you consider your biggest competitor?
Varun Vummidi: Though there are many gifting businesses, in this specific space we are alone. We are watching out for them though.
The CEO Insights: How challenging has it been to educate merchants on brand benefits of sponsoring a gift?
Varun Vummidi: It hasn’t been too hard. Especially when the merchants don’t bear any significant cost until they see traffic and when that traffic leads to sales. Most partners have been pleased with the response. The mantra that we sell is: Low risk high reward.
The CEO Insights: Social gifting largely works on the concept of ‘try and buy’ concept; how do you ensure the loyalty of customers?
Varun Vummidi: Giftology’s take on gifting is to be a medium that delivers users to the store. Most importantly, our merchants have to be able to convert this visitor into a transacting customer. This in-store experience then determines if that user becomes a loyal customer or not.
The CEO Insights: What is your vision for Giftology and how do you plan to achieve it?
Varun Vummidi: My vision is that I want merchants to actively set aside a budget for running campaigns on Giftology. It should always be a part of their digital strategy or make it their digital strategy. In the long run it will be a platform for smaller businesses to showcase themselves and become a discovery platform for the users.
The CEO Insights: How do you leverage blogging for product reach and impact on branding?
Varun Vummidi: We currently use blogger interactions to reach our desired target group. This helps users find Giftology.
The CEO Insights: Please share your experience with Jabong.com?
Varun Vummidi: Jabong.com was a great learning experience. I was able to get my hands dirty and learn everything about the retail space, right from customer care and ecommerce fulfillment and even set up kiosks and work on social media campaigns. Jabong.com is certainly poised to become the largest web retailer and definitely one that provides value to their stakeholders.
The CEO Insights: What qualities you’re looking for new team members to join Giftology?
Varun Vummidi: A desire to learn and the will to succeed. A ‘Never tomorrow, today is the day’ attitude
The CEO Insights: How would you define your leadership style?
Varun Vummidi: A combination of Persuasive and Democratic. Micro-manage when necessary.
The CEO Insights: What is the best approach to convert a great Idea into a reality?
Varun Vummidi: Conviction and determination are key to convert ideas into reality. All ideas are great, but their value will be known only if they are well executed. It’s important to define your goals, do a reality check & have a focused approach.
The CEO Insights: Who is your role model whose leadership traits you like?
Varun Vummidi: I learn through observation and not from the book. My previous manager, Praveen Sinha, MD at Jabong.com, was someone I learnt a lot from. The Jabong.com operations team has some fantastic individuals who will become great leaders
The CEO Insights: What are your Hobbies?
Varun Vummidi: I take every opportunity to travel. On these travels I try to find something unique, and always carry a ‘try something once’ attitude.
The CEO Insights: Is there anything you would like to add?
Varun Vummidi: Sign up on Giftology.com and send us any suggestions and comments! We would love to hear from you.
To read more about Giftology, Please click here