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Want to recharge your mobile for free? Try this!

Last updated on: September 3, 2010 16:15 IST

Want to recharge your mobile for free? Try this!

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Manu A B in Mumbai

Recharging your mobile phone was never better than this. Cashing in on the boom in the number of mobile and e-commerce subscribers in India, a start-up company offers a unique way to recharge your prepaid mobile voucher.

For any amount you recharge, Freecharge.in offers you free coupons from retailers like McDonalds and Barista. "Each coupon has its own terms and conditions. For McDonald's, to use a Rs 50 coupon, you have to buy products worth Rs 50. In Barista, it's a 'buy one, get one free' offer. Other coupons that we are putting up will be even better," says Naman Sarawagi, product head, Freecharge.in.

Three weeks after its launch, 15 major national retailers have expressed their interest to join Freecharge.in, run by Accelyst Solutions Pvt. Ltd. The company plans to offer free coupons from more restaurants, multiplexes, apparel and grocery stores in the near future.

Freecharge.in is founded by Kunal Shah, who has a B2B business called PaisaBack, a strategic marketing company that runs cashback and promotional discount campaigns for organised retailers.

"Kunal wanted to extend this idea to a larger scale so he went ahead to launch Freecharge. Freecharge combines the idea of cashback with prepaid recharge, which essentially touches about 500 million mobile subscribers directly," says Naman Sarawagi.

"One can recharge for any amount between Rs 10 and Rs 1,000. You get coupons worth exactly the amount of recharge. If you recharge for Rs 1,000, you would get coupons worth Rs 1,000. The company is currently doing over 1,000 transactions a day, which no other e-commerce portal has achieved in India in such a short time," claims Naman.

Naman Sarawagi tells us more about this innovative idea, its business potential and how you can get free coupons on every recharge...

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Image: Freecharge fans with their coupons.

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What kind of research and work was required to make Freecharge.in a reality?

The size of the prepaid recharge market is known to all. The idea validation about cashbacks and coupons was done through the existing business of Paisaback. We needed to know how many of these recharges happen online.

Since there are multiple tie-ups required in this business involving banks for payment, mobile operators for recharge and retailers for coupons, we had to talk to leaders in these industries to gauge their interest.

How many users have logged in so far? Are the number of people using growing steadily? What are your projections?

We have started only 3 weeks ago and are already doing over 1,000 transactions a day, which no other e-commerce portal has achieved in India in such a short time.

With our marketing initiatives, this number would grow multiple folds by the end of this month. Since there are 500 million subscribers to target, there is virtually no limit.

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Image: Kunal Shah, founder, Freecharge.in.

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How does Freecharge.in work?

Freecharge is like any other online store. You order, you pay and you get the product delivery. Say, if a user wants to recharge his mobile for Rs 100, he would need to log on to freecharge.in and enter his mobile number and amount. Here, he gets an option to order the free coupons worth equal to the amount of recharge i.e. Rs 100.

He can choose any number of coupons of any retailer totaling that amount. Once this is done, he would need to pay us through his credit/debit/ATM card or net banking account. We have a secure connection for collecting the payments and support almost all major banks and cards in India.

Once the payment is done, the mobile would be recharged instantaneously and coupons will be couriered to the user the same day. A delivery fee of Rs 10 will have to be paid when you receive the coupon. The coupons will be delivered in 3 days, which can be used to avail discounts at our partner retail outlets.

How different is Freecharge from the existing services that offer this service?

Currently, there is no service that offers any form of coupons or cashback for mobile recharges. We, in fact, have acquired a 'patent pending' status on this business model, though Future Group's T24 Mobile is doing this in a small scale in Andhra Pradesh with only their own retail outlets and only their subscribers.

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Image: Naman Sarawagi, product head, Freecharge.in

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How challenging is it to work in a start-up?

It is very challenging. At times, getting people to listen to you can be tough but that is where the fun lies. The eco-system is supportive if you learn to connect to the right people. Also, if you are a pioneer in the industry, then it gets even better as you define the rules and set the benchmark.

What kind of difficulties do you face?

The online payment solution in India is yet to mature so we are facing issues on that front. We are investing time and money to create more awareness among mobile subscribers.

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Image: Customer care team.

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How many people have you hired?

We have a core team of 10 people and 10 people in customer support and order fulfillment section. We will be a team of 100 people by year end.

How many operators have you tied up with?

We have tied up with 11 operators. This covers all major telecom companies. Airtel would be live from September 4.

Is this a very profitable business? How do you earn revenues?

The revenues currently come from the recharge.  As our user base increases new revenue streams will also kick in. It's difficult to comment on profits as we have just started.

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Image: A customer with his coupon.

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What are your revenue expectations?

We intend to capture 50 per cent of the total online recharge business by end of first year. Given the size of the market, this figure runs over Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion).

Do you believe India needs more entrepreneurs? What keeps India from becoming a product giant like it is in services?

Entrepreneurship is not only about running your own business, it's a way of life. Even when you work for a company as an employee, you can be entrepreneurial in your approach.

Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and enduring the result, irrespective of what it is. I believe when companies start encouraging their employees to take more risks and be proactive in their work, we will see more innovations and that will drive India to become a product giant.

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Image: Order fulfillment team packing the coupons.

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What are the most important things that entrepreneurs must have to succeed?

I believe the ability to take risks, the ability to withstand a failure and the courage to try again, after learning from a failure.

What are your future plans?

We plan to launch DTH recharges, postpaid bill payments, utility bill payments and finally extend the model offline as well.


Image: Kunal Shah.

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