An e-commerce shopping company is not cool, you know what is kool? One that not only provides you a platform to discover merchandise on several shopping sites, but also lets you compare prices across them.
Welcome Koolkart.com, an e-commerce destination that makes use of the burgeoning online shops in India and the userbase of the most popular social network aka Facebook, to help do you just one thing: BUY. Koolkart makes sure that you know what to buy, and where to buy from, by providing you an easy mechanism to look at what your friends are buying (and recommending), and get the best price from the many sellers available out there.
Koolkart presents you with a very intuitive and simplistic layout, where you can browse through trending merchandise or search for products across five categories: Books, Gadgets, Fashion, Home Decor, and Beauty. You may then go ahead and add products to one of the six predefined karts, or create new karts, which would be visible to your network.
Since it is an FB app, your karts are published to your stream, making discovery easy. Like other FB apps, you can limit visibility as to who can see feeds from this app. You may also add reviews for certain products, which may be useful for your social circles, and search products on others’ karts.
An important part of the whole shopping experience is the “Find the Best Price” bookmarklet button, which, once installed to your browser toolbar, provides a one-click access to prices on all leading e-tailers. This is better than Amazon’s Junglee attempt to compare prices because there, you need to visit junglee.com and search for products. However, Koolkart’s bookmarklet can be clicked on the product page of any site you are at.
This short video explains the basics of ‘Koolkarting’:
Koolkart.com is founded by IIMA batchmates Suneil Chawla and Anupam Agarwal. Here is an interview with Anupam Agarwal, who had earlier co-founded Flightraja.com (now via.com):
PI: What were the factors behind the idea of marrying shopping with social?
AA: We saw ecommerce finally taking off in India and recognized that there will be a thousand plus ecommerce companies opening up in the next 1-2 years. This will bring two problems for consumers
(1) What to buy: Consumers will be spoilt for choice with thousands of e-retailers, but e-retailers are highlighting products they want to sell and not all consumers have the time to go through every site digging for products which suit their tastes. We wanted to create an independent platform where consumers can discover products being purchased/recommended by their friends and fellow shoppers who have similar tastes. Solving the “What to buy” question faced by consumers has been our starting point.
(2) Where to buy: Consumers want to know which retailers are trustworthy and who is selling at the best price or having the best deal. Our price comparison and retailer reviews have evolved from these consumer needs.
We came up with the concept of Discovery + price comparison factoring in these two consumer needs. Social is an important part of discovery, as we usually shop offline with our friends and family. We are working to make Koolkart.com the best place to start shopping online, where a user can connect with his/her friends and family and compare prices at the same time.
PI: Why only the Indian market?
AA: Given that we understand Indian consumers better than others and the geographic advantage of being located close to retailers and brands, we think India is a natural focus area. There is plenty of innovation which can be done in the Indian market and our hands are full in the near future.
PI: How does your price engine work? Does it search for a product across all e-tailers or only among products ‘karted’ by members?
AA: Our price comparison works across all leading retailers. It works across all products, including those not shared by consumers. Currently we have price comparison for books, mobiles, laptops, camera, tablets, gaming consoles.
PI: Your bookmarklet is oddly named. “Find the Best Price”. Since it is one of the essential ingredients of the product, I assume a lot of thought would have gone in. How did you arrive at this name?
AA: Good question 🙂 It was earlier named “Koolkart it”, as it enabled users to compare prices instantly and share products they like with their friends on Koolkart and Facebook. After user testing, we realized it’s easiest to communicate one value proposition to the user, which is, he can compare prices instantly. Once the consumer sees utility in the platform, she will automatically use the button for the social aspects. We are already seeing that happen.
PI: Who are the other players in this space, especially in the Indian market? Do you see a threat from biggies like Amazon’s Junglee?
AA: There are many vertical price comparison engines coming up, but frankly, we do not see anyone focused on providing a discovery platform for consumers and engaging the consumers in a social experience (bringing live the experience of shopping offline). We see a big need to help consumers improve their online shopping experience and at the same time, help retailers move away from a transactional focus to a more relationship-oriented approach to engaging with consumers.
Junglee – looks like this is only a front for Amazon till they can setup their retail operations. Currently, they do compete with us on price comparison, but they do not have all the leading retailers covered.
PI: How about funds and revenues?
AA: We are self-funded, from our prior savings. Many top tier-VCs have reached out to us in the last month, but we want to be self-funded till we find the right long-term partner.
The basic revenue model is affiliate fees from retailers. But we see large potential once we become the starting point for shopping. We are currently focused on improving the shopping experience and growing the user base at Koolkart.
PI: How many users do you have currently?
AA: Traction’s been good. We launched in end-Jan and in 2.5 months, we have touched 3000 uniques a day. We continue to see user growth from Facebook and a fair number of users through Search.
PI: What are your future plans?
AA: We are very focused on improving the online shopping experience and increasing the number of users who are engaged with the community. That is our prime focus area.
Further, for price comparison, we continue to add new categories. We already have all books, mobiles, laptops, cameras, tablets and gaming consoles. We’ll be adding price comparison for other product categories going forward.
PI: Will you integrate other social networks here or is it going to be a Facebook-only service?
AA: We are looking to integrate with Twitter in the near future. Expect a mobile app soon to take discovery and price comparison mobile.
PI: What is the technology stack used?
AA: We have mainly used Java and Mysql. Given Anupam’s earlier experience in developing Flight price comparison at Flightraja.com(Earlier Via.com), we had a fair idea of the tech stack requirements.
PI: Any other detail/info you would like me to know.
AA: We are expanding our team and our looking for two team members, with skills in SEO and content creation. We can be reached at email@example.com.
Koolkart is an interesting and useful application that employs the Facebook Open Graph to ease out shopping by creating a community, a sub-network, if you will, of like-minded shoppers. The cross-site price comparison at the click of a button is a marvelous attempt. What do you think?
If you frequently buy stuff online and are spoilt for choices, using KoolKart to compare prices and to find out what your friends are buying may help. Let us know, by means of comments below, if it really helped.