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Naaree Interviews Swati Bhargava, Co-founder, CashKaro.com

Swati Bhargava is the Co-founder of CashKaro.com, India’s Largest Cashback and Coupons site. CashKaro is backed by the honorable Mr Ratan Tata and by Venture Capital firm, Kalaari Capital.

Along with her husband and Co-founder Rohan Bhargava, Swati has built CashKaro to become India’s largest Cashback site. The couple launched CashKaro.com in April 2013 and pioneered the concept of cashback in India.

Swati is an alumnus of the London School of Economics (LSE) and has worked at Goldman Sachs London within the Investment Banking division and at the Executive Office for 5 years before starting her entrepreneurial journey.

She represented India at the coveted Blackbox Connect – Female Founders Edition 2015 – powered by Google for Entrepreneurs program from April 27 – May 8, 2015 in Silicon Valley, California.

Swati was awarded at the India’s first Digital Women Award for category- Best Service Offering Company in the E-commerce Industry and recognized as one of the top 10 women entrepreneurs by Iamwire.com. She was also honored amongst 4 women trailblazers in Indian ecommerce industry by Economic Times

Swati is an active speaker at many high profile events such Ad:tech, TEDx, TieCON, Economic Times Conferences among others. Along with her husband, Swati has positioned CashKaro as the fastest Cashback site in India with 500% growth over last year.

Naaree.com caught up with Swati to find out the secrets to her success, and her tips to help other women entrepreneurs succeed in their ventures.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Did you always love it or was it something you got into?

My biggest inspiration has been my husband & Co-Founder of CashKaro.com, Rohan. Since I was comfortably working at Goldman Sachs London there were no initial plans to go the entrepreneurial way but I always wanted to do something of my own! There were thoughts turning into ideas and ideas taking the form of functional plans.

Finally, Rohan & I decided to quit our jobs and put all our energy into our Cashback business idea. We conducted thorough research in the field of Cashback as we saw a lot of potential in that area. That is how, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, we started Pouring Pounds in UK in 2011.

While the business was booming in UK, we realized that the E-commerce industry was thriving in India as well. It seemed like the perfect time to introduce the Cashback concept in India. So, in 2013, we decided to enter the Indian market and thus, CashKaro was born!

When do you know that it is no longer just an idea in your mind, and that you can really turn it into a lucrative business?

For a growing E-commerce market like India, the potential for Cashback sites was huge. The biggest take away has been that people are always inclined towards SAVINGS and GREAT BARGAINS.

Over the years, online shoppers have really grown smarter and 80-85% of them typically look for discount coupons & cashback offers before making a purchase. This paradigm shift in consumer behavior gave a kind of an assurance to our business idea.

We were convinced that online shopping, when supplemented with accessibility to products and best deals across categories, will certainly define Indian shopping in the near future.

Lastly, the burgeoning Indian e-commerce industry is projected to reach $100 billion by 2020. It is believed that Affiliate marketing will account for about 20% of these sales, making the market size for CashKaro about $20 billion. More and more E-commerce companies are banking on the affiliate marketing model to lower their cost of customer acquisition.

So, when you see that the numbers are in your favor and people are enthused about the idea of associating with you, you just know that you are setting up for greatness and that it’s not just an idea anymore.

What learning lessons can you share from your startup experience?

Firstly, Perseverance is of the essence. Entrepreneurship is not a walk in the park. You are going to face disappointments.

What matters is that you never give up. You have to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and just keep going. We may not realize this in the moment, but everything actually does happen for the best.

Secondly, put your heart and soul into hiring. Even if it takes longer than you would have expected, wait for the right people to come along. Hire top notch talent who are expert in their roles and get an unflinchingly strong team together.

Finally, Agility is the key. The digital market is incredibly fast paced and you have to be equally agile in order to keep up with the trade. You have to be on your toes constantly and create a robust and active system.

What are some challenges that you faced initially when you started out? Do you have some examples to share and advice to women entrepreneurs on overcoming them?

Whenever you decide to delve into something novel, especially a new business model, there are bound to be certain challenges, whether you’re a man or a woman. So yes, we did face some challenges initially. Although there were no real deal breakers, these were the main issues we had to overcome:

Hiring the right people. It’s the biggest challenge a startup faces. There is a dire need to find people with the same passion and zeal that you possess. If they lack the drive you have, then they don’t fit into your idea. You need to know how to recognize good talent and then retain it by all means.

Educating our users and retailers about the concept of Cashback and affiliate marketing. People needed to understand why they should put their faith in the company. Again, being a novel idea, there was a lack of knowledge about it in India.

Establishing the fact that as a woman, I could strike a balance between family and work. That could only be proven through sheer persistence and hard work. At the end of the day, it showed in our unit metrics and the challenge became redundant altogether.

The lack of seed funding in India. The investors here will only make a significant investment once your company has started making money. This makes acquiring seed money a hurdle for startups.

What are all the things that a woman entrepreneur needs to keep in mind? i.e. apart from your great idea, what do you need to be armed with?

People have this stereotype embedded in their minds that women lack knowledge when it comes to technology. Consequently, they think women won’t be able to stick it out in a career revolving around technology.

So, we need to arm ourselves with complete technical know how about the area we’re working in and everything related to it. We need to play to our strengths and emerge victorious in the uphill battle that entrepreneurship is.

Do women entrepreneurs find it tougher to get funding for businesses? If yes, why do you think that is?

Honestly, yes they do. This is again related to the fact that investors think a woman won’t be able to balance work and family life. Or, they might not have enough knowledge or perseverance to last in the market.

In these cases, you need to stand your ground and have complete confidence in your idea. Speak out confidently about the idea and people will begin to trust it as much as you do.

Is it beneficial to have a mentor when you’re starting out on your own? What does a mentor bring to the table?

Yes, it is always beneficial to have a mentor by your side especially during the commencement of your business. A mentor plays a huge role in introducing you to the challenges you will face as an entrepreneur.

He can help you connect with the right people that belong to his current network. He can help you learn from his experiences so you can sidestep the mistakes that he made when he started out.

In my case it was Paytm’s co-founder, Vijay Shekhar Sharma. I will always value everything he did for me.

How did you recruit your first team? How difficult was it to get people on board during the initial stages?

As I mentioned before, hiring is one of the biggest challenges a new entrepreneur can face. For almost two years, I did all the interviewing myself as I had to ensure the right people were joining the company.

Only recently did we bring an HR on board. We took the generic routes like portals and agencies to find people but we made sure that each person we hired shared the passion and zeal we had. We couldn’t accept anything less than that.

What would you describe as your biggest moments of success in your business?

As is the journey of any start-up, a lot of small events turn into moments of success.  However, funding from Mr. Ratan Tata has probably been the most heartening moment up until now.

In November 2015, we also raised Rs 25 crore in a Series A funding round led by Kalaari Capital, one of the biggest venture capitalist firms.

So we can see that we’re headed in the right direction and with the same zeal and fervour, will continue to tread on this extremely worthwhile path we’ve created for ourselves.

 

3 Ways to Ensure Women Succeed in the Startup World

The legendary actress, Marilyn Monroe, once said, “Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.” Today, women have not only proved they are equal to men but have also excelled in every male-dominated field possible.

It’s no different for the startup world! Women have started businesses, getting a huge payoff and soaring to new heights. In light of this, let us look at three things women entrepreneurs must do well to ensure they succeed in the startup world.

1. Do the Math

Women may have a qualitative outlook on things, which is a good thing, but overlooking of the quantitative details may need improvement. Women must remind themselves that data, numbers and analysis are important in refining and improving business strategies.

Different elements of any business must be tested. It is important to leverage the internal data and translate them into business success. Analysis, facts, and figures (data) bring out a huge wealth of valuable insights which result in tangible outcomes.

Three ways to manage relevant data

  • Compile
  • Analyze
  • Communicate

Women or anyone involved in business must first understand the nature and scope of the business to explore the different areas of that venture. Then, you must make sure to make continuous improvements and innovations in it.

Women must make sure to get their statistics right so they keep can track their growth or regrowth and set the right business expectations.

You must not neglect market-related or customer-related data and statistics. This is important to know where a particular business service or product stands in the market.

Next, you must never overlook data on competition and what they offer. This will help you set prices competitively, create marketing strategies, take advantage of the competitor’s weakness and improve your business performance.

The target audience needs to be targeted based on the customer needs and insights, again bringing to mind the importance of doing the math and studying the stats and making business plans accordingly.

You cannot afford to ignore data. It is important to get the numbers right and concentrate on projections and inferences as this will help to measure growth and give a better focus on your business.

2. Dream Big

In general, women are content with success in little things like doing a home-based job well or setting up a business on a small scale whereas men may seem to conquer the world. As a woman, sometimes you need to just go with your gut. It could mean taking a step with a leap of faith.

If a woman wants to succeed in what is predominantly perceived as a man’s world, she needs to raise the stakes and play it big! It is important to take up the leadership role by presenting decisiveness and confidence.

Sometimes the decisions may not be 100 percent effective but it is required to take such risky steps for the business. However, there is a limit to risk-taking.

To name a few types of risks relevant to startups, you have product risks, market risks, calculative risks, team risks and execution of strategy risks. This must not stop you from taking any substantial steps.

If and when disaster strikes, a disciplined way to identify and mitigate the risk will help to meet the odds. This will increase the likelihood of success. Thus, the key is to venture out, evaluating risks involved, and not being afraid to pivot.

3. Be Your Authentic Self

By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go.”- Emmanuel.

Never forget that women bring unique qualities and strengths to their workplaces and professions. You must never try to emulate men you see as peers or your competition.

Being you, fearlessly, is one of the key elements women need to achieve success.

Women must focus on being a powerful influence and impact to the lives around. You must simply embrace the woman you are – authentic and unique.

There will be times of crisis when you will look inward and question your confidence and your decisions when you will feel inferior (to those around) or insufficient in yourself.

Doubts creeps in. Yet, during these times, you need to remove the mask and be your authentic self and focus on your goals.

In a world that is changing but still is male dominated at many levels, women must focus on utilizing their strengths, especially in those areas where women in general have an advantage over men – negotiation skills, communication, presentation skills and so on.

Six techniques to be you:

  • Remove the expectation mask which is put on to impress people around.
  • Be fearless, converting your fears into areas of growth.
  • Follow your intuition and listen to your inner voice.
  • Avoid imitation and create your own ideas.
  • Pay attention and observe every moment.
  • Express every move with confidence.

Women must not follow others but create their own path.

Every person is born different and so, each one has his or her own story. Women must be courageous enough to make their own story.

A woman’s perseverance and unique talents can make her a force to reckon with in the world of business.

So, the message to every woman out there is this: Dream Big, set out to achieve your dream, believe in yourself, be yourself, play it big, play it right and never give up!

Author Bio:

Being a writer at Topaussie review, Alice Clarke has an experience in a startup world. You may find her on Facebook.     

Why You Should Say ‘No’ At Work

Sometimes saying yes to every tough assignment may seem like the best thing to do.

You work an 18-hour day job, you say yes to that new project that means yes to that promotion, and yes to more responsibilities. Not to mention that the fear of losing the job prevents you from saying no to new projects and more work.

But what is the outcome? More stress related illnesses, exhaustion, and depression. Remember your manager will not change but you are.

Sometimes you may not have a choice, but if you do, how do you say no to the opportunity in a polite way such that it doesn’t sound offensive to the person offering it?

The question of where to say “No” at work should be a serious matter and you must consider it carefully. Much depends on the line of work.

But when that time comes, how do you avoid being regarded as “difficult to work with?” Here are some reasons to say no to work in a polite way and how it will be helpful to you.

When Is It Ok To Say ‘No’ At Work

  • When it hinders you from pursuing your interests

We all have something that we would want to pursue in future. But to accomplish this, some may opt to stick to a job first until they are ready to move to the next stage.

If you fall in this category, there are times you need to say ‘no’ to work when your boss assigns a task that does not fall under your job description. You can delegate the task to another person who is more qualified.

This earns you more respect. If you are not being compensated fully for the task and you feel that the task will take away time from pursuing what you want, a polite ‘no’ will show that you are committed and value your time.

  • When it hinders your ability to accomplish short-term and long-term goals

To achieve success, you need to prioritize and pay more attention to tasks that need more attention and yield much more. Keeping a list of short-term and long-term priorities and trying to fit all your tasks in each one of them.

If a task does not fit in any one of them, reject it and be straight that you cannot work on that project. Give a brief explanation that the task doesn’t match your current priorities and sometimes you can suggest an alternative. At the end, be focused and accomplish what you have set.

  • When it doesn’t propel you towards your goal

You can say no to a job or project that does not propel you to accomplish your key goals.

The reason why people do any job they come across and put all their effort in it is the thought that one day they will land that promotion, partnership or a huge cross-functional project.

At the end, you have limited time and resources, and you need to make the best out of this project. At that same time, you receive a new proposal that may be a distraction. What do you do?

The best thing to do is to go through it then politely explain that you are currently working on another, so you might not give the required attention to this one. Being honest will show you are committed to what you are working on.

  • When you are not happy with the decision

If you find yourself questioning why you are making time for a certain project, you should rethink your decision and evaluate if you are in for it for the love of it or for the sake of being there. You should push on or raise your opinion on processes that you disagree with.

You don’t have to agree with every decision that is made if it is not satisfactory, always get the courage to question your choices and seek clarification when something is not clear.

Having the right answers will allow you to make a decision before accepting the project and realize the amount of time and effort needed to complete the task.

How Saying ‘No’ is Helpful to You

  • Allows you to live up to your commitments

If you cannot compose yourself to say no, you have little time to devote to greater activities.

Some of us believe that they are efficient with time but the reality is that you need to focus your time and effort on your commitments to achieve maximum results.

You will find more comfort and satisfaction in your commitments if you are able to devote enough time to fewer tasks that grow you as a person.

  • Enables you to pursue other opportunities that arise

It requires a lot of gumption to turn down a task or job. In the beginning, it may be hard since you don’t know if you will land another project or client to close another deal. But every one of us at some point may say no to different tasks.

Some can do this by sending signals of being committed to something else or overstretched in a certain assignment. But having the ability to say no allows you to open up to new opportunities and enable you to exercise what you know fully.

  • Allows you to be the best at what you do

If you learn to say no to things that do not match your interest and yes to tasks that you have a true passion, you will have great drive and motivation to perform the roles you really love doing.

The more effort and time you dedicated to what you are passionate about, the more you become innovative, productive and successful in your endeavors. At the end of the day, it’s about making knowing when to say yes and no to a job or project.

  • Enables you to choose clients selectively

Sometimes you can get a client who is difficult to deal with especially they hail all sort of complaints on different things. It can be a distraction to you and you end up not delivering your best on the project.

Difficult clients are a nightmare and sometimes they may push you so hard to your limit such that you become emotionally drained. They take much time, energy and resources.

When you first meet a client, look for red flags. If you sense that they may be difficult to handle or the nature of the project may be beyond what you can handle, don’t be afraid to say no and recommend the client to someone else. This will save you time and resources.

  • You live a healthier and more satisfactory life

Doing a lot of work can make you depressed and can lead to stress-related illnesses.

Having the ability to say no when you don’t agree with a certain project will give you the freedom to say yes to opportunities that are within your passion, strength, and talent.

People who realize this have a greater satisfaction and more time to exercise and live a healthier and more satisfactory life.

Saying no at work is a hard decision to make, but sometimes you need to develop the skill to say no politely. You want to sound good at it so practice earlier.

Remember you don’t want to be seen as “not a team player” or being described as difficult or lazy. These tips will help you get through the process of saying ‘no’ and reap the benefits of making such a decision. Try them out.

Author bio:

Eva Wislow is a blogger and career coach at CareersBooster resume writing services. She is on a mission to help people find their true calling. Eva finds her inspiration in writing and peace of mind through yoga.