I just had an excellent conversation with Coupondunia CEO, Sameer Parwani. If you look at Sameer’s Linkedin profile, he graduated as a Computer Science major from an excellent university (Cornell) in 2005 and went on to a great corporate job at PriceWaterhouse. Nonetheless, there are two key factors which make is background even more interesting from a “TropicalGringo” perspective. These are: 1. The fact that, before graduating from college, he had already cofounded a site with more than 350k registered users and 2. His global vision and ability to see opportunities not only in the US, but, also, in countries outside of the US.
After helping cofound another startup, which later was acquired by a bigger company, Sameer decided to test out an idea for offering digital coupons in India. It was 2010 and he had been an avid user in the states of coupon site Retail Me Not and thought there was a major opportunity to offer similar deals in other countries. In order to vet the offers, he hired someone through oDesk to help him. This is interesting because, instead of looking right away for Angel investment, he kept testing this idea until he started to see some traction.
Sameer noticed that India, a country with 1.3B people had a nascent e-commerce market that was still quite small at around 25 million users with strong potential for growth. A few months into 2011, it was obvious to Sameer that CouponDunia had tremendous potential and he had the confirmation that he needed to affirm his believe that this was a real business. By September, with 3 employees, he moved himself and his family to India to build the business. A year later, he has more than 30 employees, Coupondunia is the market leader and business is thriving.
Now he is launching several other countries around the world including Brazil, where he has launched CupomWorld. Brazil already has some coupon sites such as Rocket Internet’s CupoNation with, at least, $11M in funding. With an ecommerce market growing at 13+% per year and approaching a B2C market $20B in size and 30 million eshoppers, there is still quite a bit of runway to position a leader in this space within the Brazilian market.
As he did in India, in Brazil, he will focus on ensuring the best customer experience by validating and vetting coupon offers and negotiating better deals by leveraging growing transaction volume. By focusing on exponentially growing markets (e.g., ecommerce volume, etc.), Sameer has a chance to get tremendous payback for his and his team’s talent and ability to execute. In developed markets such as the US this is the price of admission.
For instance, in Colombia, where I live, entrepreneurs who have achieved less are hailed as heroes. This is fine because this ecosystem needs such heroes in order to enlist the next batch of entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, entrepreneurs from the US such as Sameer and others such as my friends at VivaReal, a real estate portal, have intelligently applied their skills and talent to markets which, though fraught with more friction than other markets, can provide incredible returns.
I really enjoyed my conversation with Sameer. However, you can tell when you’re speaking with someone who much rather do that talk about doing, which is incredibly refreshing. I really believe that his decision to eschew developed markets for “under-developed” markets will turn out to be an incredibly rewarding one on a number of levels. Also, I woudn’t be surprised (and I know he wouldn’t either) if Brazil and CupomWorld turns out to be his crown jewel. I predict he’ll soon be on the Samba circuit and enjoying some Caipirinhas as he gets in tune with Brazilian tastes (I’m jealous).