TWO steaks for the price of one, or a complimentary haircut for a guest when you pay for one, choosing from hundreds of brands and outlets. Sounds like a good deal, no? Well, that’s what a Karachi-based startup is offering.
Vouch365 is a buy-one-get-one voucher app/book that lets you avail a fixed number of coupons redeemable for a year. From food and drink to travel and tourism, they have countless coupons in six categories. Whether it’s an amusement park in Gulistan-e-Jauhar or fancy restaurant in Defence, Vouch365 has it.
How does it work? Go to their website, select your city and whether you want a book or an app, and fill in the order details and place the order. They will deliver the book/app where you can pay by cash. You must be wondering, how does one deliver an app? Yeah, I get that. It’s basically an envelope with a code to enter when you activate the app (to be downloaded from the Playstore/Appstore). You can then search for a particular place, filter by categories or look at all the brands on a map. In order to redeem, just open that brand and show the merchant your phone.
A book of coupons, cash dealings and the app being delivered… all of it doesn’t sound the most sophisticated way of conducting business for tech-enabled startup. Especially for Vouch365, a company offering deals with brands that only middle- and upper-middle class people can afford — a population that pretty much has access to smartphones and is fairly tech-savvy. “Having both the app and book makes us accessible to all ages, even those not too comfortable with technology. As for payments, we recently introduced online transfers and are moving towards less cash-oriented modes as we scale,” the company’s CEO Faizan Lakhani says.
When questioned about their revenue stream, he says that there are quite a few actually. Firstly, the company makes money through retail consumers who buy their vouchers and then there is the annual induction fee charged to merchants. Though that’s not it: the company has a lot of corporate clientele, to which it offers a range of solutions, including discount deals and dedicated apps.
This is one of the more saturated industries in Pakistan, with a number of players such as Peekaboo Guru, SavYour and Bogo.pk. What makes these guys different then? The first two have very different models as one is sort of an aggregator while the second offers percentage discounts. Bogo.pk, however, works the exact same way. How does Vouch365 then plan to navigate through in this tight space? “We have been here for longer, our network is bigger and the tech is superior too so it should be alright,” Lakhani says.
Vouch365 was launched by Lakhani in 2015 and is owned by the parent company Entertainer Asia. Other than this flagship, they have a range of similar products like VouchGold – a premium version of buy-one-get-one deals with infinite vouchers – or VouchTravel, an aggregator of sorts for tours. “This ecosystem has been very mature in Pakistan for quite some time but there was a huge gap here and we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity,” he recalls.
To this day, the venture is being internally funded but Lakhani is exploring options all across. “We have already gained significant ground in Pakistan and now want to set foot internationally as well, which an investment would drastically accelerate,” he shares.
Starting out from just Karachi, Vouch365 has seven cities across the country and before officially launching, already has some presence in Dubai as well. “We have quite a few merchants on board in UAE but it’s not enough for a standalone product. But by 2020, we will have that too, which is why we are trying to score an investment,” says Lakhani.
Their numbers are pretty decent as well, with over 100,000 retail customers and 4.5 million users having access to Vouch365 through corporates. In fact, they are already in the green with annual profits reinvested every year to further scale, according to the CEO. All of this should make up for attractive multiples, and thus a good valuation, when they eventually go for external funding.
The writer is member of staff:
Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2019