COO Muhammad Ali Khoja looks to cash in on the B2C pie of discounts industry.
COO Muhammad Ali Khoja looks to cash in on the B2C pie of discounts industry.

IN a newly developed consumer market, driven by discounts, it’s usually difficult to keep track of all the offers.

Switching between your buy-one-get-one or bank apps to see if there’s a good deal to eat at that posh restaurant only to find out after having the fancy meal that you aren’t saving anything because the offer got expired yesterday.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just organise all the offers a bit better?

You’re in luck because one tech startup is doing exactly this: discount aggregation.

Peekaboo Guru is a Karachi-based startup which lets you discover all the possible discounts and deals in one place. From bank offers to those of digital wallets, the portal lists them all.

How does it work? Go to the app/website, sign up, enter the type of bank cards/discount apps/digital wallets you own and discover all the freebies available to you on a single platform. You can also filter your search by city, location, and category and quickly find where can save a few bucks. Currently, their portal has 10 categories, ranging from food to electronics.

But it’s not only deals and offers though. “We had started from working as an aggregator for discount discovery but eventually pivoted to more of a lifestyle app because we didn’t want to be limited to discounts, as they could be removed by the provider whenever they wished.

“So we started listing details such as the brand outlets, availability of WiFi, contact number — basically all of the publicly available information relevant to a brand,” says Chief Operating Officer Muhammad Ali Khoja.

And where do they get the data from in the first place? The data usually comes from providers themselves, internet searches, or field visits by staffs to the brands. Basically whatever it takes.

The startup was launched in May 2016 by Muhammad Ali Khoja and Mehdi Hassan who were working in the actuarial and tech sectors.

“While studying in the UK, I got this bad habit of discounts everywhere and found this scene largely untapped in Pakistan so we decided to try it,” he recalls.

Currently, they have around 300,000 downloads - which, though good enough to make decent money, is far from the numbers required to disrupt the market. And Khoja is mindful of that.

“As a young, resource-constrained startup, B2B seemed lucrative to us at the time due to quicker returns so we started focusing more on it: getting customers indirectly through corporate clients and powering their own discount portals. That ended up cannibalising our B2C user base instead. But with the new round raised, we will now have some loss appetite to expand our direct consumer business,” he says.

The startup raised pre-seed money from Oman Technology Fund to the tune of $100,000 and are about to raise over a million dollars from some UK-based investors. The money will be channelled to expand Peekaboo’s B2C wing, where Khoja is eyeing some million direct users through app/website.

How do they make money? Peekaboo has multiple revenue streams: starting from initial signing up fee for corporate clients along with monthly data maintenance costs; charges for premium listing on the app; push notifications; and chatbots for the brand-operated social media channels. For consumers, however, the product is completely free.

In fact, given its role of a mere discovery portal, Peekaboo Guru has found it particularly difficult to monetise the B2C segment.

But now they seem to have found a way around it.

“We have recently integrated with Uber and Eat Mubarak platform on our app so our users can access both directly from our portal, without the need to download more apps.

Any orders placed through us will then earn us a small cut as well,” informs Khoja.

How does the wider scene look like in the industry? Lately, a number of local players have ventured into the discounts and lifestyle arena tech such as Vouch365 and Bogo with their annual buy-one-get-one books, SavYour through its (still) free percentage discounts and Golootlo’s Union Pay-powered offers making it one of the more competitive industries.

But Peekaboo is different from them all: while the rest are providers of exclusive discounts, available at their merchant network, Peekaboo Guru puts them all on a single portal. So rather than being threatened by them, Guru feeds on them.

While the consumer market in Pakistan has exponentially grown over the past decade, total number of brands is still limited, which means the potential addressable market has a ceiling. And this is why Khoja and co are looking to gain turf internationally as well.

“We recently got our company registered in Oman which helped us enter in to the Middle Eastern market. Other than that, we are also eyeing the UK which also has a huge discounts and consumer industry without an aggregator as such,” he tells Dawn.

The writer is member of staff:

Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2019


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