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india Updated: Jul 10, 2010 23:10 IST
Nivriti Butalia
Nivriti Butalia
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Last week, a hack on an assignment, with a weakness for Italian food, bought her first deal on a ‘group buying’ site. Hack will get to what these ‘group buying’ sites are, but the deal first — a meal at Cibo, an Italian restaurant in the capital at a 53 per cent discount. Similar deals are available across the country, whether you’re in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedbad, Jaipur or Chandigarh.

After a phone call to the restaurant to make sure the deal wasn’t a hoax, and using a credit card, we bought coupons for two. You eat for Rs 750, but pay Rs 349. Bottom line: Your savings just got fatter.

The downside: alcohol isn’t included. If you want to drink, you pay separately. Similarly, if you eat for more than Rs 750, you eat at your own expense.

What you have to be careful about: Say you’re going in a group of five, make sure, then, that you buy coupons in the names of all five people, because not more than one voucher per head is allowed. Oh, and make reservations. In some cases, the wine-and-dine deals are applicable only on weekdays.

What’re group buying sites?

Group buying sites or crowd bargaining sites, simply put, are great fun. The deals apply not only to restaurants — although food-outings do top the charts. You have spa deals, pottery deals, car wash deals, nail art deals, deals to visit tiger sanctuaries, and deals on purple T-shirts with ‘Twitter is for morons’ written on them.

But unlike in the States, group buying sites are relatively new to India. So you have to get to know these sites, browse the deals of the day, understand nuances, calculate, and learn to tell between a good deal and a bad one.

Analogy wise, think of shopping. Think of a mall. Think of discounts and lots of people flocking to one store. Now convert these thoughts into virtual reality. What you get is a dozen websites offering great value for money deals.

As Kunal Bahl, head of snapdeal.com, that was launched this February puts it, “Indian consumers are very price sensitive.” He also says their customer service is “kickass”. You’ll have to buy something from snapdeal and see for yourself.

How does this work?

We, price sensitive consumers, log on to these websites, decide on a deal and click on ‘buy’.

Sites have different cut-offs for different deals. Maybe 40 people is the cut off for a round of beers, maybe 130 is for a trip to Ranthambore. Either way, judging by how deals are being lapped up, there’s no dearth of buyers.

It’s not an auction field. The price remains static. Just that lots of people need to want what you want. It also happens that deals get cancelled; say if not more than three people buy a coupon to eat Bengali food at a restaurant 30 kms away from home. Deals get cancelled when very few people opt for them because the merchants’ margins can’t drop.

Who runs these sites?

These companies are started by people who were toddlers when Kapil Dev was captain of the Indian cricket team. Their target: the age group of 18-35.

Bangalore-based group deal site, Koovs, is run by four friends who went to Kindergarten together.

Co-founder Kanishka Shukla speaks for all of them when he says it’s great to work in the midst of friends. Their goal: to be the Walmart of India.