Alok Goel, CEO, FreeCharge.in started his career with HCL Technologies as project leader and moved on to Adobe Systems. He has worked with Google for five years where he has lead roles such as Product Manager- Search and Geo Local, India, Head of Search and Mobile Products and Product Management. Before starting FreeCharge he was with Redbus as COO.
In a conversation with exchange4media, Goel speaks about FreeCharge’s new features, how coupons are helping to attract customers and on their first national campaign. Excerpts.
How does your business model work?
FreeCharge works on a completely novel and ‘Made In India’ business model. It transforms a boring task of recharge into a rewarding experience. A customer can recharge prepaid phone/pay post-paid bill or recharge DTH connection on FreeCharge.
Every time a consumer recharges, he is rewarded with coupons of equal value thus making the recharge practically free. For instance, a user can recharge for Rs 200 and get rewarded with a free burger and a free coffee coupon from McDonalds and Costa Coffee. Retailers use our platform to disburse coupons to relevant customers.
FreeCharge makes money from telecom operators by way of commission. It also earns money from retailers who want to disburse coupons through the FreeCharge platform.
You had recently raised Rs 200 crore in investments, so how do u plan to go up the value chain?
We raised 200 crore to sustain the rapid growth that we are experiencing. The company has been growing 700 per cent year on year. We would like to sustain this pace of growth and hence have raised this money. This money will be deployed in building more awesome and rewarding products, as well as establishing FreeCharge as a household brand name.
You have come up with your first national campaign. What is the reason behind opting for the national campaign now?
Over last one year, we have spent huge amount of time perfecting our product experience. At this time, FreeCharge provides the fastest as well as the smoothest recharge experience. Our product experience is truly the best in the country and easily competes on global standards. And hence, we think this is right time to embark on the journey of establishing FreeCharge as a household brand name. In India, TV is still one of the most efficient mode for building a national brand and we think it aligns very well with our strategy. That's the reason we went ahead with our maiden TV campaign.
Could you tell us a bit more about your new features?
We recently launched a brand new product called ‘Delights’. This product rewards customers for their regular shopping across commerce world. We have partnered with Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Makemytrip and many other leading commerce companies. Whenever any customer transacts on these shopping sites through FreeCharge.in, the customer is rewarded back with FreeCharge credits.
How big is the online recharge market in India? What would be the total number of transactions done via recharge sites in India?
The recharge market is huge. Every day there are 80 million prepaid mobile recharges that happen across the country. Online is still a very small portion. However, there is a huge hockey stick growth happening towards online recharge market. We think online mobile recharge market will grow on to become 25 million recharges every day. Just to set right perspective, 25 million is about 50 times larger than IRCTC.
Please share some statistics on the number of users for FreeCharge on a daily basis. How big is your target market?
FreeCharge has 12 million users. We also have more than 5M mobile app downloads. We are the fastest growing mobile app in the recharge space.
How different is FreeCharge from competitors such as Mobikwik, JustRechargeIT etc?
We are the pioneers of ‘rewarding recharge experience’. As a company, we are focused on innovation - be it business model innovation or product innovation or marketing innovations.
How are coupons helping to attract customers to FreeCharge.in?
Coupons act as a significant differentiator for us. Most of our coupons are exclusive to us and hence can't be found anywhere else on internet. This results in huge word of mouth among customers. For example, during the recent floods in Jammu and Kashmir, a team took our coupons and gave burgers to people and collected money for donation. These kind of efforts result in significant awareness creation for FreeCharge.
What does your media mix look like? What are your plans for the future?
FreeCharge is quite popular among 18 to 34 year age group, which is also the age group that dominates internet usage in the country. By that virtue we are a true representation of how internet is evolving in India. Our media mix is designed to reach out to this user group. Hence we are quite focused on TV & YouTube as the media channels. We are aiming to become synonymous for the phrase ‘recharge’ in every household.