Ravi Trivedi is the founder of CouponRani.com, which receives 200,000 to 1,500,000 visits a month, and 10,000 to 40,000 transactions monthly. They reached this level after only about two years.
He earned a Master’s degree in Computer Science then went to work in Hewlett Packard, where he learned about the new field of web services. He was writing articles and conducting training on the topic and then someone invited him to write on web services security, and Ravi was pleased to have the opportunity.
Technology is not the silver bullet, says Ravi; it’s an enabler to solving a real pain point. In working as a consultant, he got to know more about customer needs and pain points and convinced his supervisors to let him move more in a direction where he could understand client needs, and so he moved into a pre-sales and marketing role.
He decided it was important to secure an MBA as well, and began as a part-time student in Bangalore, but decided he needed to do it full-time. He mainly looked at schools in the US and ended up at Duke University. Eventually, he began working on Wall Street.
Unlike many others, Ravi never sought or wanted a green card; it was always his intention to return to India upon completion of his Master’s degree. He ended up spending nine years in the US but never intended to stay permanently. He also realizes that if he needed or wanted to start a business in the US, he could do so from India.
In the US he started working in a venture fund, and on returning to India he started one. He saw that working with entrepreneurs allowed him the potential for longer-term investment. His emphasis is really on angel funds, which is a lower level and usually combined with a group of 15 to 20 other investors.
To help them learn what needed to be done as angel investors, Ravi and a partner each decided to found their own startups. They did it without investors, but they used the experience to prepare themselves. They realized they first wanted to learn how to fish before trying to teach others to fish.
CouponRani is Ravi’s bootstrap startup for this idea. A first site was started in 2012, although it took a while to develop the full system he wanted.
An intern who was only with CouponRani for six months helped teach Ravi a lot about community building and SEO, which did a great deal to help develop the company. One event was a Republic Day Twitter trivia contest.
One focus that Ravi has kept with CouponRani is to only work with online coupons, rather than “brick and mortar” store coupons. This allowed them to keep a smaller salesforce – it was more scalable and suitable for their model.
An important part of SEO that Ravi learned was to focus on the end user first, rather than the other way around. They’ve also found that doing the contrarian thing often works – he uses the example of optimizing Facebook ads for clicks, rather than likes, yet ending up getting likes at a lower cost (he also points out this no longer works!)
The company does 6 figures in annual revenue. They expanded to Singapore and Malaysia, although they only continue in Malaysia at this point.
Ravi is now also founding PushEngage.com. This company creates browser popup messages. It’s targeted at both enterprise and consumer clients. He sees it as a tool produced by a marketer, for a marketer. The current plans are to continue growth internationally.
For Couponrani, Ravi hopes to become the top of the field for mid-tier merchants within a couple years.
Advice for Others Starting Out
Never give up. It’s the only secret for success in startups.
Ravi does ask that if you reach out to him, please be specific about what you’re looking for so that he can respond appropriately to your questions.
Ravi [at] pushengage [dot] com
Ravi [at] couponrani [dot] com