91mobiles.com (91Digital Web Private Ltd.) is the largest gadget research site in India, with over 7.5 million visitors per month providing information & interactive tools to help users research which mobile phone or gadget best suits their needs.
Launched in mid-2010, with a small team of 4-5 people, the website was able to build reach to 30,000 users per day in its first year of launch. The user-base has doubled every year since then, to reach over 250,000 users per day in 2014. 91mobiles was borne out of the huge need to provide a comprehensive gadget research portal for India with emphasis on local brands and retailers. Since the idea was specific to India, they even went on to add “91” which is the ISD code of India and isn’t that just enthralling?
The company was founded by Bharanidharan Viswanathan (ISB-Hyderabad alumnus) and Nitin Mathur (IIM-Calcutta alumnus).Bharani was earlier the Co-founder & CTO of Accentium Web, where he was part of the team that built sites like Gaadi.com (later acquired by iBibo Group) and Secondshaadi.com. Nitin had earlier founded an online loyalty & reward venture, Privilege Corner, which was acquired by corporate gifting company, eYantra. Nitin started his career in investment banking with ICICI Securities & Lehman Brothers.
On asking what prompted them to start this venture, Nitin says “Though there are many related sites solving part of the problems, there was a missing need for a solid research portal that can definitely answer the questions such as ‘What gadget should I buy?’ and ‘Where can I get the best deal?’ under the same roof. We were confident about pulling this off based on our rich experience and understanding of Indian consumers. But, while beginning we wanted to take a measured approach and started off with a shoe-string budget, a small team and couple of use-cases. The idea was to rapidly iterate and reach the product-market fit. Once we had a solid understanding of the market needs, we invested behind the team, product and marketing. Also, while there are gadget news sites that cover the latest happenings in the space, and price comparison sites that help users research the best price, what’s missing are good sites that help users research the best device for their needs, from among the many options. 91mobiles fills this gap by providing users tools & content to help research available gadget options and narrow down to the most suitable choice.”
91mobiles is now a 45-people strong team, and is head-quartered in Gurgaon, along with another office in Chennai. Also, the company has raised close to USD 1 million in a pre-Series A round from a set of investors led by India Quotient. The entire website is powered by open source technologies such as PHP, MySQL, ElasticSearch, MongoDB, REDIS, MemCache, and NEO4J&NODEJS.
Bharani shares his ideas for future expansion saying “We intent on developing even better research tools & content for the mobiles & tablets categories, and building a similar research experience for other gadget categories like wearable, laptops, cameras, and accessories. We will also be upgrading the existing mobile site and launching an Android application, as close to 50% of 91mobiles’ traffic is already coming from mobile devices. Also, it is always easier to launch. The challenge was to get the product out in the hands of users. We promoted the website within our network and went after social media marketing. We also did some legwork to get traffic from search engines. We had sleepless nights while we waited for the adoption to grow. Eventually the traffic growth was seen on our portal after 4 months. The traffic and adoption has been growing ever since.”
With a word of advice for future entrepreneurs, Nitin says, “Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to persevere and believe in yourself. So going after something you love naturally keeps you going for a long time. Also, you need to stay focused on the problem at hand and not get distracted by opportunities that pop up all around.”
“We always focused on assembling a great team and then empowering them. There never was a doubt in our minds whether ‘We were doing the right thing’, but the only thing that sometimes bothered us was the question that ‘whether we are doing it the right way?’ adds Bharani.
With a strong desire to make 91mobiles the starting point of gadget research, the team is all set for enthralling journey that lies ahead of them and we wish them all the very best.