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Groupon 'spreads joy' with 85 per cent discount on onions

Groupon India, a shopping website, is selling onions at Rs 9 a kg - a startling 85 per cent discount to the Rs 60 per kg current market price in most parts of capital New Delhi.

Sunny Sen | September 6, 2013 | Updated 00:16 IST
Groupon 'spreads joy' with 85 per cent discount on onions

Group buying site, Groupon India, sold 3,059 kgs of onions in 80 minutes on Thursday. Part of a massive sale of the vegetable, whose prices soared in recent weeks, Groupon is selling onions at Rs 9 a kg - a startling 85 per cent discount to the Rs 60 per kg current market price in most parts of capital New Delhi.

The idea of the sale started a week ago when Ankur Warikoo, Groupon India's CEO sat down for a brainstorming session with his team to discuss the new deal they could introduce on the website. News channels had painted a gloomy picture of the Indian economy with rising fuel prices, the falling Rupee, and onions becoming expensive. Onions are part of almost every Indian's daily meals. At its peak, onions had touched Rs 100 a kg in some parts of India. 'Why couldn't the site sell onions at a throw away price' was the question at the meeting. Within a day, Warikoo's team struck a deal with Kishen Chand & Sons, a large distributor of onions in Delhi, to provide 3,000 kgs of onions to Groupon every day for five days.

Thursday was the first day for the deal, which started at 1:15 pm sharp. Within an hour and 20 minutes the stock of the day was sold out -- 3059 kgs. "We had anticipated to sell 3,000 plus kgs in three hours," says Warikoo.

Some 4,000 people had viewed the deal by 2 pm, and 85 of every 100 visitors to the Groupon India site bought it. There was a catch: no one could buy more than a kilo of onions. At one point, Groupon recoreded sales of 35 kg a second.

Right now Warikoo is in talks with Kishen Chand to increase supply. He plans to sell 21,000 kgs in the next four days. The deal will reopen if Warikoo managed to get some more onions today. The deal on the site says: "Only Rs 9 to grab a kilo -- We have Sent Sudesh Bhaiya to Fetch More Onions...Stay Tuned."

Sudesh Bhaiya is the office attendant at Groupon India's headquarters in South Delhi's Saket neighbourhood. Warikoo laughs: "It's a fun thing."

Available in 78 cities in India, the deal assures delivery of the onion consignment within 10 days.

But is Groupon making money selling onions? Its isn't, says Warikoo, but stops short of disclosing details. "We got a very good price compared [to retailers]...can't disclose the agreement with the distributor," he says.

Warikoo just wants to "spread joy" at a time Groupon is recording 100 per cent annual sales growth. "We have capitalised in on our market share," he says. Deal buying in India, Warikoo estimates, is an untapped opportunity of at least $1.2  billion a year with such sales totalling only between $50 to $100 million.

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