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Xoxoday Founder Abhishek Kumar on A Long Journey of Entrepreneurship

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From gift vouchers to gifting experiences, xoxoday has changed the face of the gifting-game. Abhishek, the founder of xoxoday indulges in a candid interview with KYE about is entrepreneurship journey and tells us how his venture went from giftxoxo to xoxoday which has made its presence felt not only in the Indian market but also in the markets of the US and Europe. Catch his exclusive interview with KYE.

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Abhishek’s journey in his own words…
We started our Xoxoday journey in 2012. Most of the youngsters must be well familiar with the term ‘Xoxo’ – it is popular millennial slang for hugs & kisses. When we started off, we were focussed on quick go-to-market cycles, and becoming a SaaS (software as a service) platform as we are today was then a distant vision. We started off as a gifting E-commerce platform.
It was in 2012 that a lot of companies like Flipkart, Amazon, started establishing their gift-cards. We found that the aggregation of such brand gift cards was a high potential area of innovation.
We brainstormed and decided to come up with a marketplace for gifting. Gifting as a social concept has been omnipresent in Indian culture- especially the B2C gifting was evergreen.
We had initially started off with the brand name ‘Giftxoxo’ and in the corporate sector, we started being known as ‘Xoxo’ – the reason why we retained it while we rebranded ourselves to widen our offering horizon.
We started with the very simple idea of group gifting with the simple use case of wedding gifting. When friends/ colleagues were attending a wedding they could pool-in points/money for the wedding gift over our interface.
Though in India it was a fairly new concept, over time we realised that as a mere aggregator we had no control over the packaging or the method of delivery – it was all up to the vendor. Gifts are normally an emotional affair and any mishap from the vendor’s side could ruin the gifting-experience – in turn, end up affecting our brand image. Thus, there was a great need to re-style our business concept.
In addition to the above mentioned early movers, many other companies by then had started offering gift cards. Thus we widened our gift card offerings. Now people could just give a gift-card over our platform and we re-instated our customer experience back to being pleasurable for all of us.
We were fortunate to have several mentors to guide us through our journey. It was in 2013 that we decided that we would launch ‘Experiences’ as an option of redemption. The concept was unique – successful in Europe and Singapore and we wanted to bring it to India.
We came upon offering an experience box to our customers. Like a gift-box filled with different gifts – an experience-box would be filled with coupons for different experiences. This box was one of our highest grossing products and we received a lot of orders for these Experience Boxes. The major use case for these was for long-service awards- especially for people who were retiring. Shortly, we moved on to becoming a SaaS product for employees.
The companies often wanted to know the benefits of employee rewards, during which we had to push back to change buyer mind-sets about how rewarding had not just a one-way benefit but impacted both the employer and employee. When you incentivize your employees, you motivate them to stick around with you and to work harder – which in turn reflects on your top line and bottom line.

KYE: What was the motivation behind starting xoxoday?
Abhishek:
The motivation was always to make people happy. At the core of Xoxoday, we have our customers. What was also important to us was how we can make the whole process of rewarding transparent and visible for the stakeholders of the ecosystem.
We have corporate customers who use our product for their internal stakeholders i.e. their employees and their external stakeholders i.e. the channel partners, Sales Partners, Logistics workforce – and we focus on making transactions that happen between them be much more memorable.
The days of giving dry-fruits or cash-rewards are in the past now. Traditionalists may still be doing it but for most, that trend is obsolete. Our motivation was to make people get the most out of employee gifting.
Corporates considered employee rewards as goodwill and wanted to execute these rewards to make employees feel happy about it. But do these rewards have as much value to the employees as the corporates think it does? The answer to that was the tipping point for us to get into this sector. We wanted it to turn into the most desirable reward system for the employees- like a great pat on your back for all the hard work an employee puts in.

KYE: What gives you a sense of accomplishment?
Abhishek:
A happy customer. We employ Pulse Surveys that measure the happiness quotient of the person receiving the gift. They provide us answers with how happy they are with the organization, the values, etc. We also started with gamification to help people to get the most out of reward programs. Gamification adds thrill – especially to the people working in the sales division because their jobs are otherwise really stressful. Every day they need to tediously calculate how much sales they need to get done in order to get their incentives. With our offering, we aimed to make them feel motivated instead of being vulnerable at the face of targets

KYE: What were the challenges/barriers you faced on this entrepreneurial journey?
Abhishek:
Xoxoday is my third venture, I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2008 and in that era, the term entrepreneurship wasn’t very well defined. The ecosystem was just opening up for entrepreneurship and there was a dire lack of support or funds or even mentors. Building a team was one of the major barriers I faced. Getting like-minded and quality people on board who understand the market, leading a market shift from the traditional method of gifting – were other challenges on the way. The US and Europe markets are pretty open but the Indian markets take some time to embrace new ideas. The availability of funds was also a challenge for us in the beginning but it has been a blessing in disguise – making us self-sustaining. We’re proud to say that even the current pandemic has had very less impact on us.

KYE: At this point, what is needed of you to reach your business aspirations?
Abhishek:
Given the current world crisis, what we are focusing on is how we can make this tech more accessible to the people in the post-covid world. How do we simplify it? How can we make it more value-driven?- by bringing in the right innovation at the right time. One can’t be behind his time nor can one be way ahead of his time. Another thing is team-building, it is always important to have a good team.

KYE: How has this venture changed you as a person?
Abhishek:
Many things! I am totally different from what I was ages back. The most important aspect is that it has made me a calm and composed person. In the past, I used to be quick to react during difficult situations. Whereas today I’ll be looking into a situation with utmost calmness. Patience is another virtue I have learned in the course of my journey. I have also learned how to ignore and move on from something that is bothering me. Taking the negative can really have a bad impact on one’s health, speaking from my personal experience. It is important to let such things go and concentrate on the good in front of us.

KYE: What are the words of wisdom you would like to share with the budding entrepreneurs?
Abhishek:
Firstly, do not focus on tags like CEO or CTO. Focus on yourself, focus on what you want to do, what you want to achieve out of it. Entrepreneurship is a long journey, you don’t become a millionaire overnight. It is not a one-night affair nor is it a second option, one can’t be like ‘I’ll try this for a year and if it does not work I will go back to doing a job. The right moment to get into a start-up is when you feel you do not have any other option but passionate about starting up. Only then will you be able to stick through the entire journey full of ups and downs and achieve success. If you have the option of going back to doing a job, your entrepreneurship will not work. Doing a job to secure oneself can never help one be successful at entrepreneurship. The fear of losing will not help you get through your entrepreneurship journey.

Watch the entire interview here-

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