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Building a Cashback and Affiliate Marketplace: A Conversation with Aminul Islam, Founder and CEO, AyyKori Digital Ltd

Aminul Islam is the founder and CEO of AyyKori Digital, a fast-growing Dhaka-based cashback and affiliate marketplace. In this fascinating conversation with Aminul, we talk about the origin of AyyKori, the challenges it faced in the early days, the current state of the business and future plans, and AyyKori’s growth strategy and organizational structure, we discuss the lessons he has learned from his journey so far, mistakes founders should avoid, his favorite books and much more. 

Future Startup: Thank you for agreeing to this conversation. Please briefly tell us about yourself and your journey to founding AyyKori. How did you come up with the idea and get started? 

Aminul Islam: I’m Aminul Islam, founder and CEO of AyyKori Digital Ltd. I come from a lower-middle-class background where every penny counts. I was fortunate enough to study at a leading private university's business school, majoring in Marketing and HRM. Afterward, I worked for the country's leading marketing agency and then the leading e-commerce platform.

During my time as Lead of Affiliate Marketing at the e-commerce platform, I found out the important role that cashback and affiliate marketplaces play in contributing to the global e-commerce market, accounting for a significant 15-20% share.

One of the reasons our e-commerce industry isn't flourishing to its full potential is due to the lack of such platforms and insufficient knowledge about affiliate marketing. 

That’s where we come in. With AyyKori, we embarked on a journey to empower local businesses by boosting their sales through cashback and affiliate marketing channels.

Future Startup: What went into building the initial operation? How did you put together initial investment and other resources to get started?

Aminul Islam: To launch AyyKori's initial platform, we three co-founders pooled our savings as the initial investment. Our primary aim at that stage was to create a website where users could explore various brands and participate in simple affiliate marketing. 

We didn’t have employees in those days. We three founders worked on building the foundational technology and partnerships.

The early days were a crucible of challenges and victories. We had to overcome challenges such as convincing customers to trust our cashback offers, given recent scams in the ecommerce sector that had bred widespread consumer skepticism. 

Building our technology from scratch was another obstacle, as we aimed to become the first and only platform working with over 100 local brands. This meant building everything in-house. 

Building partnerships with brands was yet another challenge. Particularly integrating technology into our platform and persuading brands to trust us required significant dedication and commitment. 

None of these challenges were easy. We continue to face some of these challenges every day. However, we remain committed to our ambition and our dogged determination has been quite helpful in terms of overcoming many of these challenges. 

Future Startup: Please tell us about AyyKori's business model. What are your products and services, who are your customers and what is your pricing model? How does AyyKori earn money and what are some of your biggest cost centers? 

Aminul Islam: AyyKori offers amazing deals and cashback rewards to shoppers. We provide exclusive discounts and cashback on purchases across a wide range of brands. 

Beyond that, our network of affiliate marketers helps brands connect with customers and ultimately boost their sales. Our services benefit everyone, from students to homemakers. 

We work with both local and global brands that want to connect with a diverse customer base. 

Our pricing model is transparent and straightforward: it's completely free for shoppers, and brands pay a commission only on actual sales generated through our platform. 

In essence, AyyKori aims to create a win-win situation, making shopping more rewarding for customers and marketing more efficient for brands.

Our revenue comes from several sources. Brands pay us a commission when customers purchase through our platform. We also offer brands opportunities to promote their products and increase visibility through our platform for a fee.

Our major cost centers include technology, marketing, customer support, and brand partnerships. We invest in developing and maintaining our platform to ensure a seamless and user-friendly experience for our customers. We invest in advertising and promotions to attract and retain customers. Our dedicated customer support team provides top-notch assistance to ensure a delightful shopping experience for our customers. Finally, we establish and nurture strong relationships with brands to offer our customers a diverse range of products and exclusive deals. 

Our ultimate goal is to strike a balance between generating revenue and providing our customers with a superior AyyKori experience.

Future Startup: Please give us an overview of the business today. How big is the business —how many users do you have today, what is the revenue number, your operational region, etc? 

Aminul Islam: We have experienced consistent growth since our inception. We currently have over 50,000 registered users. Our monthly sales have consistently climbed, exceeding 500,000 BDT. Notably, our average order value (AOV) of $25 surpasses the industry average for e-commerce transactions. 

While we are currently focused on Bangladesh, we have ambitious plans to expand into Sri Lanka and Nepal later this year. 

Our strong user engagement and sales growth position AyyKori as a promising player in the market.

Future Startup: How does your marketing and distribution work? 

Aminul Islam: We use several strategies to reach a diverse audience and create brand awareness. Our distribution and marketing strategy includes various channels, including paid advertising, offline activations, telemarketing, and social media marketing. 

We are currently experiencing a 30% MoM growth in user signups, which indicates the increasing interest and engagement with our platform. We are continually refining our strategies to sustain and accelerate this growth trajectory.

Future Startup: Can you please tell us about how Ayykori operates and your operational structure? 

Aminul Islam: We have dedicated teams, including marketing, brand onboarding, and the tech team to support our different operational pillars. We operate with a structure that facilitates collaboration and efficiency.

Our operation is structured to emphasize key functional areas, ensuring a holistic approach to our operations, and facilitating collaboration and efficiency. 

Currently, we are a team of 12 full-time professionals, each contributing their expertise to drive the success of AyyKori. 

Our work culture is characterized by agility and an open-door policy, fostering a collaborative and supportive environment for our team members.

Future Startup: What are the major challenges of AyyKori today? 

Aminul Islam: AyyKori operates in the dynamic landscape of the cashback and affiliate marketplace, pioneering the industry in Bangladesh as the first mover.

Our competitive advantages stem from our commitment to user satisfaction. 

We have built an easy-to-use platform, built exclusive partnerships with 100+ top brands, have a unique Glocal app approach, and finally, our founders come with invaluable industry experience working in ecommerce. 

One major challenge for us is navigating the technical integration process with brand partners. Additionally, encouraging users to explore and adapt to new platforms remains an ongoing challenge.

Future Startup: What are your short-term priorities and long-term vision for the company?  

Aminul Islam: In the short term, our priorities are overcoming technical integration challenges and increasing user engagement. 

Our long-term vision is to become the catalyst for cashback and affiliate marketing in South Asia, empowering individuals financially and transforming the regional market.

Future Startup: That was the last question about AyyKori. I have a few short reflection questions. 3 mistakes that you would like other founders to avoid. 

Aminul Islam: Avoid advisory shares: Be cautious about advisors with advisory shares; align interests carefully.

Use what you have: Start now with the resources at hand; waiting for perfect conditions can be a huge mistake. 

Trust but verify: Don't entirely rely on others meeting deadlines; always have contingency plans in place.

Future Startup: 5 books you would like to recommend to our readers. 

Aminul Islam: 

  • Zero to One
  • Lean Startup
  • Personal MBA
  • Good to Great
  • Blue Ocean Strategy

Future Startup: 3 lessons you have learned as a founder. 

Aminul Islam: Faith in good work: Maintain faith in the value of good work, even in challenging times.

Persistence in pursuit: Keep pushing toward your dreams and goals persistently.

Starting is the hardest part: Initiating a venture is often more challenging than completing tasks.

Future Startup: How do you think about life given that life is short and transient? 

Aminul Islam: Given life's short and transient nature, my advice is to live with purpose, prioritize meaningful connections, and embrace the journey rather than the destination. 

Life's brevity underscores the importance of making a positive impact on others and cherishing each moment.

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