SOURCE: IndiaPost

Online and Wireless Enabled Coupons

It was a regular working day for Vivek as a software consultant on one of his projects with a Fortune 500 company. Before calling it a day. he talked to his wife. who asked him to pick up a pizza on his way back home. She. however, had a discount coupon that needed to be used. For that Vivek need to go home to pick it up. Ah! How easy it would have been if he could have just printed the coupon over the Internet, or he could have used his cell phone to present a "wireless coupon". Eureka! Here was a business opportunity right in front of him. just waiting to be explored. And explored he did!

The year was 1997 and the expansion of Internet was at its peak. New dot-coms, new business ideas and new industries were taking shape in the new economy. People with the right technology based ideas, sound business models and solid management teams were increasingly coming in the limelight. Vivek had a valuable high-tech industry experience of over 15 years working with top technology providers in the US. His expertise was in high demand and his knowledge base well respected in the industry, just the right ingredients for getting funded for a potential business idea.

Vivek discussed his idea with some of his trusted friends and teamed up with Peter Torres to develop a business plan. Peter had a rich marketing and strategic business development experience that came handy to complement Vivek's expertise in the high-tech arena. The two spent countless hoonture capitalists. They incorporated Citium in early 1999 arid started building up a team to support their ambitious plan. The initial funding, naturally, came through Vivek himself, followed by a seed-funding of about half a million dollars through private investment later. Citium thus became a provider of technology based promotion solutions to all the media portal companies and small businesses.

It took the initial team a year to develop and market their product in the US. The first version, Citium Promotions Engine (CPE) 1.0 launched in early 2000 was soon bought up by various media companies. Since the integral sources of all print coupons were the magazine and newspaper companies who distributed their advertisers' discount coupons and special offers through their publications, it became easy to focus on a specific industry segment. Various media companies including the local radio stations and newspaper publications incorporated CPE on their sites, converting their site traffic into a revenue generatiing engine for them and their advertisers.

Citium today is on the forefront of online promotions application services providers marketplace, rapidly expanding the company's reach among the media and portal businesses and the small to medium sized businesses. It is focused on creating promotion technologies that could increase revenues for both the companies and their advertisers. The latest version CPE 2.0 was launched in November this year, which also incorporates the use of wireless accessibility to coupons and special offers.

A regular visitor to a portal site could click on the promotional engine link to search for special offers either based on zip code or on a particular need. Once the various offers have been checked and evaluated, the user has an option to print out the coupon, just write the coupon code, email it to someone or even send it to his wireless device. The coupons could then be presented to the merchant at the point of purchase. The multi-feature engine offers its clients an opportunity to increase their revenues, an extended reach through web and wireless, an unbeatable sales leverage to the sales team, improved site stickiness and measured statistics on the success of the engine on the clients' site.

With its groundbreaking promotions infrastructure technology, companies can have a customized promotions based engine build right into their site in about an hour. The promotion engine seamlessly integrates within the site without affecting the current site management. Advertisers with the media portals have an option to get their business listed in just the business directory pages, or have a basic or an advanced micro pages developed for their businesses, that provide in-depth information about the company. The tool acts as a loyalty and relationship management product for all portals and their advertisers by keeping the visitors coming back to their sites for special offers and promotions.

Among the publications, portals and radio stations signedup by Citium are. The Palo Alto Weekly, Buffalo Beat, Las Vegas.com, Reno.com, Tahoe.com, KNBR, KFOG, The BONE, and television stations at Idaho and Bakersfield. Citium has entered into strategic alliances with Everypath, provider of wireless infrastructure technologies. Radio Advertising Bureau that has around 5000 radio stations as its members and WebRadio, an audio-video streaming company. All of the 35 customers signed up by Citium are expected to generate more than $100,000 in 2001 through Citium's Promotion Engine.

Citium has been able to establish its product in this specific segment that is projected to grow to about $10 billion by 2005. It has differentiated its offering from its competitors by incorporating newer features like wireless accessibility, making the product flexible to use, and covering the entire industry segment. The potential 4.5 million small businesses in the US form an attractive growth sector for the company. These businesses need to generate revenues and develop customer loyalty through their established user base. Citium offers them a way to blend both these features into their already existing sites.

Citium today has around 18 employees with in-depth industry experience in related areas. Potential candidates go through a five-step screening process including initial analysis, telephone interview, essay writing, self-analysis test, and the final interview. The company has a sales office in Dallas, another is planned for Phoenix, and one in India, which is also being used for hiring and training the highly competent technical talent pool available there. The second round of funding is expected to be in March of 2001 and a tentatively planned IPO by the end of 2002. Citium plans to become profitable by the third quarter of 2002.

People will continue to use coupons for getting discounts on products and services and Citium has taken a lead in providing those users with a futuristic solution. With its current rapid expansion in the US it is expected to become a household name in the near future, and people will no longer have to go home to pick up the coupon that they received in their mail, just to get some hot pizza on their way back from work!!!

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