Perhaps even more interesting than the story of successful businesses, is the story of the people behind them. uSwitch.com, the UK price comparison website, certainly garnered attention when it was sold in the country’s biggest internet deal ever at the time, in 2007. The company had helped progress the UK energy market from door to door sales to advanced pricing formulas and online technology, which allowed British gas and electricity customers to save money at the click of a mouse. uSwitch.com was sold to US company EW Scripps for £210M.
One of the senior figures behind the uSwitch.com rise to success was Vipul Amin, who led the company along with a relative of the Queen, George Mountbatten, and Andrew Salmon, formerly of EDF Energy. But in the UK, Vipul Amin’s background could be less known than his fellow ‘uSwitchers’.
Vipul Amin was a major shareholder at uSwitch.com and the company’s Finance Director, and as a man with extensive experience, there is no doubt that he had a lot to offer the firm. It is safe to say that his business acumen would prove vital to the company as it developed into one of the leading internet-based businesses in the UK at the start of the new millennium.
The winning model
Vipul Amin and uSwitch.com were able to enjoy such rapid growth due to their exploitation of the right model, at the right time. As the UK energy market became deregulated, uSwitch.com offered consumers the chance to scan the best deals for gas and electricity, and a means to switch supplier.
The reason why uSwitch.com was a success was down to the growing uptake of internet technology, which meant that customers could get online at home, at an internet cafe or at work. All it took was a few minutes to switch energy contracts for a better deal.
A market stimulus
uSwitch.com can be considered a pioneer in price comparison, but it was by no means the only website which was part of the movement. Soon, the multiplication in consumer choice had led to a ‘price war’ among suppliers, as the race was on to see who could offer customers the most enticing reductions and special promotions.
Vipul Amin and the rest of the directors presided over a business model which turned its nose up at potentially lucrative advertising tie ups with individual suppliers. Instead, it strove to be as impartial as possible, featuring a no advertising policy and cutting down on the small print which had become a familiar feature of some energy supplier sites. This was uSwitch positioning itself as a customer resource, rather than a company which was out to mislead them, and this went a long way towards gaining the public’s trust.
At the point of the sale to EW Scripps, uSwitch had set itself up at the fulcrum of a market which still had room for growth. Andrew Salmon, the Chief Executive, said at the time: “Comparison shopping is already popular with consumers, but there is still ample room for growth.” Price comparison is now considered by consumers to be a normal element of the buying process. Shopping around for the best deal is now taken as a given, and this is due in no small part to the influence of uSwitch.
Vipul Amin and the other major shareholders at uSwitch took the lion’s share of the proceeds from the nine figure sale, and the rest of the workforce was not left unrewarded, sharing a tidy sum between them.