Payback takes controlling stake in i-Mint
In a new strategic investment move, the German coalition loyalty programme Payback has taken a controlling stake in the Indian loyalty programme i-Mint, aiming to combine the two programmes' expertise in India, a rapidly growing consumer market.
According to Payback founder Alexander Rittweger, combining Payback's international expertise with i-Mint's local knowledge and market presence will provide Indian consumers and merchants with many new services.
Rittweger confirmed that the investment is both strategic and long-term, and is intended to create "a world class customer retention and direct marketing platform" to support the retail revolution that is currently developing in India.
According to Sandeep Reddy, managing director for the supporting private equity fund, Peepul Capital, the India-focused fund joined forces with Payback as a co-investor to take a minority stake in i-Mint, having already made other investments in sectors including consumer services, specialised engineering, and telecoms.
Payback's experience in designing and operating loyalty and marketing programmes is expected to complement i-Mint's own strengths, which include a very large customer base, a nationally-known brand, and a partner portfolio including some 1,500 companies throughout India, such as ICICI Bank, HPCL, Air India and MakeMyTrip.
The acquisition is also expected to enable i-Mint members to redeem points against merchandise in programme partners' stores. In addition, access to Payback's IT toolbox will enable i-Mint to conduct advanced data mining to help other Indian companies. The resulting consumer insights will be translated into direct marketing services, enabling Indian retailers to target customers with more relevant and personalised offers.
According to Vijay Bobba, i-Mint's founder and CEO (who will continues in that role), says the programme expects to sign up more national brands in the near future, and existing partner ICICI Bank has signed a new long-term partnership contract since the new ownership was announced.
"India's booming consumer market provides tremendous opportunities for i-Mint's enhanced multi-partner loyalty programme. In addition, the rapid rise of organised retail increases the value of customer retention significantly," concluded Ms Vishakha Mulye, CEO for ICICI Venture, which continues to hold a minority stake in the company.
The i-Mint multi-partner loyalty scheme was launched in June 2006 and now claims more than 9.5 million active members. Sales tied to i-Mint cards totalled some Euro 2.1 billion (approximately INR120 billion) in 2009 alone.
Payback currently claims some 24.6 million active cardholders in Germany and Poland, with members collecting points in-store from 340 retailers and from a range of online partners. Points can be redeemed for vouchers, Lufthansa miles, charity donations and other rewards. The programme's redemption rate currently stands at 90%. Partners in Germany include Aral, dm-drogerie markt, Galeria Kaufhof and real and, in the online sector, Amazon, Apple, eBay, Otto, Baur, C&A and Expedia. In Poland, points are available from brands including BP, real, telecoms operator TP Group, Orange, Bank Zachodni WBK, and online auction site Allegro. Each year, Payback cards are tied to sales of approximately Euro 19 billion.