Women In Innovation Success Stories: Sonu Bubna, Shopper.com, West Midlands

Posted on: 26/05/2022

Sonu Bubna was inspired to enhance her award-winning online community platform, Shopper.com, to tackle the issue of widespread product shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sonu launched her community for online buyers in 2018 to enable members to discover discounts and deals.

Sonu Bubna was inspired to enhance her award-winning online community platform, Shopper.com, to tackle the issue of widespread product shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sonu launched her community for online buyers in 2018 to enable members to discover discounts and deals.

Helped people to shop during the pandemic

Winning Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award in March 2021 has enabled Sonu to add an innovative layer to the company’s instant alert feature (first introduced in May 2020), which notifies customers when products are back in stock. The added service offers substitute products. “This proved to be even more helpful to shoppers during the pandemic enabling them to shop from home if they didn’t want to want to or were unable to go out… The average out of stock rate was around 10% before the pandemic, and reached above 40% during COVID. The global supply chain disruptions during the pandemic further worsened the problem.”

She continues: “The company tracks over 100 million products from 35 stores in the UK and US.  Whenever a product is out of stock, this new Artificial Intelligence  classifier will show a similar or substitute product from the same retailer on the product page itself.”

Impressive progress

The company is on the verge of breaking even and sustaining the business and has also launched a personal storefront for social media influencers to showcase the products they love, which is currently in the beta stage. They have also grown the team from eight to 18 full time members.

Sonu said: “We are marketing campaigns for more than 300 brands globally and have reached over 40 million consumers in over 20 countries. Our platform has driven over £20m in additional sales for retailers. We’ve identified several opportunities for innovation-led business growth as a direct result of the Women in Innovation programme that will help us to stay ahead of the competition in our sector. Our key milestone during the program was to deliver on the new Artificial Intelligence module, increase the prediction accuracy and integrate it into various applications.”

The next 12 months are crucial to product development and business growth. Sonu is aiming to raise the next round of equity investment to accelerate the platform adoption, launch the store functionality for social media influencers and to significantly grow annual revenue. Sonu said: “In the next five years we want to emerge as the global leader, expanding into key regions including Europe, US, Canada, Australia and India. With the introduction of new and innovative features, we are trying to accelerate our growth and be the one stop solution.”

Personal growth and support

“There have been several areas of personal growth, one is that I’ve become much more resilient. We were executing the project during an ongoing pandemic and there were times when it was difficult to carry on. But the peer group support meant I never felt alone.  The [Women in Innovation] cohort has helped me rethink my business strategy and feel comfortable in taking unprecedented actions in unprecedented times,” said Sonu.

Getting the opportunity to take part in various mentoring sessions with Innovate UK EDGE and dedicated Women in Innovation bootcamps brought tangible benefits to Sonu. She said: “Being able to network and share my challenges was important. It’s been helpful to learn from other successful women entrepreneurs on all aspects of business development.”

She continued: “In a tech world, as a woman leader, you are expected to adopt a stereotypically ‘male’ attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive, and sometimes harsh. But I believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations.”

Sonu’s advice to other prospective award winners is to go for it!  She said: “I think one of the biggest benefits of being part of the Women in Innovation programme is overcoming self-doubt and surrounding yourself with like-minded women innovators who are also on the same path as you. It can help you feel more confident and well understood.”

 

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Women in Innovation

Innovate UK’s Women In Innovation programme consists of funding competitions and events that enables brilliant women to fully achieve their visions and change the world, while championing and celebrating gender diversity throughout UK innovation.