Vipul Amin  – The Consumer Champion

That’s because Vipul Amin, or Vip as he is also known, was among the backers and founders of the site, which rode the fallout from the end of the dotcom boom to become one of the market leaders. Alongside the polo-playing 4th Marquess of Milford Haven, George Mountbatten, and Andrew Salmon, the former corporate financer from PricewaterhouseCoopers, they came up with a template which many websites would try to replicate.

Freedom to move around

When it was founded in 2000 by Vipul Amin and his fellow backers, uSwitch was positioned in an energy market landscape which had evolved. That’s because deregulation meant that it was now easier for UK consumers to switch supplier if they found a better deal. Enter uSwitch, and the very useful resource which they provided.

It was now easy to scan the prices from the competing suppliers, and if you found yourself a more desirable contract or an unmissable special offer, to move to another gas or electricity company.

…and no hidden agenda

This seems like a consumer’s dream, especially to the customers who were used to visiting energy supplier sites and being greeted by a lot of small print. Now they had all the ‘need to knows’ in black and white, including the important facts upon which to base a decision on whether to switch or stay put. uSwitch displayed no supplier advertising on its site; a policy which tried hard to make them appear impartial, and very much an information provider which was there to act as a resource for the public.

As more Brits became internet users, price comparison websites picked up popularity as the go-to information centre before making a decision about which gas and electricity supplier to opt for. The company grew steadily up until 2006, and can also claim to have had a part in acting as a catalyst as a whole for the energy market in the UK. That’s because it had the effect of blowing the competition wide open – suppliers were now under pressure to deliver the best deals, contract perks and special offers in order to entice customers. When providers of anything try to outdo each other in a bid to win the lion’s share of the market, that can only be a good thing for the end user.

The sale

uSwitch was sold to the US media giant EW Scripps in 2006 for the sum of £210 million. Why Vipul Amin and his partners felt that this was the right time to let go of the reigns is open to speculation, but maybe they felt they had taken the company as far as they could. In EW Scripps, they had an organisation which could translate the product expertly to the US market, and when the global recession hit just a couple of years after the sale, there became even more of an appetite for price comparison tools which could save money, as budgeting became essential.

That was not to be the end for Vipul Amin in the price comparison world. Later, he and his original uSwitch founders discovered that there were other countries around the world crying out for a similar model. EnCazip Turkey took advantage of a relaxation of rules in the energy market in that country, and set about creating a new price comparison force after training a native team.

So Vipul Amin and co showed that a good business idea has mileage in a number of countries, so long as some of the same conditions are present. uSwitch demonstrated that as long as consumers feel they are getting value from a product or service, they will keep coming back.