Scarborough has its fair share of small businesses and a thriving immigrant population. An entrepreneurial pair of brothers managed to connect the dots and came out with an ethnic deal-buying website a few months ago called GoBabu.
Aimed at the vast South Asian community in the Greater Toronto Area, GoBabu is the brainchild of Khurram and Kassim Shroff. It is the first of its kind, offering deals on Indian food, South Asian events and the classic manicure-pedicure deals that no coupon-deal-buying site can live without.
Originally from Pakistan, the brothers moved to Canada, with one of them attending the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). They shared their business ideas and decided to open a Groupon-style website.
“It was a bit difficult in the beginning, we didn’t have a pitch and I didn’t know how to run a business,” Kassim explained. “It was a learning process.”
Zahra is an avid fan of deal-buying websites. She found GoBabu useful in keeping in touch with events in the Indian community, buying herself and her friends tickets through GoBabu for a major celebrity-studded event in June featuring Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan.
“I just wish GoBabu would branch outside the ethnic community so I can get deals on sushi, I buy those all the time!” she said.
It’s uncommon for young people fresh out of university to open a business in this economy and with corporate giants as their competition. But the Shroffs dug in their heels and started networking.
“What we were doing is we were going after restaurants, spas, salons, those are companies that have already got deals,” he explained. “We told them we’re an ethnic group-buying business.”
The plan worked. Their Facebook page now has over 4,000 fans. Their Twitter feed updates followers on anything and everything South Asian and related to Toronto.
“It’s just one thing led to another,” Kassim said. “Now we’re selling deals. Some deals do well. Some deals do crazy good. Some deals not at all.”
That’s the risk opening a business brings. It seems to have paid off for the Shroffs. Kassim now hopes that one day they’ll be big enough to buy out Groupon.