uSwitch.com was sold for a sum in the region of £210 million to the US company EW Scripps in 2006.
Vip Amin, was the Finance Director at the time, and a shareholder. The sale represented the end of his journey with uSwitch.com, which had seen the company rise from the ashes of the dotcom boom to be considered a ‘consumer champion’ with the ability to save UK residents thousands on their household bills.
The key was deregulation, which allowed UK consumers to switch their energy suppliers, blowing the markets for electricity and gas wide open. Vipul Amin was among those to see the potential.
While a price comparison site these days is almost as common a notion as a search engine in the UK, back at the start of the Millennium, uSwitch.com was something of a unique entity, providing those with an internet connection with a way of cutting back on their outgoings, while giving those that didn’t have the web at home a reason to scurry to the local internet cafe. After all – who doesn’t like saving money?
Aside from the wonderfully simple but effective business proposition which allowed consumers to find better energy deals, uSwitch.com had another important attribute which made it such a valuable addition to the UK’s energy landscape. The website acted as a major shot in the arm for competition within the UK market. It all became about ‘who can offer the best tariff’, rather than ‘who can cram in the most small print’. The notion that any one company could have a monopoly, became a thing of the past.
So what else was it which allowed Vipul Amin and uSwitch’s other guiding influences, including Lord George Milford Haven and Andrew Salmon, to build the company up into such a hot business proposition?
The impartial nature of the site certainly made an impression. This was an online resource which went out of its way to avoid advertising tie ups with suppliers, for fear it might tarnish their reputation as being completely unbiased. Wording was kept simple and small print to a minimum. In essence, what Vipul Amin and his associates had developed represented everything a typical consumer wished for in when looking to switch and save on their household bills.
At the time of the sale, Vipul Amin’s colleague Andrew Salmon, uSwitch’s Chief Executive, said: “Comparison shopping is already popular with consumers, but there is still ample room for growth.” His prophecy might have turned out to be even more accurate than he could have foreseen, as a global recession was about to hit, giving hard pressed consumers even more reason to shop around on to find the best deals on their household bills.
While Vipul Amin and his fellow ‘uSwitchers’ might have been a little sad to let go of a company which they had built from the ground up, they could also be satisfied that uSwitch was now in the hands of a large parent organisation which could grow it even further. The original uSwitch work force of approximately 100 staff members were rewarded with a share of the sale proceeds estimated at around £19 million.