When most people think of coupons, they think of the money they’ll be saving when they hit the grocery store – not coupon fraud.
But that is a crime P&G couldn’t ignore as the U.S.’s leading issuer of coupons. According to the Coupon Information Center (CIC), “Coupon fraud costs consumer product manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”
And that can take a toll on companies like P&G, which is on the hook to pay retailers for redeemed coupons – whether it’s fake or not.
Enter P&G’s Kishore Karuppan.
“What was going on was counterfeiters figured out ways to alter the value of the coupons and were able to read the coupons at the retailers without getting caught,” said Karuppan.
Karuppan grew up in India with his four siblings and jokes, “I’m from a family of 5 brothers, and I am the middle child, so I have middle child syndrome – I have to prove everything.”
His first time on a plane was in 2000 when he flew to Michigan in pursuit of a Master’s degree in computer science at Central Michigan University.
“I had no idea what to expect or where to go or what to do. It was January in Michigan, it was snowing. I had never been in weather like that before. On top of it, I lost my baggage. It was like that movie with Tom Hanks in it, Terminal, where all the lights at the airport were turning off, and I just didn’t know where to go.”
Fast forward to now, and Karuppan has 15 years at P&G under his belt. One of his jobs was to develop something, anything, that would put a stop to the coupon fraud issue facing the company. As someone who never used coupons before, he had to learn fast.
“I used to carry coupons around. People would make fun of me at work saying, ‘here comes the coupon guy.’ I became a member of Facebook groups for coupons. I interacted with coupon fraud people. I started redeeming coupons, reading about it. Every single detail about it, I was learning about it,” he said.
Karuppan wondered, “What if P&G only issued digital coupons?”. This would eliminate the fraud issue happening with paper coupons. But he quickly learned that wasn’t an option as consumers rely on both forms.
“I really got obsessed with the nitty gritty details of coupons and understood everything – how a coupon gets created to what happens when everything gets settled,” said Karuppan.
Next, Karuppan traveled to Mexico to a coupon clearinghouse to learn more about the journey of coupons.
“I didn’t know how to solve this problem. This billion-dollar industry was telling me I can’t solve it, and there is no hope.”
His need to prove himself among his brothers now spilled over into his work. And after months of trial and error, the “big idea” sparked.
“This was a perfect use for blockchain technology – coupon fraud elimination using blockchain.”
Today, it’s known as CuBE (Coupon Business Exchange) and has a provisional patent. It is a solution being used in thousands of stores nationwide. You can read more about how it works here.
“This is not just a P&G solution; this is an industry solution.”
For savings on P&G products, sign up for the P&G Good Everyday rewards program and get your coupons today!
Karuppan was a P&G Signal 2021 Trailblazer, to watch his story, click here.