Groupon India is offering an unusual deal on cheap onions, and the sale has turned out to be as chaotic as designer-label Black Friday shopping.
The weeklong bargain began Sept. 5, and offers 1 kilogram of onions at 9 rupees (about $0.14) for 3,000 buyers each day. The signature whimsical Groupon ad reads thus:
People haven’t experienced onions in a long, long time. That sweet, pungent aroma of onions being sautéed to a nice golden brown before being added to your mum’s signature curry is no longer familiar. This much-coveted, much-written-about, much-craved-for vegetable is now almost as expensive as caviar, diamonds and Donald Trump’s wig! Men are scrambling to the market to pick the perfect onion ring to please their ladies.
Groupon had no idea how right that ad was. It took only 44 minutes to sell the first 3,000 kilograms of onions, and the sudden traffic spike subsequently crashed Groupon's Indian site, according to Al Jazeera America.
Groupon India didn't anticipate that the discounted kitchen staple would turn into its most popular sales offer. The site's Chief Executive Ankur Warikoo said the deal was meant as a fun promotion. "It was meant to generate excitement by selling onions at a knock-down price. We deliberately put the cap at one kilo. It is really intended to be something fun," he told the Agence France-Presse.
Warikoo also took to Twitter to remark on the popularity of the deal.
— Ankur Warikoo (@warikoo) September 6, 2013
On Sept. 9, the site sold out of the deal in just seven minutes. It urged customers to come back on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m., and also noted that 17,065 deals had been purchased thus far.
The reason for Groupon's success was shrewd timing. According to The Wall Street Journal, onion prices in India jumped about 90 percent in August to $0.86 a kilogram, up from about $0.46 a kilogram. Al Jazeera estimates onions may now cost up to $1.57 per kilogram in India.
Earlier in August, the prohibitively high price of onions, a staple of Indian cuisine, became a major talking point in India's 2013 elections for nine legislative assemblies, particularly for the Bharatiya Janta Party, or BJP, which lost the Delhi Assembly elections in 1998 when the price of onions hit $0.94 per kilogram. The BJP has been selling onions at around $0.63 a kilogram around the city to aid those who cannot afford inflated prices, according to CNN's Indian Broadcast News Live.