The primary endeavour of Shopclues.in is to empower SMBs, says Vishal Sharma, vice president, Operations.
Today, as many as 1.5 lakh merchants are selling with the marketplace, which claims to do around 1.2-1.5 lakh orders on a peak day and has around 1.9 crore SKUs. With those numbers, ShopClues wishes to create the nostalgia of going to a local fair. And as Sharma put it in his recent interaction with the Retailer media, the real customer is sitting beyond the metros today. Some excerpts from the interview.
How is ShopClues different from other etailers?
Everybody plays in a different segment of a customer base, from the demand side and the supply side. As ShopClues, what we are trying to achieve here is that we are trying to take SMBs and giving them an opportunity to sell across the country. That is the endeavour. So, it is a technology platform that can help provide various services to SMBs across the country, enabling and empowering them to sell. That is the primary objective.
As a technology platform, we provide them services like marketing, fulfilment, payment services, customer support etc. It covers everything beyond the price and the product, which an SMB would understand best. Beyond that, any help that any SMB requires selling online, whether it is getting customers for its store, giving him fulfilment and logistics support, the payment services etc, i.e. all the anxiety behind playing out in the larger eCommerce business is addressed through the services we provide through our technology platform at ShopClues.com.
How many sellers do you have as of right now and what is the strategy you use to help them sell online?
We have now, as I speak, over 1.5 lakh merchants who are selling online with us. These are our merchants who are on board, who have their stores, their product catalogues, and we help them sell through our marketplace.
There are a lot of structured and unstructured categories. To give you an example, an iPhone would be a structured product whose prices would remain almost the same with various sellers, while unstructured products like non- or unbranded products which are sold at variable prices. If you look at India, the branded would be 5-7 per cent and the unbranded would be the rest 95-93 per cent of the retail space.
Most of the SMBs sell unbranded products, and the buyers, on the other side, who are coming from Tier III and Tier IV cities (where we as a company are registering the maximum growth), are getting exposed to a host of branded and unbranded products. So, we are enabling the SMBs to sell across the country.
Do you think eCommerce will give way to mobile commerce? Do you see the customer behaviour changing in the near future?
Ecommerce is all about convenience. And when you talk about convenience the first thing you have in your hand is a mobile. That is why a lot of marketplaces are today moving to the mobile space. We, as a business, experience about 50-60 per cent of our traction coming in only through the mobile space, which is also increasing month-after-month.
And since we are taking a lot of smaller locations into the ambit, mobiles cannot become the only place to have transactions at/from. Although it will still take some times, the trend suggests mobile is becoming a more convenient platform.
What would be a challenge of running your kind of business?
Largely, Internet business in the country is still a low-trust business, in terms of what is the product a customer is going to get. That only results into a lot of problems in terms of delivery, return, product quality. That is one set of challenge from the customer's side. The other set of challenge is how one reaches out to everyone in the country. The logistics with the tax environment thrown in can't be called conducive for players like us to reach out to all the customers. Let's take an instance: reaching out to a customer in Tier IV town through a third party logistics provider is not possible.
What would be the average items that the website is able to sell in a day?
We do about a 1.2 - 1.5 lakh transactions on a peak day.
Is there a particular product category that sees a lot of traction?
We have about 1.9cr (plus) SKUs today, split amongst 18 categories. Home & Kitchen and mobiles and tablets are two categories which are top selling right now.
Talk to us about your business rivals and if you think the category is getting somewhat crowded today, with a lot of players sell the same things at different prices.
Let's understand the segment that we play in, to answer your question. ShopClues is known for 'Selection' and 'Value-based pricing'. So, when I say the first word, you will get the millions of SKUs which are listed on our site. It is a true reflection of the Indian Bazaar. And talking of the second term, everyone knows that ShopClues offers products at best prices. Without naming the competition, I would say everybody is playing in a different segment.
What do you have to say about the changing trends, like same day (or the next day) delivery that many etailers are tapping on?
I would explain that with an example. Since a lot of growth is happening at the Tier III and Tier IV cities, and logistics being one of the major issues there, which I talked about earlier, same day and next day deliveries are a difficult domain. It is not a problem in the metros, but the other towns. And the irony really is that the growth is happening outside the metros. Let's face it, a 24-hour delivery is impossible to execute from Delhi (or Mumbai) to any Tier IV city. As a business, we do 24-hour deliveries but we are limited only to the metros and thereabouts. But as I said, your real customer is sitting beyond metros now.
On the other side, using the commercial airline services to deliver the same day comes in handy. But, then again, the services are limited to just Indigo or Air India, which have commercial load carrying capacity and everybody is riding on that. All the third party logistics company today are riding on limited load carrying air capacity.
How many third-party logistics companies do you have?
We have about 28 of them.
Are there initiatives ShopClues is looking to introduce in the near future to better connect with customers?
We have a very robust return policy. It is the buyer protection policy. Then, we are always trying to better the customer experience through our mobile app, which helps us connect with our customers better. We have to work on making that experience good because for us both the seller and the buyer are our customers. And we have a different mobile app for our sellers. From the time a transaction happens to its deliver and even post delivery, we are essentially leveraging technology only. We are a technology player. The experience can only be delivered through technology, and we are constantly innovating that. Every transaction is integrated through technology at ShopClues. The product status, the communication with the consumer, the real-time delivery tracking, the actual delivery and post delivery issues is all technology driven.