In a candid conversation with Harish Bahl, Founder & CEO, Smile Group, Retailer Media got to know about some updates related to the brand and the way forward.
Smile Group, one of India's earliest players to foray into the eCommerce ocean, is now looking towards more consumer-centric approach whether be it in building businesses, investing in businesses or partnering with other businesses.
In a candid conversation with Harish Bahl, Founder & CEO, Smile Group, Retailer Media got to know about some updates related to the brand and the way forward. He also shared his vision on some of the latest industry trends.
What was the idea behind the inception of Smile Group and how is Smile Group in 2015 different?
The idea when Smile was started was to promote entrepreneurship in the digital space in India. We have been committed to that for the last 15 years now and we have been doing that continuously.
When it started it was only about business building and incubating businesses, it was only about India and it was more B2B. If you look at Smile in 2015, it has evolved into promoting entrepreneurship in the digital space by doing business building, by investing, by partnering with foreign firms and bringing then into various markets. Our footprint have expanded to India, US, Europe and Africa. Through our various businesses and initiatives, we have a fairly global footprint. Smile in 2015 is more B2C and consumer- focused.
What challenges do you face in terms of reaching out to consumers in a Tier II or III market?
We have various businesses in consumer space, in B2B space and advertising space, so I would say the challenges vary from business to business. But a common theme that we have seen is that if you have a good business model and if you have a great team, generally that is the recipe for success. A good team will figure out a good business model and so I will say it is more about having a really good team.
The opportunity, the challenge and the focus everything is how to partner with the best team. Best teams are the ones who will create the best success stories.
Before partnering or investing in a company, what value proposition do you see and how do you scale that business?
We are fond of businesses that have very high aggressive market. Generally, we are fond of high-core business in comparison to thin business models and that is why we have never done business in electronic space.
Over the time, we've learnt that businesses which have engineering led foundation and have engineering led approach to problem solving are the businesses where potential of creating disruption is higher. So, I think these are the few things we look at.
What is your take on the mobile-only trend that is going in the market?
I don't know about mobile-only but I know for sure that India is a "mobile first" country. We have seen phenomenal growth both in advertising and retail business. The share of mobile is growing at a significant pace. I think that going forward, the share is only going to increase. Even in today's environment you can probably survive if you don't have a good PC strategy but if you don't have a good mobile-strategy it's almost impossible to survive.
How different is the buying behaviour of Indian consumers when compared to global consumers?
I think macros remain the same. As the organised retail was so under-developed here, access to good product was a big challenge. So, what seems to be working in our market is at least at this phase, businesses that are giving a good combination of access to great products along with great value (which means great discounts) are the businesses which have seen a high uptake, whereas, in the more developed markets, technology is disrupting the whole retail market.