Tag Archives: india

The OTT Play in India

In a 2013 piece, Ben Thompson outlined the following ‘Jobs TV Does’

  • Keep us informed
  • Educate
  • Give a live view of sporting events
  • Enlighten and story-tell
  • Provide escapism

Subsequently he makes a call for “Unbundling of TV” whereby a different category/product will come about offering a better way to get each of the above mentioned jobs done.

Thing started changing well before Ben wrote that piece and some of those changes seem solidified, at least for now. 

TV Unbundling In India, 2018

Migration from TV to OTT

As per a recent survey by BARC India, 197 Mn homes in India have TV with a total TV penetration of 66%. The survey also shares that over 835 Mn individuals have access to TV. The advertising spend for the medium estimated to be Rs 31,596 Cr ($4.5 Billion).

While TV is enjoying it’s last phase of penetration growth (like print media) there is a big migration from TV underway in India with Gen-Z & Millennials leading the wave.

The first phase saw a move from ‘Traditional TV’ to ‘Cable TV’ with a huge portion of country installing set top boxes to get access to niche programming, round the clock at a reasonable price. The second phase is seeing the move from ‘Cable TV’ to ‘OTT/On-Demand Video’.

Journey from Traditional TV to OTT

I believe currently this transition is at play with users gradually moving from one stage of the funnel to the next. However, over the next few years  most users will skip the set-top box stage and jump straight from TV to OTT platforms.

People will Skip ‘Set-Top Box’ and jump straight to OTT

OTT is High Growth Market

India has been a huge market for Films, TV Shows and Sports. Increasing high-speed internet penetration, falling data prices, entry of big players with huge budgets along with original content aimed (mostly) at youth has over the years set the ball rolling for OTT (Over-The-Top) consumption in India.

The current Indian streaming market is roughly pegged at $300 million with 30 OTT players with Hotstar being the most popular service.

Top OTT Players in India
(source: impactonnet.com)

As of today, OTT is one of the hottest markets in India with everyone scrambling to get a piece of the pie. OTT viewers are growing by 35% Y-O-Y and projected to grow to 355 Mn by 2020. OTT video revenue is expected to reach Rs 5,595 Cr (~$800Mn) by 2022. With  projections like these the current gold rush starts to make sense.

OTT Market Players:

With over three dozen players, OTT is becoming a crowded market with players trying to attack it from all sides. From small digital content studios to giant media/production houses, everyone’s got their eyes on the prize.

The types of players can be divided into the following categories

  1. Media Groups ( Star, Sony, Zee etc)
  2. Production Houses (Eros, Balaji Telefilms etc)
  3. OTT Platforms, International & Local (Netflix, Viu etc)
  4. Internet Companies (Amazon etc)
  5. Digital Content Platforms/Studios (Arre etc)
  6. Others (Aditya Birla Group etc)

A fast growth market with a lot of headroom to grow, voila. However, similar to what I mentioned in ‘The Transportation Layer Protocol of Business‘, while everyone is free to compete, not everyone stands a fair chance at winning. Moreover, even if one is able to create value, in absence of a sound business model, they just might be not to capture it.

Will come back to explore this topic in a later post

Indian FMCG Startups Are Coming

Over the past 5 years or so, consumer product startups have been slowly but steadily picking pace in India. While their scale might be significantly low in comparison with e-commerce, ride-sharing or food delivery startups, their seems to be a lot of action in the space.

India’s FMCG market is pegged to be around $185Bn. Traditionally, the large players in FMCG/CPG space have operated by owning a massive distribution pipe (Wholesalers, Distributors & Retailer), doing massively expensive marketing campaigns and selling commoditised products. All of this is starting to change.

That smaller startups are trying to disrupt incumbents extended to FMCG category is a natural after effect of the internet penetration and the subsequent second-order effects. Also, as shown below, the CPG brands globally are infamous for their lack of innovation.

R&D Spending in Consumer Goods Cos as compared to Tech Cos


Factors that favour growth of FMCG startups
: Include changes in status quo for:

  1. Innovation
  2. Production 
  3. Marketing
  4. Distribution

Given the rising discretionary spends and ability for internet to help micro target, upstart startups can now decide to make products not for a mass segment but for niche consumers subset. For ex: Instead of making Real or Tropicana Juices aimed at all and sundry, there can now be Raw Pressery or Paper Boat aimed at premium/niche segment of the market.

Since the target segment is a smaller niche, it fundamentally changes how companies approach Production, Marketing and Distribution. 

  1. Innovation (Loved by a few vs liked by a lot): Given a niche customer segment, a startup can focus on making a great product that their customers will really love over a good/slightly better than average product that a lot of people will be fine using. 
  2. Production (Lower Upfront Fixed Cost Requirements): Unlike earlier times, a startup can now think of starting small and launching few niche products with a reasonable manufacturing setup and invest in production as they grow.
  3. Marketing (Lower Variable Costs): A startup these days can get the wheels of marketing rolling but starting with ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram and others with a much smaller budget. Another aspect of marketing is the solid brand proposition that most niche CPG startups are able to drive due to their innovative offering.
  4. Distribution (Lower Upfront Fixed, and Variable Costs): Compared to earlier times of building a comprehensive retail supply chain across the state/country to store and deliver goods, a startup can get started with minimal inventory and deliver products directly to consumer (D2C) through their website/3rd party marketplaces and scale distribution spends as their traction grows.

Source: Dollar Shave Club/ Kantar Futures

VC activity in the space has been on rise with some focussed funds like DSG actively investing in startups. DSG has around a dozen investments in India including Chai Point and Raw Pressery. Consumer Goods startups have raised over $152 mn in 2018 (so far).

via Bloomberg Quint

via Economic Times

via Economic Times

The Bigger brands have also started making their moves in Indian Consumer Goods Startups. 

Bombay Shaving Company, Beardo got funded by Palmolive & Marico respectively 

Some other players that attracted investments from bigger players Happily Unmarried’s Ustra (Wipro Consumer Care) and Forest Essentials (Estée Lauder). The biggest player in the D2C category (not FMCG really) that has done exceedingly well in Lenskart.

With increasing GDP per capita, better penetration of high-speed internet, increasing transition towards e-commerce fuelled by significant VC funding and some M&A activity, the FMCG space is bound to grow and thrive. It’d be interesting to observe how various startups evolve and make great businesses.

On closing note, here’s the great introductory video by DollarShaveClub that set the ball rolling.

‘Commute Vehicle’ as a Platform

For a while, I’ve been thinking about a lens or a mental model to look at the opportunities possible while once a user is in a ride-sharing vehicle.

Given that millions are using ride-sharing services like Uber and Ola everyday to commute and that they are slightly better suited to being offered another product or service during their commute makes them apt for some interesting possibilities.

Let’s divide the commute into different segments based on distance covered.

1. Short –  Cabs, Bikes, Bicycles
2. Medium – Cabs, Bikes
3. Long – Cabs, Bus

Out of the commute options above, a couple make for a good fit to be ripe for some add-on opportunities. The contenders include

1. Cabs – Medium & Long Distance
2. Bus – Long Distance

When you think of a platform, the following image comes to mind

The underlying structure comprises of:

1. Users using a platform frequently.
2. Platform allowing 3rd parties (developers/companies etc) to offer products that users can access. 
3. Platform collecting rent for offering 3rd parties a connection to users.

Food Outlets in Delhi Metro Stations

Delhi Metro has had food outlets in its metro stations for a long time. Apart from Advertising on the metro train itself, this is one of the biggest sources of revenue from them.

Unlike iOS/Android app stores where anyone can freely publish an app (subject to certain T&C), with it being a physical play one can’t just set up a shop on a metro station. In that sense, one can think of it as a ‘Managed or Curated Platform’. While anyone can apply for a shop via a Tender, the number of shops is constrained and can’t ever be as long tail as in the digital world.

Keeping the limitations of atoms aside and the fact that most of these commute services are structurally aggregators (Ola/Uber have homogeneous supply, decide which cab to be dispatched and more), thinking about the ‘Commute vehicle’ as a platform lets one imagine various possibilities. Let’s take a look at some options

  1. Advertising (Brand and Transaction Driven)
  2. Commerce (Physical and Digital)
  3. Entertainment (Audio, Video, Games)

  1. Advertising (Brand and Transaction Driven): This one is classic, using the platform for un-targeted/blanket brand campaigns or using the platform for targeted ads what could drive the user to a transaction.

    For ex: Sharing a promo code that enables a special discount to try a new app. (QR codes?)

    I feel there could be an interesting play to build a way to deliver targeted campaigns to users. Given the low scale, smaller/upcoming brands might find it more useful.

Cab Branding for Mobikwik

2. Commerce (Physical and Digital):

This is particularly interesting and under-explored (except for food joints in metro stations etc). Our impulse purchase behaviour, coupled with internet connectivity, convenience and instant gratification makes it powerful.

A few months back Uber tied up with Cargo to enable riders to buy snacks and confectionery. Apparently, Cargo helped drivers earn more than $100 extra per month and has shared over $1mn with its drivers since its launch

Snack Ordering Via Cargo

In terms of fitment, the light snacks and confectionery seems to be a great fit. Want a coke on your ride back from Airport or want to grab a quick chocolate on the evening ride back home? All seems, possible.

Apart from the food stuff, can the vehicle enable you to buy some digital stuff or physical stuff digitally? Could be the boring stuff that one doesn’t get time/wants to do during core hours

a) Ordering food or grocery while I’m on the way to home.
But then one might use mobile apps they already have on their phone, in which case the advertising can act as a nudge to make user transact on their phone itself . 

“Don’t feel like eating home food? Order your favourite cousin and have it delivered within 10 minutes of you reaching home (and get 10% off)”

b) Gifting, Getting Utility/Services work done could be some possibilities

3. Entertainment (Audio, Video, Games): 

This is another natural fit for a commuter. Passengers (and riders) have been listening to music, watching videos etc since forever and offering an extension of the same to the user while commuting is perfect.

Bhavish Announcing Launch of Ola Play

While, I’ve never used the other features (like car control and stuff) I can safely say, Ola Play launched in Nov 2016 is a great and useful innovation.

I’m not too sure on the current model for Ola Play but given its relevance for users and the good execution (network connectivity, hardware, ux etc) it can be a great way to offer more value to the customers.

Some possibilities around Live Streaming Events, Live Gaming, Podcasts, Trial Subscriptions for OTT, Short Length Media, Original Content etc would be very interesting to explore. 

There could be potentially a few more options { in-cab feet/back massage machines?:) } to leverage the 30mins-60mins+ commute time, internet connectivity, fewer distractions, other needs (hunger, killing time etc). 

It’d be interesting to see how various companies evolve their offerings in this space, would the ride-sharing companies act as an aggregator or have a platform play and which of them turn out to be well executed, scalable and profitable.

Flipkart Plus: Customer Loyalty Program by Flipkart

Flipkart, the country’s biggest e-commerce company announced the launch of their loyalty program or customer benefits program (as they are calling it) on India’s Independence Day .

Launch Emailer

Here’s a quick summary of the program

  1. Opt-in membership with zero fee
  2. Free Expedited Shipping
  3. Exclusive access to promotional offers on Flipkart
  4. Reward points (coins) for purchases on Flipkart, which can be redeemed to buy offers on & off Flipkart (other vendors like Bookmyshow, Cafe Coffee Day)
  5. Superior & Priority Customer Support

Membership is just a click away

Flipkart Plus Landing Page

For an e-commerce company to become a sustainable business at scale, customer loyalty (aka retention) is a must. With increased competition and massive customer base, retention is the most obvious and un-avoidable path for all sizeable e-commerce companies, thus the recent public push towards launching loyalty programs.

Coming back to Flipkart, Flipkart Plus is their second attempt to launch a loyalty program. The first attempt was made in 2014.

Flipkart First (Launched in 2014)

‘Flipkart First’, ran for 2-3 years before the company quietly setting the sun on it. Since I was an active customer back then, I purchased ‘Flipkart First’ membership twice to avail the benefits. 

Here’s a quick overview of how the two programs compare with each other

Flipkart First Vs Flipkart Plus

Summarising the key changes:

1. Waving off Membership Fee 
2. No commitment over delivery time and charges
3. Adding early access to exclusive deals
4. Superior and Priority customer service
5. Introducing 3rd part offers and reward points

Let’s try to quickly unpack these changes

  1. Free Memberships:
    Positives — Increased Uptake
    Negatives — No additional revenue from membership fee

    IMO a loyalty program without membership fee is not reflective of brand power and will always restrict goodness you can provide.

  2. Free and Expedited Delivery:
    Positives — Increase in both order count (significant) and revenue (insignificant)
    Negatives — Extra shippings costs.

    Since membership is free and so is shipping, essentially users have no incentive to consolidate their orders and thus they can & will choose to place standalone order for low ticket items but will they spend significantly more because of this, I don’t think so.

  3. Early Access To Exclusive Deals (Actually just Exclusive Deals):
    Positives — Depends on quality of deals. Could lead to more orders & revenue
    Negatives — The deals on low ticket item products can put further pressure on shipping costs.

    The way I see it, I don’t expect great deals for Plus members. Let’s wait and watch on this.

  4. Superior & Priority Customer Service:
    Positives — Difficult to measure and communicate value to users. Negatives — If some changes are actually done at CRM, process and team levels. The costs for this could be significant.

    Unless a customer buys extremely regularly and interacts with CS often they can’t really see the difference. Even if the experience is better, I’d actually prefer to not having to talk to CS at all.

    Also, I’d never want customers to feel they are treated unequally. So generally speaking, I don’t like this feature.

  5. 3rd Party Offers and Reward Points:
    Positives — Additional benefit to customers, should bring some additional revenue from 3rd party. 
    Negatives — The offers currently are unpleasantly few and the usage terms are not friendly (to the point of discouraging impulse use).

    Giving formulaic reward points for purchases in form of coins could have been good had they allowed people to redeem them while shopping (think Paytm Cash) but in the current form, users can redeem coins to buy offers on 3rd party or Flipkart. First option currently is un-exciting and second one involves fair amount of friction

Expect a lot of low ticket orders like these

Unfriendly Terms: Of course I will remember all this two days in advance

Redeeming Rewards: 50 Coin Offers

50 Coin Offers 

Rs 250 earns you 1 Coin, so you need to spend Rs 12,500 to earn 50 coins. 
There’s also a catch, you can’t earn more than 10 coins in an order. So in effect, a user need to place multiple orders (5 big orders or 50 small ones) of Rs 250 or more to accumulate 50 coins.

Once a user has spend Rs 12,500 they are eligible for these offers 
– Rs 1000 worth free Flipkart Voucher (8% cashback)
– Rs 1200 worth BMS voucher or Rs 1900 worth Zomato Gold.

These offers are definitely interesting for regular customers as they get all these benefits for free.

Would people spend more often on Flipkart or move to Flipkart because of these benefits (more offers to come) would be interesting to see.

Inside the mind of an Indian online shopper: How & Where I spent my money online in 2014

Last year, around the same I time I posted a quick analysis of my spends across various e-comm sites. Thought of repeating the exercise again and see what all changed

1) Split of orders across sites

Split of Orders Across Sites

 

Not surprisingly, I placed the most orders in 2014 on Paytm (close to 70%), followed by Freecharge (8%), Flipkart (4.3%), Amazon & Bookmyshow. Various cashback schemes run on Paytm are the reason behind the skew of order count

Talking about physical goods #1 was Paytm (Aggressive offers early on), followed by Flipkart, Amazon & Jabong

 

2) Split of spend across sites

Split of Spend across sites

 

The story starts to clear up a bit when we look at split of spend across various sites

While 70% of orders I placed were on Paytm, 52% of the money I spent online went their. Flipkart (17.6%),  Jabong (14.1 %) & Myntra (3%) came next. The ticket size for Amazon has been quite less

3) Split of spend across categories

Split of spend across categories

This is quite revealing for me. While last year I spend considerable chunk of money (spent online) buying books, this year books formed a very small piece.

35% of money I spent shopping online last year, was spent on buying Electronics (mostly mobiles) & related Accessories. 25% was spent on recharges/bill payments and a significant change towards Fashion with 22% of my spend went there.

Some Interesting Bits:
1) I spent more ordering food online than buying books (Still can’t believe it or Maybe I got better deals at books 😉 )
2)  I spent more on Cab rentals than movies ( I don’t take cabs as much) and almost the same amount as I spent ordering food online
3) Between Fashion & Electronics – 57% of my money was spent

Purchase Summary
Orders placed: 321
Digital goods (recharges, bill payments and movies): 252

Money Spent: Rs 1,72,448
Money spent on Physical goods: 1,24,621

Closing Thoughts/points
1) I’m not the most savvy online purchaser but I do tend to compare prices before buying stuff and have started using mysmartprice and more recently  buyhutke (Chrome plugin)
2) Online mega sales trigger my purchases (super surprised to find out, I ordered on Myntra this GOSF after a break of 1 year from last GOSF). Made purchases on Big Billion Day and even Myntra’s “End of Reason” sale today
3) While I preferred purchasing on desktop (ease of selection, multiple tables, price comparison etc). I’ve started buying stuff straight of mobile. While for many purchases mobile still serves as the initiation point of my purchases and the same happens other way around, I add items to cart on web only to order them later on mobile when free
4) Most of my purchases (especially Fashion) are impulse (discount driven If I can admit), while Electronics etc are kinda planned
5) I’ve jumped the ship completely when it comes to paying by card. Almost, all my purchases (90% +) are pre-paid now.
6) Myntra and Jabong have spoiled me with their super easy return/exchange policies and flow. I don’t think twice before ordering stuff from them as I know I can always get the product returned/exchanged if I don’t like it. They also have superb delivery timelines (24 hours is a regular)
7) One thing I miss shopping online, is “Lack of Price Protection”. What you buy today for Rs 5000 can be available for say Rs 4000 and Rs 3500 the next day. As a buyer, you obviously feel bad about it
8) Newly caught trend of using wallets to pay on various sites to get discounts and cashbacks is a good incentive to use them. I’ve used Paytm, mobikwik and Payumoney, depending on the offers they are running.
9) I’m yet to order specs, furniture, grocery, health & wellness and things from a lot of these categories
10) Product wise – Wishlist and Rating/Reviews are by far the most useful features. Also, I love the feature to sort/filter using discount/offers (or the lack of them).

Hope, this post would help folks working in e-commerce get “some more idea” of their *Customers*

 

App Review – Thrill

Despite all the jig bang the Indian cyber space has kinda been hostile to the incumbents of online dating ecosystem. Dating as a concept is yet to catch up here but some of the newly launched mobile apps seemed determined to change that.

Thrill, is one such new dating app on the block ( H/T @pacificleo). Android based and targeted for Indian users.

Thrill App

 

Founded in Nov 2012 in Singapore by Josh Israel and Devin Serago. The USP of the app is that on Thrill, women have the absolute power to decide which guys to accept and reject.”He applies. She decides” goes the tagline

Apparently women in a man’s network have to approve for him to be able to join. Not sure, how it is actually implemented though

Let’s check out the app

1) Welcome Screen

Welcome Screen

 

2) Choose Location
Choose Location

The metros figure up on top of the list followed by other cities arranged alphabetically. Good thing

3) Apply & Wait

Apply & Wait

 

Thrill isn’t an open platform (at least it wasn’t when I used it for the first time last month). You apparently are placed in a queue to verify your profile and make it look exclusive. A social share in hopes of moving up the queue is a bonus.  I didn’t share socially but got an approval in a day or so

Thrill Approval Email

 

We will only connect you both if the feeling is mutual

 

4) Gender Selection, Sign up and Social profile Access

a) Gender

 

b) Sign up

 

c)

Access

 

Three screens to select gender, choose sign up via social profile and then grant access is an overkill.

Possible Alternatives:

Show screen 4b) first and add profile access disclaimer there itself. Ask for gender only if the user hasn’t filled in their gender in their profile.

Also, WHO/WHY would anybody sign in with their Linkedin Profile on a dating app? I’d be really interested in knowing what % of signups happen through linkedin. (Use Twitter or Google instead)

5) Dashboard

Dashboard

Comments: As a first time user, I have no clue what a “Match Batch” is and what’s the deal with “Points”. Anyways, I’d click “Start Your Thrill” as the call to action is quite powerful.

6) Starting Thrill

a) Select Category

Starting Thrill

 

Comments: This screen isn’t that intuitive, some overlays would help a newbie figure out how to go ahead.

b) Rate Category

Rating a category bit didn’t seem needed and also added an unnecessary extra step in the flow

Category
c) Rate Item

Rate item
After rating a few items you get an option to view matches.

7) See Matches

shake to unock

 

See matches

 

Based on how you rated various items you are presented an unlock batch of matches, you can unlock some of them initially by shaking your phone or eventually by buying credits (Freemium mode #goodone)

Buy Points
Deals

This page where the user is supposed to choose how many points do they want to purchase isn’t quite clear. I am not sure if Deal 3 is for 500 points or 500 Rs. Also, some help on how much is 1 point for, and a few basic FAQs  in form of a link etc would be of appreciated.

Payment

 

Phew !!

Overall the app seems to be very neatly designed(UI and UX), is fairly fast and has an interesting  take on dating. The concept of rating various categories and items in them to be able to find a matching profile is fairly intuitive.

Initially it had some bugs (app freezing or crashing during certain events) which were fixed in subsequent updates.

I haven’t used dating apps so don’t really know what the ideal/expected scenario is. Do users keep using the app actively or they find a match or two and leave?

Apart from the extended workflows required for certain actions I am apprehensive on how would they solve the

  1. Should the part of rating be one time during on-boarding or a regular affair? For example if have I rated all food items, is it done or after some time there will be new items which I’d be required to rate to be able to find new set of matches? Perhaps the core experience could be made simpler and an easy win given to the user
  2. Chicken and Egg problem : Despite giving the app a spin for a few weeks, the overall user base didn’t seem to be increasing much. There is no way to know if more and more women are joining the app. I think unless this is the case or you find a match early one, I am not too sure why would someone keep coming back to the app.


Customer On boarding- 3/5
Engagement -2/5
Look and Feel – 4/5

Overall Rating:  3.5/5

 

 

Assocham-Comscore State of eCommerce in India – Report

In Sep 2012 Assocham together with Comscore came out with a report on the Indian ecommerce Scene. It had some known and some new stats/key points. You can download the report here

Here are the main points 

Demographics
  1. 75% of online audience between the age group of 15-34 years
  2. Female population is about 40% of total users (July 2012)
Travel
  • The penetration in India is about 44% which is higher than the world average for travel
  • IRCTC get about 19.2% of all Indian online traffic (highest – 12mn uniques/month) followed by Makemytrip
  • Redbus gets about 2%
  • Surprise: Content type sites for ex: indiarailinfo (3.2%) and mustseeindia (2.3%)
  • Travelyaari and Makemytrip (2.3 mn uniques a month)
Retail
  • The penetration in India is about 60% which is lower than the world average for retail (72%)
  • Amazon gets about 15.4%, Flipkart (11.5% – 7.4 mn uniques/month), Snapdeal (11.1% – 6.9 mn uniques/month) of all India online traffic
  • Apparel is the most growing subsegment in retail
  • Flowers/gifts/greetings is the only subsegment with negative growth – 33% (Our coupons??)
Breakup of Payment Methods in India
  1. Direct Debit – 58% with avg transaction of 20$ (lowest)
  2. Visa – 21% with avg transaction of 48$
  3. Master card – 12% with avg transaction of 47$
  4. Cash on Delivery – 7% with avg transaction of 33$
  5. Others – 2% with avg transaction of 43$
  6. American Express cards apparently have the highest avg transaction size of 110$
IRCTC Specific Info 
  • SBI and SBI Direct – 29 +26 = 55% of all transactions
  • ICICI (17%), HDFC (14%)
  • Do a revenue of about 38 Cr
 Future 
  • Car rentals and bus booking online should go further up
  • home furnishing and lifestyle goods to contribute more
  • comparison shopping sites/apps to get more popularity

The Rise of the Indian Online Marketplace

If you are part of/related to the Indian e-commerce scene in any manner or read desi start-up blogs, chances are you might be familiar with the concept of Marketplace.

A “Marketplace” connects buyers and sellers who otherwise have trouble finding each other.

Marketplace(think eBay), is simply a model which has multiple sellers providing various goods/services through a platform. In the context of this discussion, an e-commerce website instead of sourcing and fulfilling the orders just manages the listing of products and passes on the order details to the sellers who then handles them.

Recently, India’s biggest online retailer (Flipkart) made their first move as a part of shift towards the marketplace set up.

To start with, Flipkart has on-board 50 sellers that will sell books, media, and consumer electronics.

Other Indian online retailers on scaled up marketplace model are Snapdeal(which recently raised $ 50 mn from ebay and others), Tradus, Infibeam and Shopclues. Let’s understand how the marketplace model and inventory led model compare in execution

The key components of an e-commerce set up are

  1. Customer Acquisition
  2. Catalog
  3. Technology (Customer facing/related and backend)
  4. Inventory
  5. Fulfillment (Sourcing, Packaging and Delivery)
  6. Payment Processing
  7. Customer Service/Support

Setting everything up for a rookie is quite demanding (capital and effort wise) and will take months to get off the ground, however to signup as a seller on a marketplace and/or opening a shop using SaaS based ecommerce store building platforms like Zepo, Buildabazaar or Martjack is a quickie. So for a newbie it makes perfect sense to open up their own shop (SaaS) and list on various marketplaces as a seller

Based on one’s expertise and priorities there are various ways of building the e-commerce store set up. For eg: while someone will prefer to control the last mile delivery experience, someone would rather let logistics companies take care of that.

The most common model is mix of Inventory led and Marketplace both (think Amazon). Here’s how it works

  1. Inventory Led – Short Tail (Fast moving, Commodity products, Easy to warehouse for ex: best selling books/movies/pendrives etc)
  2. Marketplace – Long Tail (Slow moving, Niche products, Difficult to warehouse for ex: medical books published in hindi/very old foreign language films/Furniture etc)

While it might not very clear from the examples but Inventory led model makes sense for products which aren’t perishable(both utility and demand/vogue), are easily available offline too and move fast enough while the Marketplace model makes sense for products which one doesn’t know exist or even if one knows they don’t have any clue on how to stock them, how to source them etc.

Customer Acquisition,Technology,Payment Processing and Customer Support are done by the e-commerce company.

Here’s how various models are implemented in some of the biggest Indian e-commerce companies.

break_up

A couple questions come to the the curious mind.

  1. Why sudden rush towards Marketplace all across?
  2. Is Marketplace the future of e-commerce in India?

1. Why sudden rush towards Marketplace all across?

The answer to that question (from what I’ve heard) lies in the deep VC pockets. With the Govt of India dillydallying around the FDI regulations for e-commerce, apparently Marketplace is the only way to get external funding needed to sustain the business.

Also, it could be because the bigger e-commerce companies have figured out that

a) they can’t possibly go that strong on increasing the  quality/quantity of the catalog on their own
b) they ran sick and tired of doing everything on their own.

To get a sense, compare how Flipkart was managing these functions in it’s previous avatar and compare it to say Snapdeal

 

break_up1

2. Is that the future of e-commerce in India?

On doing some rough calculations based on the information available Flipkart, Infibeam, Snapdeal, Jabong, Bookadda and Homeshop together would be doing around 1,15,000 orders a day (Flipkart and Snapdeal contributing about 60-70 %).

There are a lot more sites (ending with kart and otherwise) who just might be doing another (20-30,000 transactions or more a day)

As per my guesstimate all independent smaller e-commerce websites and platform powered online shops selling long tail products would be doing not more than 5-10,000 orders a day.These numbers could be significantly different from the mark for all we know but based on these numbers before marketplace became the buzzword, top 5-6 established players were doing about 90,000-95,000 orders a day in total while the others in long tail were about 5-10% of their size.

The balance has started to shift towards the marketplace model transactions. For now their share could be 10-15% of the overall e-commerce transactions.  Going forward we’ll a lot more smaller businesses and niche startups coming online and by 2013 end their share could be upwards of 20-25%(going by the fact that between Flipkart and Snapdeal they are the biggest online retailers).

A couple of factors to speed this up would be

  1. More platforms like Buildabazaar and Zepo
  2. Better payment gateway/cash collection mechanisms (Ghar pay etc)
  3. Better logistics (for end to end fulfillment)
  4. Third party SaaS services for other components like (Catalog, Warehousing, Customer Support)
  5. Some VC investment in 1-2 marketplace companies

The sooner we get to see the above mentioned things rolling the faster we’ll get to the long tail moving online. At some time in the  mid term future(5-7 years) the demand for long tail items (Niche/scarcely available/custom made) products could become comparable if not more than the demand for short tail products.

So the marketplace model and independent shops powered by various sites are here to stay and the current biggies like Flipkart, or maybe Snapdeal will evolve into a mix of (Short tail – Inventory led – Self Fulfilled and Long tail – marketplace – Logistics company) models.

Your thoughts?