Connecting Product Discovery Behaviour With Content Marketing

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Of late I have observed two product discovery behaviours in my circle-

One of my friends updated her Facebook status seeking suggestions on a good shampoo “Folks, suggest a good shampoo. I am sure my other friends in Bangalore are facing the hair fall issues”.  Within minutes the post started getting comments, some even sharing links to the blogs of experts and trichologists.

In another incident, I saw an update on my LinkedIn network, “Looking for HR software for my startup of an employee size of 22. Suggestions please?” Within no time the post started getting responses. People suggested some white papers and e-books links as well.

There are many such examples which can showcase that customer’s product discovery behaviour has evolved over a period of time and they try and make well-informed decisions.

“Consumers search for information on Google 115 billion times a month” – Industry report

Once a prospect indentifies his/her needs, their product research and discovery starts via consuming relevant information (medium could be online or personal sources).  In today’s internet era, a typical product discovery process starts researching on multiple search engines, checking out product sites/ blogs /forums, online product reviews, friend’s recommendations on social networks and so on.

Product discovery_Nov 8, 2014 Now it’s up to brands how to facilitate these potential customers in their product discovery journey and enhance the experience. If you are not providing the helpful information, you are missing out a great opportunity in early product discovery phase of these prospects. Here content-led-marketing plays an important role. A company must make available relevant information, insights, expert advice, guidelines and recommendations to potential customers. Brands should deliver the type of information that prospects are seeking, aligned with their needs/ interest. Great content also creates a powerful word-of-mouth and spreads fast on social networks.

Once the customers buy the product and are happy, they are more likely to share their good experience with others. Brands should ensure they are able to get feedback on time, respond faster to any concerns and able to engage with the customers.

In order to be part of prospect’s product discovery journey, brand must ask these 3 questions as part of their content marketing strategy-

  • What information could help a prospect in his buying process and could build trust in my brand?
  • What kind of customer problems/challenges are in my industry? Can I be resourceful to those people who researching solutions around these problems? This can put your brand in position of Thought Leader.
  • Is my job over once I’ve created the endless content? No. Very important piece is the content distribution. Nail down the relevant content destinations where prospects are able to find you.

Wish you a great day!

Pawan

From customer engagement to Customer Marriage

Hello everyone, hope all is well at your end. Today I completed my 10K run between the early morning breezes, lovely flying birds & wonderful sunrise and soon after I started writing this article. Now what the heck customer marriage is?

In our day to day business, we do talk about customer engagement but why don’t we take this to the next level ‘customer marriage’ and deepen the relationship further?

customer marriage_eBusiness IndiaFigure: Various phases of online customer

Lots of Indian e-Commerce emerging portals offer massive discounts to attract more customers. Later they bleed in losses and shut down (this we have seen happening with many players). You can afford to do so if you have money & muscle power like Amazon India. Do not forget best businesses strive hard towards profitability and customer retention. Strategy should be how you could be different & customer driven?

The days are gone when business owners used to play with discounts OR a celebrity used to come during TV commercial break appealing us to use the product for which he/she was paid to promote. Customer maturity level has gone up and they expect better relationships. Let us look at few examples:

Apple- Any apple product such as iPhone, iPad, Macbook sells at almost double price compare to any other brands. They do not sell products they sell dreams; they sell master pieces of functional art, they focus on perfection at every touch point with customers.

Let us take another extreme example- I am sure few of us are regular Shell customers. Why we pay more at Shell petrol bunk for same quantity of petrol compared to other petrol bunks? Because they do not sell petrol rather they sell trust and happiness to customers. They achieve this by ensuring premium product, speedy response to customer queries, excellent customer service, and safety first, convenience, well behaved staff & customer delight.

So what is common in between the above examples? They all focus on creating values in long run & ‘get married’ with the customer.

“Loyal online customers have- almost double visit to carts, almost triple conversion rate, 10% higher cart value” –Source: MarketLive Performance Index

At starting point, ensure that a customer has a first sight crush on you through the usage of right set and means of communication & methods. Once a customer is impressed, he/she wants to taste your offerings. During customer engagement, ensure you give best first time experience of your offerings and customer gets comfortable with you. Now it is time to convert them to Married Customers. Married ones buy more from you with better longevity, refer their friends, willing to buy products from your other categories & help you with genuine feedback to improve. Loyalty of online customers fosters the long-term profitability of online stores. At the same time, it is cheaper than finding a new customer. Few of the key elements of online customer’s marriage:

  • Do deliver on your promises, always.
  • Offer a fair & genuine price for your offering (not cheap price).
  • Have a clear differentiator (not limited to product only). E.g. shopno47.com an Bangalore based online mobile shop where they deliver your product within 1 hour 47 minutes guaranteed, ‘hate to wait’ is their tag line.
  • Innovate in business model, customer service & value delivery system. E.g. Caratlane.com offers you try-at-home option for diamond jewelry to provide touch/feel factor. eBay India’s Paisa Pay feature to fuel the trust. Fashionara’s online customers can order several apparels for a free home trial and many more examples.
  • Keep your customer informed if there is an issue with their online orders related to product unavailability, product color/size, delivery delay etc.
  • Design your personalized campaigns through intelligent customer data mining & analysis. Do not forget to wish your customers on their important dates (Birthday, anniversary etc.). Have personalized messaging based on online buying patterns & create exclusive online customer groups with the similar interests.
  • Ensure you get to see continuous feedback & satisfaction matrix, on time. Here is one method I recommend to all http://bit.ly/NetPromoterScore.
  • Communicate company’s vision to your vendor, staff & customer care team regularly, who will have direct/indirect impact on your customer experience.
  • In today’s fast paced communication world, customers want to communicate when, where and how they want? Hence it is imperative that we constantly monitor & optimize over various touch points (social media, online forums, email & phone). And ensure speedy & appropriate responses.

Note: Above examples are not to promote any brand, just a personal opinion relating the topic.

Delicious recipe requires a balanced mix of Ingredients: eBusiness Marketing Mix

Hello Everyone,

Hope all is well at your end? While traveling to Shimoga on last weekend I had put down this quick mindmap. Enjoyed pleasant weather and wonderful breezes there (Jog Falls at its best now). At the same time lot of buzz in Indian e-commerce market- 1. Flipkart goes through a fresh round of funding of $160 million, taking the total in the fifth round to $360 million, 2.According to IAMAI- eCommerce is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2020 in India,  3.eTailers have lined-up verity of interesting offers in this festive season e.g. Shopclues introduces Dynamite sale:)

Hope you like my below note. Thanks! -Pawan

e-Business Marketing Mix

Everyone knows, how much a balanced mix of right ingredients is essential to prepare a delicious recipe. A slight error in judgment and alteration in only one ingredient’s ratio may spoil the taste of whole recipe. Similarly, a successful business requires a balanced and a carefully crafted marketing mix of strategies. Fundamentals of offline business can be replicated for online business as well.  Often online business team has limited interactions with the customers (plus no F2F interaction) therefore it is imperative that team creates opportunities for overwhelming experiences for their customer and set high standards of performance. All a team needs to do is carefully interact with all the elements of marketing strategy and implement it wise.

Here are my quick thoughts:

marketing mixFigure 1- Offline-business marketing mix vs. online-business marketing mix.

e-business marketing mix

Figure 2 – Deep dive on e-Business marketing mix.

Referral -Simple yet powerful manner to win more business; be it online or offline

Few days back I got my vehicle’s insurance renewed at Reliance Fresh store (they have tie up with ICICI Lombard).  Agent Girish handled my transaction & collected the required documents from my home. He had a good knowledge of the product/benefits & carried a genuine smile throughout the transaction.  And finally he asked me politely “Sir, if you are happy with my services, can you please refer me to your friends”.  Outcome- I referred him to two of my friends who needed the same services & conveyed that Girish is a good professional. (In the past I had over 12 vehicle insurance transactions but this was the first time when someone had asked me for the referral).

Six years back, I got the corporate Vodafone connection. Sales person Nagarapawan guptaj offered me a good plan which saved my 300 rupees (approx.) per month over my earlier service provider plan. He also asked me, “Pawan, can you please give few references? I am sure few of your colleagues can get benefited with our services”. Over lunch I even conveyed this to few of my colleagues.  Outcome- He gave three more connections in my group.

A few months back, I was in Sri Lanka on vacation. Our hotel arranged a taxi. The taxi driver was fantastic & was an enthusiastic guide-cum-driver to us. We were very much delighted with his knowledge & services. At the end of the tour, he not only asked us to write a testimonial on his diary but also requested, “sir, please refer me to your friends, I will arrange best deals for them.” He handed over his business card and took a photo with us. Most humbly he asked for the permission if he can use this photo along with his testimonials.

Above three incidences convey the same message that Referral still remains the powerful mode to win more business irrespective of industry/domain.

The rule remains the same for the online businesses as well. There are very few online stores who ask for Referral to their happy customers. Unfortunately majority of the professionals hesitate & DO NOT ask for the referrals.

Why should you always ask for the referrals?

  • Probability of doing business with the referrals is very high as they come from trusted sources who have used your products /services & comes under happy customer bucket. Please remember people are much more likely to trust their friends than strangers.
  • It is a proven mode to get more business. Sales cycles are likely to be very short through referrals OR word of mouth.

e.g. As per the recent report with 1.15 billion users; Facebook is one of the leading social networking sites pulling referral marketing online.

Unfortunately, people do not ask for the referral due to lack of ignorance, trust or security.But we should go forward for it.

Action items:

  1. Make a list of your happy customers as a qualified referral sources (do the first thing if you have not done yet. You must know your happy customers).
  2. Ask them for references & do more businesses.

Your opinion matters- Which is the ‘Payment Method’ you use often to make your payments for online shopping?

Your opinion matters to me-  Conducting a research for an assignment, do contribute please.

Thanks!

Popular online shops /e-Commerce websites in India

Guys, Here I tried to list down few popular Indian e-Commerce portals where i have been shoppingshop online. This does not include Travel category. If you have some more please DO NOT forget to add:)

https://www.flipkart.com/

http://www.amazon.in/

http://www.ebay.in/

http://www.infibeam.com/

http://www.snapdeal.com/

http://in.bookmyshow.com/

http://www.homeshop18.com/

http://www.fnp.com/

http://www.tradus.com/

http://shopping.indiatimes.com/

http://zovi.com/

http://www.myntra.com/

http://www.caratlane.com/

http://www.yebhi.com/

http://www.indiaplaza.com/

http://www.futurebazaar.com/

http://www.Yebhi.com/

http://www.babyoye.com/

http://www.firstcry.com/

http://www.dealsandyou.com/

http://www.IndianGiftsPortal.com/

http://www.Naaptol.com/

http://www.fashionandyou.com/

http://www.pepperfry.com/

http://www.jabong.com/

Common attributes of a good e-Commerce portal from a buyer perspective are- a cool design, smooth navigation, product advisor (find not search), product presentation (description, photo etc.), relevant product cross-sells, easy check out, safe/easy payment gateways, prompt customer support over email/chat/phone and many more.

‘Enjoy every moment of entrepreneurship- Rahul Sethi, an eBusiness veteran’

Hello Readers,

I am happy to feature Mr. Rahul Sethi, one of the role models of  Indian e-Commerce industry. He is the CEO & Co-Founder at ladyblush.com – India’s first only women website. Many thanks to Rahul for sharing his thoughts with the community over this online interview! Here are the excerpts of the interview.

 

Pawan: Tell us briefly about Ladyblush.com & its key differentiators?

Rahul: LadyBlush.com is India’s 1st Women only Shopping Website. We are building this as a marketplace wherein we partner with vendors specializing in women merchandise, from across India. Currently we have close to 200 vendors providing us with a catalogue size of more than 12000 SKUs.

The differentiation for LadyBlush emerges from its positioning – which is ‘For Women’. LadyBlush key differentiators are:

  1. Catalogue Assortments i.e. the catalogue on offer,
  2. Findability i.e. how easy it is to find what you are looking for &
  3. UI – User Interface

The differentiations of LadyBlush strengthen its positioning and its positioning strengthens its differentiation.

Pawan: How is the demand pattern on your portal?  Which categories are getting good response from Indian female buyers?

Rahul: We have seen consistent demand across all categories on LadyBlush.com; which include western and traditional wear, intimate wear, home décor, Art Jewellery, Cosmetics.

Some of our top sellers include – nightwear, western dresses, sarees, salwar suits & art jewellery.

Pawan: How many cities is ladyblush.com active in? How is the response from tier II & tier III cities?

Rahul: Currently we cover about 8000 pin-codes across India; which is about 95% of reach of ‘all organized logistics players in India put together’. This covers about 85% of Indian ecommerce population.

Our response from Tier II & Tier III is far more than what we had anticipated considering our focus is women and women from smaller towns are perceived to be less outwardly and less open to emerging concepts like ecommerce.  And it is not men who are shopping for women but women themselves.

Pawan: What are your marketing strategies for reaching out to your target audience? How do you ensure repeat sales?

Rahul: Currently we are overly relying on word of mouth as our biggest channel to drive traffic to the website. Apart from this we have done few partnerships with banks, credit card companies and other consumer companies with emphasis on women users.

Direct marketing and base management is one of our key focus areas and it ensures relevant communication basis the classification of the user, resulting in healthy relationship and good repeat ratio.

The other key focus driver for traffic and transactions on our website is the catalogue which is constantly growing and getting richer by the day.

To top it all, it is our relentless customer obsession to ensure great buying experience resulting in getting buyers back and also recommending among friends.

Pawan: Are you looking to raise funds considering the future growth & how do you plan to utilize those? How do you see investors interest level in such online start-ups who are niche in offerings?

Rahul: Yes, we are looking to raise capital, though our fund requirement for this business is very different from a typical ecommerce set-up where it requires millions of dollars to succeed. This is because we don’t look at our business as an extension to Retail but a ‘Technology Facilitation Play’ in Consumer Retail Space. LadyBlush.com is a marketplace (no inventory) model hence we have zero investments in inventory; that reduces capital requirement. Being a niche player provides us with a lot of leverage & efficiency in our communication & marketing hence again reducing our capital requirement.

In terms of investor interest – ecommerce as an industry has been getting a cold shoulder over last 1 year from the investor community. Can be attributed to the following –

  1. There is a strong perception built about ecommerce being highly capital intensive.
  2. Unit economics and profitability of certain models is still question mark.
  3. Unlike West, High profile exits in ecommerce in India are yet to be seen.

Though I clearly believe that ecommerce is the most efficient way to go retail in this country and highly scalable and profitable ventures would be created in vertical and niche spaces in the Indian market. And it is only a matter of time when we will see renewed interest of investors towards this medium.

Pawan: As per a recent survey by e-Business India, we found customer service is the most preferred component of e-Commerce strategy. Your views on this?

Rahul: In a socially connected world of today – poor customer orientation is not an option at all. In eCommerce, we need to move from great customer service to great customer experience – which encompasses the entire transaction, right from when the customer first reaches the website to when she/he receives the product ordered. Customer service is not just one department’s responsibility, it involves the entire organization.

We have a strong focus on the customer experience and not one day goes by without us making a change to some process / policy or web setting that aims to deliver a better customer experience. We have a very efficient business model that allows us to make these investments while staying competitive in our pricing. Also, we plan to grow at a pace at which we can properly manage the entire customer experience. Over the coming months we will be investing in technology, web site usability research and assisted buying among other things to ensure customers have a seamless buying experience, and one that is informative and enjoyable.

Pawan: How has your experience been with Indian e-business industry over last 13 years and what is your advice to the existing/upcoming online ventures?

Rahul: It has been very enriching experience over last 13 years to be associated in creating some of the top consumer retail brands in the country. 6 years of my tenure at Baazee.com at the start of my career was like an institution to me, where I got exposed to the entire lifecycle of an organization and it laid a solid foundation for my career. Post that, every role of mine has taught me something new and given me different perspectives; resulting in better hold on the subject.

Last 1 year as an entrepreneur has been a complete roller coaster journey where I got to use all my knowledge & experience gained through my corporate career over last 13 years. And this journey is still young & I am enjoying it to the fullest…

Few points for the newbie entrepreneurs:

  1. Have full Conviction in yourself and your idea.
  2. Perseverance – Key to success. It is a long battle and you should build your stamina with a 5 years time frame.
  3. Constant improvisation as you tread the path
  4. Last but not the least – Enjoy every moment of entrepreneurship journey and don’t leave it for the end. Journey is more important than the end result.

 

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 About Rahul Sethi

Rahul Sethi earned his MBA degree from University of Bombay in 1999 and did an Executive Management Program at Harvards Business School in Year 2010 (as part of Naspers). He has a Rich and Diverse work experience of 13 years with Start-ups in the Internet ecommerce space. Since last 1 year he has been involved in his own entrepreneurial venture LadyBlush.com where he is a co-Founder, Investor and CEO.

Major highlights of his career —

* As President Ecommerce with Ibibo Web Pvt Ltd – A Naspers Group Company (July 2009 to Sept 2011); He launched Tradus India and in short span; Tradus is reckoned among the top ecommerce websites in the country. He was also responsible for TradusADS – hyper local classifieds website which later merged into olx.in (Naspers bought over majority stake in OLX in 2011)

* He was a core part of Baazee.com team (April 2000 to Jan 2006) and worked in various roles of Category Management and later in Marketing at eBay India (eBay bought over baazee in Jun’04). He was instrumental in building the Categories – ‘Consumer Electronics, Cameras & Mobiles’ for Baazee.com which contribute for more than 50% of revenues for the company. With eBay India; as Internet Marketing Manager; he set up ‘Online Affiliate marketing’ program for the website.

* As Head of Marketing – Futurebazaar.com, (Jan 2006 – Jan 2008) he was instrumental in taking the company among the top 3 ecommerce shopping sites in the country; in less than a year of launch.

 

Cashback Shopping: one-of-a-kind-concept in India. Interview with Ravitej Yadalam, CEO -pennyful.in

Pennyful.in is a revolutionary patent-pending cashback program designed specifically to cater to the Indian market. This offer cashback to shoppers on all transactions made through Pennyful online and offline. I am happy to feature Mr. Ravitej Yadalam, CEO at Pennyful over this interview. Thank you to Ravitej for making his time for this interview!

Here are the excerpts of the interview-

Pawan: Tell us about Pennyful.in &it’s eureka moment?

Ravitej: E-commerce as a concept inspired me at a very young age. I got my first experience with e-commerce while I was a student and when I graduated the immense potential of e-commerce was very clear to me. I saw tremendous opportunity in the space with possibilities to be creative, think out-of-the-box and the possibilities of working with the most innovative of business models.

I founded Pennyful.com an online cash back shopping program for the American E-commerce market in 2010. On Pennyful.com we currently have over 2500 partners across the US and over 30million products showcased through the platform.

Pennyful.in was incepted with the success of Pennyful.com in late 2011. Pennyful.in is an online cashback program targeting the Indian Retailer and Consumer. With partners in a wide array of verticals like Travel, Consumer Electronics, Pennyful.in offers the Indian shopper, cashback on online shopping. We currently have 100+ partner merchants featured on our platform.

Pawan: How Pennyful.in is different from other online deal/discount portals?

Ravitej: Pennyful is a platform for cashback rewards and is fundamentally very different from a deal/discount portal. Our key differentiator is that we offer real cashback to shoppers.

On our platform we do not talk about discounts or deals, Pennyful offers cashback rewards to customers who shop through our site. The platform allows us to reward customers for their shopping at any of our partner stores with Cashback, in the form of real money. This cashback gets credited into their Pennyful Accounts until the time that they wish to redeem it.

 So we pay a shopper for coming through pennyful.in and shopping at any of our partner stores. Effectively we are giving the shopper money, for a few extra clicks!

We act as a medium where shoppers are able to get additional savings without any hidden conditions and clauses. We let the customer redeem this reward through a cheque or bank transfer.

Pawan: Having experienced the US market, how do you see the adaptability of Cash Back Shopping by Indian online consumers? How Indian market is different from US market?

Ravitej: The concept of cashback has existed in the US for decades and there is a very good understanding of the benefits to shoppers as well as merchant partners. Since the market is aware of the concept and there is a very good level of acceptance of the same, it eliminated the challenge of creating awareness.

In the Indian context, with an emerging e-commerce industry we see a lack of awareness for the concept of cashback. We can also not shun away completely the matter of trust which is still somewhat an issue with online shopping among Indian shoppers. In terms of adaptability with our concept, we have seen a tremendous response.

The level of acceptance of new concepts in the growing e-commerce space is seeing some traction although slowly.

Pawan: Could you provide us some statistics, how many cities is pennyful.in active in (number of users point of view)? How many users have signed up & at what rate it is growing?

Ravitej: We see Pennyful customers coming from all parts of India. We are seeing a lot of traffic from major metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. We have since November 2011 seen a 150% growth in user signups month on month.

Pawan: What is your marketing mix and retention strategy? How do you ensure repeat sales?

Ravitej: We are very active in Social Media and channels like search and email marketing have worked well for us. Along with these organic traffic from search engines accounts for a significant part of our traffic and sales.

We are in the business of giving out cheques to shoppers which entices them to come back. The experience is designed to be hassle-free and simple for the shopper, which is also a contributing factor to the high repeat buying behavior.

Pawan: What are the expansion plans of Pennyful? Are you be rolling out to other countries in near future?

Ravitej:There is great opportunity for us to grow given the emergent e-commerce market in India. We are looking to expand in terms of the sectors we work in and the brands we work with significantly over the next few months. We are in the process of exploring new geographies at Pennyful.

We are also constantly innovating to make a customer’s shopping experience more enjoyable with Pennyful and will continue to add new exciting features to the platform.

Pawan: Is Pennyful looking to raise fund – if yes, share some strategies on your pitch for fund raising?

Ravitej:There are several different areas we are exploring in this quarter, the results of which will determine the kind of funding we may require. We will have clarity on this in the coming months.

Starting up an eCommerce Venture? Expert Speak- Interview with Nandini Vaidyanathan

Hello Readers, I’m delighted to feature Professor Nandini Vaidyanathan, Founder & Mentor, CARMa Venture Services over this online interview. A TED Speaker and author of “Entrepedia”, Nandini was kind enough to share her thoughts with our community. Here are the excerpts of the interview-

Pawan: Please tell us about the CARMa Venture Services and its value proposition to entrepreneurs?

Nandini Vaidyanathan:  At CARMa (www.carmaconnect.in) we mentor entrepreneurs. CARMa is an acronym for Creating Access to Resources and Markets. We believe that these are the two biggest pain points for all entrepreneurs and CARMa was founded to bridge this gap. In my previous company ‘Startups” I mentored mostly startups and less than 5% of the 500 odd companies that I mentored were mature enterprises. That was probably because I mentored absolutely free and since I teach entrepreneurship in several biz schools across the world, most entrepreneurs who approached me for mentoring were in the concept stage. .

CARMa however is different in that we are the only company perhaps in the world whose product is mentoring. Our revenues come from mentoring fee, subscription for our online entrepreneurship course and from buying conversations online with our mentors. At CARMa out of the 200 odd mentees that we have, about 30%  are startups, 40% mature enterprises and  30% are family businesses. Mentoring is an excellent risk mitigation strategy and more and more entrepreneurs are beginning to realize its value. Our products are:

Pawan: What is your view on Indian e-Commerce ventures & its growth potential?

Nandini Vaidyanathan:  It’s a huge & emerging market. We at CARMa are mentoring more than 40 e-commerce ventures. If you do it right I think you are sitting on a huge opportunity.

Pawan: How do you see venture capitalists’ (VC) interest in Indian e-Commerce ventures?

Nandini Vaidyanathan: There are a few who fund e-Commerce ventures. The trick is to find the right guy who will also be a strategic mentor to the start-up. The thing do is articulate a business plan which demonstrates to the investor that your business is capable of several rounds of capital absorption. In e-commerce space, a lot of investment goes into technology and customer acquisition. You need to be able to show that your business is scalable, that you have a sturdy innovation pipeline, and you can offer meaningful exit to the investors.

Pawan: When is right time to get funds/valuation (at which stage)?

Nandini Vaidyanathan: The best time to look for raising money is when you don’t need it! If you try to look for funds when you’re desperate, you will sell your stake for peanuts.. Recently a young mentee of ours sold 45% stake for INR 75 lakh! We tried really hard to dissuade him, but he had been in business for close to two years and was desperate for cash. So he went with the decision. The ground reality is nobody funds an e-commerce start-up at proto development stage (to fund your web portal etc.) The best tiem is when you have acquired paying customers. Get an investor who can be a strategic investor, can help you grow your business.

Pawan: Based on your experience what would you suggest to Indian e-Commerce startups? What are the key considerations entrepreneurs should keep in mind while starting up an e-Commerce venture?

Nandini Vaidyanathan:  Here are a few things –

  1. Serious robust monetization model: Most internet startups think revenue is equal to Google ad sense!!. Ad revenues dried up a long time ago.
  2. Value proposition: Do not try to cut copy & paste from other models. Find out in your area the existing e-commerce players & identify the  gaps.  Build your value proposition around those gaps & differentiate yourself.
  3. Go to market fast. Don’t waste time creating a perfect product. If you can launch in modules go quickly to the market with the first one that you can make money on and you can keep adding later.
  4. Spend less.
  5. Identify several sources of revenue that your business can yield.

Pawan: After talking to few small Indian e-Commerce players I felt operating capital is the single most challenge, what is your take?

Nandini Vaidyanathan: Plan better, spend frugally, estimate resources correctly.. Normally entrepreneurs go to the market and run out of funds because of bad planning. No VC is going to fund at this stage when there are no paying customers..

Find yourself a mentor who can make you address some critical questions such as : What is my product? What is the pain point it addresses? What are the gaps in the market that my competitors have not been able to address?? How do I differentiate? What are my resource requirements ?  Am I factoring my working capital requirements for at-least minimum next 12 months? What portion of my work can be outsourced? Can I do a revenue sharing with my outsourced partners in  the initial stages? How am I planning for my inflows & cash outflows?

Pawan: Will big Indian e-Commerce players eat the minnows?

Nandini Vaidyanathan: Do not forget that all big players like Snapdeal, Flipkart etc., were once upon a time small. Niche players will continue to be niche; I don’t see any predatory activities happening there. If you are robust  no-one can shake you.  Get the monetization model right – that’s the KEY.

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About “NANDINI VAIDYANATHAN”

She’s a traveling teacher who teaches entrepreneurship in several ivy -league business schools around the world. From being just a word in the dictionary six years ago, it has now consumed her whole being.

Her moment of epiphany happened four years ago when she realized that in India not too many people became entrepreneurs simply because they didn’t know how. So she founded her company Startups to mentor entrepreneurs (forstartups.blogspot.com). Up until now; she has mentored over 700  entrepreneurs across domains, across geographies and growth phases, Twenty years in the corporate sector, in MNC’s on all inhabited continents, have given her enough reason to say, been there, done that.

Startups has also been involved in mentoring women, at the bottom of pyramid, to become opportunity enterprises creating surplus and generating enormous value. Startups has mentored over 6500 women in economics as plural as  Afghanistan, countries in South and East Africa and India.

In mid 2010, she founded CARMa (Creating Access to Resources & Markets), (www.carmaconnect.in) with a lofty ambition: to change the karma of entrepreneurs in India. CARMa mentors startups, mature enterprises and family businesses. The mentoring encompasses getting organizations investment ready, creating business excellence and shortening the learning cycle of entrepreneurs in India.

She writes a regular monthly column for the magazine, Entrepreneur. It delights her no end that it is from smaller towns that aspiring and practicing entrepreneurs reach out to her after reading it.

She is a TED speaker.

She is also the author of the book ‘Entrepedia’- A step by step guide to becoming an entrepreneur in India. This book is a guide book for start-up entrepreneurs in India and has sold over a million copies.

She lives in Bangalore (although she travels 300 days a year!).

Happy Reading!