Shravanti Chanda, a housewife, is one of many women across the country who are discovering the earning potential and work-from-home convenience of social commerce platforms. Shravanti, 31, an Information Techonology professional based in Hyderabad who had to quit her job after her wedding, discovered the social commerce site Meesho a few months ago. Today, she is a reseller on this platform, making $150 a month. “I tried to work from home, but it wasn’t possible,” said Shravanti. “By signing up as a reseller, I am able to coordinate with my network and earn money, all on my phone.” The bulk of resellers on Meesho are housewives.
Social commerce, a web-based eco-system that brings together sellers, brands and consumers via social media, is a recent entrant in India but is seeing good growth as more entrepreneurs in this segment are able to attract investments. Some observers of the digital space believe that social commerce sites such as Meesho, GlowRoad, Shop101, Wooplr and EZmall could well be the next wave of e-commerce in India.
These social commerce startups use the huge user base of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram to build e-commerce opportunities. As internet reaches small towns and rural areas, social commerce startups are tapping into the selling and earning potential of these new digital citizens.
Globally, social commerce has been a well-established idea with sales worth $50 billion generated by using social networks alone last year. One study estimates CAGR of social commerce is about 13.5 per cent. According to a NASSCOM survey, fashion, consumer healthcare, baby products, food and beverage industry, financial services, beauty, personal care and women care are the key categories in this sector.
Wooplr has a pan-India network of 30,000 social sellers who speak over 20 languages and reach out to over 10 million customers spread across 250 towns and cities, primarily from the tier-II/III regions.
Most Indian social commerce platforms seem to have a similar business model. Kunal Sinha, a co-founder at Glowroad, said the digital catalogue on their platform is based on products supplied by manufacturers and wholesalers at their best price. Once the items appear on the platform, the resellers can choose what they want to sell and at what price.
“The resellers can mark up the prices to whatever level they want as long as they are able to sell it,” said Sinha. “If an item is available for $7 on the platform and the reseller sells it at $10, they get to pocket Rs200 as we have already added our costs in that $7”.
Sinha said he launched Glowroad in June 2017 after his wife had two kids and had to take a break for almost four years. Realising that this was the reality for many women in the country, the husband-wife duo decided to work on a solution. The reseller network has raised about $2.8 million from Axel Partners, an investor in e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Myntra.
The concept has helped countless resellers such as Bharti Joshi, 45, from Karwar in Karnataka, who has been associated with Meesho for the past one year. A postgraduate, she had to give up her job to take care of her two children. She heard about Meesho from a friend, signed up as a reseller and now earns $150-200 per month. It goes up $250 during festive seasons. Bharti sells clothes, shoes, home decor and other utilities through the app on her phone by reaching out to her friends and relatives.
EZmall, another social commerce platform, too has a strong network of women resellers. Amit Bansal, founder-CEO at EZmall, said their core users through all channels are housewives.
Paypal, an e-wallet company, in a survey titled, ‘Beyond Networking: Social Commerce as a Driver of Digital Payments’, wrote that almost 80 per cent merchants it surveyed confirmed they are selling through social media. The report adds that India is “exhibiting a greater ability in operating multiple social media platforms to reach out to potential buyers for commerce”. India emerged at the top in comparison with other markets in using WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Skype and LinkedIn to sell goods and services.
Social commerce companies such as Meesho, Wooplr and Shop 101 among several others have been growing at a large scale. Tracxn, a market analyst firm, shared data that showed that Meesho has received a funding of $65.41 million since it was founded in 2015. Wooplr and Shop101 received a funding of $13.78 million and $5 million respectively since they were founded.
Jyotbir Singh Khuman, Business Analyst at KPMG, believes there is immense scope for growth in social commerce. He says that of over 150 million businesses that exist worldwide, only one million are online. He said this number will grow to at least 10 million by 2021.
Why it works
Rijul Jain, investment analyst at Astarc ventures, an investor in Wooplr, believes that the social commerce model works beautifully because buyers buy from people they trust, who know their taste and what will click. “The way to sell a product across demographics and regions is different and resellers fill this gap because a different selling approach is required,” said Rijul. “For instance, resellers are able to communicate with buyers in the language that they are comfortable in”.
The Paypal report gave multiple reasons on why selling is picking up on social media. About 66 per cent feel that it helps in reaching out to a wider group of people, 61 per cent feel it is easier to set up a business through social media, and 48 per cent feel that they can leverage their network of friends and relatives through social media.
“In social commerce, the personalisation happens at a decentralised level and saves the retailers investments in resources, time and money in digital marketing,” said Rijul.
Most social commerce platforms have developed app interfaces in vernacular languages which, according to Khuman, is one of the key features that can help these companies improve their visibility. A Deloitte report published this May, predicting growth in Technology, Media and Telecommunications, expects that by 2021, local language users will be almost 75 per cent of the total internet user base, more than 2.5 times than that of English.
Bansal from EZmall believes that most of the commerce solutions in the country today are predominantly in English. Therefore, EZmall is trying to tap into these vernacular users by using videos and content only in Hindi to acquaint resellers with their products. Over the next quarter, they will add content in the next five top regional languages: Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Punjabi and Gujarati.
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