Now, start-ups that take offline retailers online

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Offer solutions such as listing, cataloguing products and payments

Mumbai, November 11





Parvez Khan used to make hardly ₹10,000 a month selling leather goods from his small workshop in the slums of Dharavi until six months ago. He had neither heard about e-commerce nor did he know how to sell online. That’s before executives from Blubox, a start-up, met him and convinced him to try out the digital medium. Khan now earns nothing less than ₹5 lakh a month after becoming a seller on Flipkart and Snapdeal.

“I had no idea about selling and marketing my products. With Blubox, I am just focused on manufacturing, all the rest is taken care of by them,” said Khan. He is now targeting ₹1 crore in revenues by this year-end.

Basic solutions

Like Khan, there are many small entrepreneurs who have benefited from a new breed of start-ups such as Blubox, Browntape and Unicommerce, which help small brick-and-mortar retailers take their business online. This includes offering basic solutions on how to get listed on marketplaces, cataloguing products, inventory management, payment reconciliation, and strategies for maximising sales, including photoshoots of products.

These start-ups make money by charging an annual fee from both the seller and the e-commerce platform. “Good sellers are critical for the big e-commerce players as their performance reflect on the latter’s revenue indirectly. However, they don’t have the bandwidth to monitor or train each and every seller. Thus, they rely on players like us. We are one of the A-listed sellers on Flipkart,” said Harish Singla, Founder, Blubox. The company intends bringing at least 1 per cent of the SME market online over the next two years.

 According to industry estimates, there are about 50 million sellers in India of which only 2.5 lakh are on e-commerce platform. In contrast, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba alone has over 85 lakh sellers on Taobao — its platform for small businesses.

It’s raining funds

The prospects are already attractive for investors. Blubox has raised $100,000 through angel funding early this year and is looking for more to expand into smaller cities.

While Goa-based Browntape raised about a million dollars this AprilWhile Bengaluru’s Sellerworx raised $1 million from Axilor Ventures, a seed incubator set up by Infosys co-founders SD Shibulal and Kris Gopalakrishnan, Unicommerce was acquired by Snapdeal this year.

Published on November 11, 2015

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