Showing posts with label Marketplace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marketplace. Show all posts

07 April, 2017

F for FDI in Food Retail

Much has been spoken and written about the opportunities and perils of allowing Foreign Direct Investment in Retail, especially in the Food & Grocery business. At the moment, only locally procured farm goods and other products manufactured in India can be sold in organized retail stores with FDI. Unfortunately, the top Food Retailers in India including the Future Group, Reliance Retail, RPG-SG led Spencers Retail, etc. do not have foreign investors. Most of the retail chains are reeling under heavy losses and have not been able to scale their businesses beyond existing geographies.


Carrefour and Auchan have shut shop while Walmart has severed it’s tie-up with Bharti Retail and is on it’s own for a while now. Tesco has always had a back-end arrangement with Tata Retail and it continues to be just that. And there is no news of any other international Food Retail chain getting into India in the near future. Interestingly, Amazon and homegrown start-ups Grofers and Big Basket have applied FDI proposals to FIPB for operating in the food & grocery space, perhaps in e-commerce, which is gaining ground every passing day.

Big Basket started operations in 2011, is well funded at the moment and works on an Inventory model in gross violation to existing FDI rules. BB has a warehouse where its products are purchased, sorted and stored. Customers order online/mobile apps and BB delivers the said products from their Warehouse to customers at their doorsteps. BB also procures products from local retailers for quicker delivery and for items that they do not carry. Needless to say, BB hasn’t made a single penny in profits and continues to mount losses.


Grofers started similarly as Big Basket and built ghost stores (outlets with products but no name board and consumer shopping) but then modified its business model to a Hyperlocal model where it currently picks products from neighborhood stores and delivers to customers.

Others like Peppertap, Zopnow, etc. have tried their best raising Investments but have failed to make a dent and have shut shop or have morphed in to delivery companies. Amazon Now currently operates only in Bangalore and is app-based. Customers order on the Amazon Now Mobile app and Amazon picks the products from The Future Group run Food Bazaar & Shopper’s Stop’s Hyperlocal format “Hypercity” Stores and delivers products to customers in a scheduled manner. This is the entity perhaps to whom the FDI license is being sought for.


Incidentally, I have been operating “Oyethere” which has a website and mobile apps on Android and iOS which are not only Hyperlocal but also Convenience formats. Customers can order products from our website or apps and we pick products from the nearest Retail outlet with which we have tie-ups and deliver to customers in 30-300 mins which is our Unique Selling Proposition (USP). We have been around for a year and half now with minimal investments and are on the verge of getting well funded shortly.

Food Retail is a hot space both offline & online Retail and we are playing a wait & watch game with what the Modi-Government is up to. Let’s hope for the best.

20 November, 2016

Why I suspended Oyethere Delivery!

This was an idea that I set out with while studying at NIIT in 1996, that one day I would be able to order pretty much anything on my computer and it would reach my doorstep within minutes or hours. That it took me 20 years to realize that dream is another story. Thus was born Oyethere.com, my hyperlocal ecommerce marketplace which delivered (yes, we are past tense right now) products to customers within 30-300 mins from the time of delivery. We started with Tender Coconut, being the only website in the world where you can order one, and moved on to Patanjali, Grocery, Household, Books, Baby products and more. We delivered special T-Shirts with pics of matinee idol Rajnikanth and his signature dialogues printed on them ahead of the release of Kabali. In Sep. 16, we delivered authentic eco-friendly Ganeshas (Clay Pillaiyar) for the Chathurthi festival. And then we shut down. Meanwhile, we got noticed on media, print, radio and Tv for our unique efforts. But potential investors remained myopic. A few of my friends came forward to support me with small sums of funding when I reached out to them around Aug. 2015. That investment came along for a year. We were not “burning” money; no full page Ads, no high-decibel paid digital campaigns and so on. We did not even hire the so-called elite and erudite Digital Marketing Agencies who sadly learn their business at our cost.


 Meanwhile, Swiggy, by far one of the most funded hyperlocal delivery companies in India reported a 65-fold increase in losses as per a report on Live Mint. Yes, you read that right. Here is a quick analysis of what they did;

Revenue for FY 2016: INR 23,59,00,000 (commission on transactions)
Revenue per day in FY 15-16: INR 6,55,278
Daily Transactions: Approx. 21,843 @ Rs. 30 per transaction as commission
Losses for FY @015-16: INR 131,18,00,000 (INR 131 Crores)
Which means, Swiggy spent Rs. 204 (Edited) to get a transaction!  This is Wow.


In the meanwhile, Oyethere was revenue compliant from day one. We made Rs. 5 per tender coconut from the roadside vendor. And 5-25% margin from our partners such as Patanjali, CDS Supermarket, Odyssey, Brown Tree & so on. We had between 1-4 delivery boys at the max and were delivering between 1-10 orders per day. We broke even our Opex from Day one. Absolutely NO CAPEX. I was spending frugally on Marketing offline & online, while also meticulously building PR & positive visibility all around. Sadly, we didn’t have backers. Those who promised the moon and beyond (on investments) backed out citing market conditions. We didn’t have access to popular and noteworthy Entrepreneurs & Angel Investors who funded startups out of Delhi, Mumbai & Bangalore.


On Nov. 1, 2016, I decided to suspend operations temporarily until we get a decent amount of funding. Talks are on currently with various people, but sadly most Investors neither understand Retail nor Investing. So there is a big gap between what I propose and what they understand. For sure, Oyethere will not make losses like others. No way I shall allow that to happen. But that, only when we get the next round of funding. Till then, I am on a break. 

11 September, 2016

Mistakes make you stronger


In what is considered as a head-turning market opportunity, I went about with plans to deliver Eco-Friendly clay Ganeshas to customers at their doorsteps. While a few people have already tried it in the past with limited success, this was perhaps the first time a Hyperlocal Ecommerce Marketplace (my startup Oyethere.com) was trying something very unique such as this. We had four different options – an idol of Clay Ganesha being common in all the four and the additions being different in each one of them. Icing on the cake was that we would pick up the Ganeshas back from customers houses after the five day ritual was over, thereby providing customers a great sense of relief from rushing towards water bodies for immersing the idols, as is the normal practice around the festival that is celebrated all over the world by Hindus with much fervor. Being a strategy guy, I planned meticulously on how this whole exercise should be executed. Firstly, met our product partner well in advance to brief them about the enormity of the opportunity and what gains it would bring to both of us. Later, I planned the marketing campaigns, mostly digital.Finally, I worked on the logistics and last mile delivery which is the key thing in Hyperlocal Ecommerce.  As always, plans on paper looked glossy. I had very few chances of faltering, I thought to myself and didn’t leave enough room for things that could go out of hands. And that nailed me in.


12 hours before we began the distribution and delivery of Ganeshas, I gave a notice to my product partner. While I was sure they were at work, I didn’t follow-up every few hours on what has been the ground scenario. The partner’s staff, being new to this kind of an operation, hadn’t kept check and balances which meant that there were unforeseen delays from their suppliers. We started deliveries 3 hours behind our scheduled time of commencement, thereby putting a lot of stress on our capabilities. While we had adequate manpower to deliver Ganeshas, the last minute pressure hit everyone on their heads, with all of us getting in to a tizzy. I was attending almost every call that was coming to our helpline and patiently explained to customers that the Ganeshas would be delivered on time, only to find myself fooled by my own randomness. We delivered and delighted a majority but had to suspend our operations at one stage, which not only put off the customers but also attracted a lot of negative criticism through calls, messages and social media. At 11.55pm, I put out an apology on our official Facebook Page, requesting customers to forgive us for the lapse. I went underground for a few days, with no interaction with the outside world, just so I could introspect the mistakes and come out stronger. Which I did eventually, doing a favour to myself and my ecosystem.

As always, my wife and a few friends stood by me. Many of them took the effort to call me, message me to keep my spirits high. They quoted examples of how very large companies have committed grave mistakes but came back stronger after correcting themselves. And so here I am, back in action with new plans and new resolves to improve ourselves and offer better services in times to come. Our plans are intact and we believe we will only perform better in times to come. 

Don’t write me off, yet. And watch this space.

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