High speed & vernacular internet with easy payment options to make e-commerce the preferred shopping mode in 2019: Puneet Chawla, CEO & Co-founder, Jaypore

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Ecommerce industry has been experiencing a rapid growth with increased acceptance of the internet across the country. If we go by various reports, automation, digitalization, more working professionals with insufficient time and patience for shopping, and tech-savvy younger generation getting more spending power, will help boost the online shopping trend.

Gone are the days when consumers trusted only global brands. Now even the local brands are trending as they provide consumers world-class, friction-free buying experience, transparent and secure payment system, trustworthy logistics and timely delivery. We sat down with Puneet Chawla, CEO & Co-founder, Jaypore, to discuss the trends in the Indian ecommerce industry, his take on the challenges that mar the ecommerce sector’s growth and their roadmap 2019.

1. Jaypore is an innovative e-commerce portal that takes Indian craftsmanship to the world. Please take our readers on a quick journey – from the company’s beginning till today.

Launched in 2012 for the US market followed by the global launch, Jaypore has built its business on a platform aimed at bringing Indian heritage and quality craftsmanship to the fore; through well-curated collections, authenticity and a unique design aesthetic for a delightful all-round customer experience. Our USP continues to be quality and innovation through design and this is what customers know and love about us.

2. Indian ecommerce industry is expected to reach US$ 200 billion by 2026 from US$ 38.5 billion in 2017. You’ve been a leading player in the ecommerce space for long now. Can you trace the evolution of e-commerce industry through these years?

Like all industries, the e-commerce and online space has had its fair share of ups and down from the early 90’s, when the internet was only accessible by a certain few, to today, where non-internet users are in the minority (44.9%).

In the late 90’s/early 2000’s, there was a dot com boom, and many of the legacy companies today, took root in that. There were multiple factors that led to the success of e-commerce, including online payment gateways, etc.

At the heart of it, cheaper internet and more demanding customers are what led to the success of e-commerce.

3. But e-commerce industry like every other industry, is not free from hurdles. What challenges mar the growth of e-commerce industry?

There are multiple layers to any industry, with practices set by industry leaders trickling down to the remaining market, of course this also leads to a fair share of pitfalls. Bigger retailers, with deeper pockets, have created a culture of instant gratification, deep discounting and immediate access, the likes of which are difficult for smaller players to offer.

On the plus side, this has also created an environment fostering healthy competition and innovation. Of course, where there’s human involvement, there’s a degree of uncertainty, and in this case, cultural context is also important. Customers in India are still reluctant to make online transactions; for reasons ranging from mistrust of online banking, to having a preference for seeing, feeling and trying a product before purchasing; often posing a challenge to e- commerce.

4. Cloud technology can play a strong role in the growth of an e-commerce platform with the myriad advantages it offers in terms of scalability, security and cost. Please share your thoughts.

Cloud technology is a powerful tool, but it also depends on the scale of operations. The days of managing own server farms for small to mid-size companies are over. Who wants to go through the hassle of managing servers, ensuring internet connectivity, backups etc. for hosting servers? Similarly, there are a lot of tools that an e-commerce company needs to run every day operations, like a ticketing system and online chat system for customer support, ERP systems to manage financial data and warehouse ops, in-site engagement tools, data mining etc.

There are several cloud-based applications in the market that cater to each one of these requirements. When an application is on the cloud, it is easily accessible from anywhere and across devices (PC, mobile phones, tablets) etc. over Wi-Fi, 4g etc. and at small to mid-scale, it is invariably cheaper to use an off the shelf cloud-based app than build something of your own.

It allows a business owner to focus on the actual business problems and not worry about building and maintaining support tools. Of course, if you operate at the scale of someone like Amazon, it’s a different matter. At that level, it invariably makes more sense to build your own solutions for these requirements and then make them available again mostly over the cloud.

5. Which technologies do you use for product and client management?

We use a robust cloud-based ERP solution to manage warehouse inventory and financial reporting. We also use cloud-based ticketing systems and online chat tools for customer support. Other than these, we use an analytics tool for customer segmentation and CRM. We’ve also employed a cloud-based POS solution for our stores.

6. How important are digital marketing and social media for promotion of an ecommerce platform like yours?

For any business, discoverability is paramount; it is important to not just have repeat customers, but to also reach out to those who may not yet be familiar with your brand. Digital marketing and social media have been a blessing for brands to not only continue to delight existing customers, by engaging with them, but also a way to seek out new customers.

As marketing has changed shape and become more “mobile,” it has become necessary to constantly be on top of the customer’s mind, and as more and more people spend a larger part of their time on social media, it is but natural to focus marketing energies on these.

7. The e-commerce industry is mostly driven by discounts, but Jaypore focuses on strategic pricing. Please comment.

That’s correct. We’ve always focused on attracting customers with our product offering and not discounts. Most other e-commerce businesses are trying to take market share away from offline players by offering ease of transaction and discounts, but in our case, product has always been key and our number one USP.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we never offer discounts, in fact as we speak we have a very exciting End of Season Sale running on our online platform and our stores, but discounts are never the mainstay of the business. As a brand, we stand for unmistakably unique, high quality artisanal lifestyle products and we’ve always attracted customers looking for exactly that and not just a ‘good deal.’

8. What trends do you see in the e-commerce industry in the year 2019?

I think it will be safe to say that 2018 was the year when e-commerce went from a greenfield industry to be an established industry that is competing with traditional retail brands, both in terms of gross volume of merchandise sold and even in terms of employment generated and taxes collected.

The e-commerce representation or lobby is the strongest it has ever been, and brands are not being built or for that matter being killed purely based on whether they get their e-commerce strategy right or not.

We see 2019 being the year when e-commerce becomes the preferred channel of shopping for categories like electronics, FMCG and low value lifestyle goods for a majority of Indians living in metros and tier 1 towns.

A lot of progress has been made on the payment side of things and now with UPI, BHIM, payment wallets becoming ubiquitous, and widespread access to cheap, high speed internet, tier 2 and tier 3 towns or Bharat as they’re called will take to e-commerce in a big way, as well.

Another trend to look forward to in 2019 could be e-commerce in vernacular or regional languages. This will open up a completely new audience that will access shopping sites primarily over budget smartphones in small towns across the country.

9. What’s new at Jaypore in 2019, any plans for expansion?

Yes! After the successful launch of our first two stores (Delhi and Bangalore), we’re looking at opening 10 stores by the end FY20.

10. Please share some tips and strategies for emerging e-commerce startups.

First and foremost, focus on the product and the business model. If you don’t have a unique product or a unique business model and are hoping to be cheaper than the other available options, then don’t even think of trying; there are enough established players with deep pockets doing that already.

The Indian e-commerce market will struggle to see many new early stage startups getting funded in 2019. Even in the second half of 2018, there was hardly any new e-commerce startup that got funded. Unless someone has a completely new business model and wants to bring a product category that has so far stayed away from online platforms, I think they will find it difficult to capture any sort of market share.

For those who’ve crossed the first hurdle, now might be the time to start loving your customers all over again. We will have to think of new ways of delighting them and keeping them engaged.

Suggested reading: 10 hottest trends that will impact the future of digital commerce

For the longest time, e-commerce was an upcoming industry and could get away with a less than ideal experience when it came to the product offering, delivery and returns etc. but not anymore. The customer will demand from smaller startups everything that they expect from global e-commerce leaders, which means we need to bring our a-game.

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