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E-commerce a friend to SMEs: AskMeBazaar CMO

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AskMeBazaar, an online shopping portal, which has  recreated the great Indian shopping experience online. Defined by its simple, easy to use buying process with basic Indian features, it is touted as a bazaar with many stores from across India. In an exclusive conversation, Manav Sethi, Group-CMO & Head Digital Strategy speaks about the venture.
Tell us about the inception of Askmebazaar? Also explain its modus operandi?
SME’s have been looking for options beyond “leads” and “presence”. They also realize that their actual & potential consumers have moved en-mass from offline shops to online platforms. And value created by eCommerce players have been outside this SME ecosystem that falls short on access to capital & investment required in technology. We have been closely watching these trends & gaps as we have enjoyed our deep rooted history in managing & owning relationships across SME ecosystem.Came July 2014 and we launched ASKMEBazaar.
ASKMEBazaar was launched with “inclusion strategy” for SMEs so that they participate in consumption across online platforms. Its a logical evolution both from ASKME & SME pov as premium search listing and yellow pages ads had to give in way to TRANSACTIONS. Our teams hand hold SMEs to open their storefront for FREE and list their SKUs for sale. When somebody clicks to buy on ASKMEBazaar, our smart algorithms identify which LSP (logistics service provider) would pick the shoe from merchant in Agra and deliver it at your doorstep in Coimbatore, pick up cash
(COD is 70per cent in this country) and remit it back the merchant after deducting small transaction fee…all of this happens in few hours!
Where does the e-commerce industry in India lie right now in terms of it’s life-cycle and where do you see it going?
We at ASKMEBazaar believe that what we have seen so far in eCommerce in India is just tip-of-the-iceberg. Its insignificant share of total retail but its fastest growing share of organised retail. The model is here to stay. And if one studies this growth carefully, eCommerce hasn’t eaten into organized/offline/total retail….its has increased over-all pie! It has created access and choices…Imagine that guy in Kanour who never had access to
particular NIKE shoe in his city but now he gets it delivered at his doorstep without paying a penny at the time of ordering!
What do you think is the model to go by – having one’s own stock or a marketplace model?
Unit economics and investment climate thus far in this country suggests that viable and scalable models can’t be created without marketplace model.
Is Askmebazaar planning its offline store in near future? What is your perspective on hybrid retailing omni-channel presence?
We at ASKMEBazaar arent looking at an offline store. Our omnichannel presence is driven by our “hyperlocal” strategy where apart from big retailers, even neighbourhood Kirana stores are listing their SKUs on ASKMEBazaar.
What are your various product categories and which ones are the most popular?
Mobile & Tablets, Apparel & Accessories, Computer & Peripherals
What according to you are the emerging categories in online shopping?
Home & Kitchen, TV, Audio & Video.
Which regions/markets have proved to be most lucrative for your business?
60 per cent of our business comes from tier B & C towns
How do you ensure that customer service is top notch, especially when you are not the one sending the product out to the customer?
BY listening to our customers every day, every transaction and every interaction! We have launched an industry wide initiative “war on fakes” and “war on delays” .
What is return rate of goods shipped through your market place?
We have been continuously improving this month on month and  on our newly launched HYPERLOCAL CITY BASED format- NDD (Next Day Delivery) we have been able to achieve RTO below 2per cent for last 3 months!Despite enormous funding, major e-tailers have failed to reach the break-even point.
How does Askmebazaar fare in this aspect?
We are targetting to reach the break-even point in coming two years.
How much of your revenue share comes from m-commerce?
We are registering around 50 per cent of revenue from m-commerce.

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