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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Smaller startups are poised to drive social commerce in India (Livemint)

Shuchi Bansal

According to a report, social commerce in India is set to touch $16-20 billion in GMV by 2025

When Sonakshi Nathani saw her father struggle with WhatsApp orders for his grocery store in Raipur in Chhattisgarh, she decided to come to his rescue. The young software developer founded a startup and launched an app, Bikayi, to help sellers like him increase their business. “I saw his WhatsApp chats and noted his requirements to shape the product where merchants can showcase their products," she said.

Barely one-and-a-half years old, Bikayi suffered a brief lull in the initial days of the lockdown but has been growing 100% thereafter, onboarding a range of merchants from electronics retailers to apparel makers to grocery stores, mostly from tier-3 and tier-4 towns.

As a WhatsApp integrated commerce platform, Bikayi facilitates sellers in creating their online stores and even helps them manage their businesses.

The company, which raised $2 million as a part of its seed round from a clutch of international investors, claims it has more than 200,000 merchants on board doing daily transactions worth more than ₹2 crore on the platform.

India is witnessing the rise of many more social commerce startups and KIKO TV is another one that recently pivoted from being a short-format video-sharing app to a commerce platform.

Its founder Shivam Varshney, however, is targeting tier-1 sellers and buyers for now as its main offering is live-streaming and assisted shopping.

“High internet speed in these regions and presentable selling skills of sellers in tier-1 towns is the twin logic behind preferring this demographic at present," he said. The social commerce opportunity was much bigger than short videos in terms of a clear market size, Varshney said.

A recent report by Bain & Company and Sequoia India quantified the market opportunity. Social commerce, where consumers use a host of social networking platforms (Facebook, Instagram) and reselling apps (Meesho, GlowRoad) to buy and sell products, is expected to touch $16-20 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) in the next five years, it said. In 10 years, it projected social commerce to become two times the size of the current e-commerce market estimated at $30 billion GMV.

The report also cited a consumer survey where the respondents said they consider WhatsApp, followed by Facebook and Instagram, as the most preferred platforms for commerce.

However, internet business experts do not feel that social commerce will remain restricted or confined to the US social media major.

Ankur Pahwa, partner at EY in the strategy and transactions practice and also the national leader for the e-commerce and consumer internet sector, believes that Facebook and its platforms are already the top enablers of social commerce in India and their massive user base certainly provides an advantage.

“However, considering it is still an evolving and nascent segment, homegrown startups are certainly capitalizing on the growing trend," he said.

Social commerce channels provide trust and reach and have been able to scale at lower customer acquisition cost. It also helps democratize online commerce and connect brands and consumers through social media platforms that are increasingly gaining significance as businesses make the shift from offline to online, Pahwa noted.

The time spent on and the growth of social media make a case for the emergence of newer platforms.

“Social commerce firms are uniquely positioned to overcome barriers of trust, offering personalized touch and convenience, elements critical for businesses looking to grow in tier-2 cities and beyond," he said.

Bikayi reported that between July and October 2020, 53% of sales on the platform came from tier-2 and tier-3 towns such as Guwahati, Surat, Bahraich and Dhenkanal, indicating a preference for buying products over WhatsApp from local merchants in small-town India.

However, startups will face stiff competition from large global social media platforms.

Varshney says that the big players are already identified and strongly positioned as free, social and “timepass" brands. “This brand extension won’t work. Startups with a vision as an e-commerce platform and an innovative tech-piece, supported by accurate content and go-to-market strategy, will win the game nationally and hopefully worldwide," he said.

Nathani said WhatsApp and Facebook may be betting big on social commerce, but will need support from local startups with their deep on-ground insights on customer behaviour to penetrate India’s local markets.

“Our customers (sellers) need spoon-feeding, support and understanding and not just the do-it-yourself model of the bigger players," she said.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

Courtesy - Livemint


Help Sampadkiya Team in maintaining this website

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-Rajeev Kumar (Editor-in-chief,


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