There Is No Vanilla In E-Commerce

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“Justdial for millennials” is how Suchita Salwan, the co-founder of Little Black Book (LBB) described her initial vision behind the venture. Just like LBB, most mature marketplace startups have not just diversified their product offerings but also evolved their core DNA from that of a lean counterpuncher to fullstack heavyweights. Today, LBB hopes “to be the reason our users make unique lifestyle choices”.

The above emerged as part of a fascinating panel discussing the new flavours of ecommerce that are emerging across India. Joining Suchita Salwan of LBB were founders Mandeep Manocha of Cashify, Manish Taneja of Purplle, Anant Goel of Milkbasket and Vijay Subramaniam of Kwan. Shared below are highlights from their conversation with moderator Karthik Reddy from Blume.

Traditionally, Bollywood celebrities and sports personalities have been used by brands to capture the imagination of a highly fragmented consumer base. Vijay Subramaniam of Kwan hopes to add a third dimension in the form of Instagram-led micro influencers to “inject greater authenticity in the marketing dialogue between brands and their consumers”.

Personal care marketplace, Purplle, exemplifies this push to have a deeper engagement with the user. “The beauty quiz that you go through when you download our app tells us alot about your tastes. As a result, content and recommendations are customised as per your preferences and not brand sales since 75% searches are not brand driven but rather generic product needs like lipsticks for party wear” as per Manish, Purplle’s founder.  

Going deeper into the purchase and ownership choices of the consumer helps startups control the value chain better, explained Mandeep of Cashify, a resale platform for used mobile phones. “Your influence on customer experience is limited if someone else handles the last leg of the value-chain” he elaborated. In the future, Cashify plans to brand refurbished phones to let users have an experience similar to unboxing a new phone.

Milkbasket is another player who has benefited from specialising in customer behaviour for a particular consumption subset which in this case is daily essentials. As a result, they’ve succeeded in not just influencing the end user experience but also making unit economic sense in a particularly competitive business. “We used milk to get our foot through the door. Now we plan to go deeper and deeper into the needs of every household in any given society”, explained Anant, Milkbasket’s founder. At a time when acquiring adjacencies to justify valuations is all the rage amongst highly funded unicorns, Milkbasket’s approach comes across as calm and patient. Long may it continue.

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