The future is full of possibilities for SMEs and it is up for grabs, given the opportunities granted by the e-Commerce boom in India. SMEs may not have strong online presence, but 43% of the total SMEs participate in online sales in India.
Voonik, an apparel sector e-Commerce startup, is a confluence of professionals working in technology, style, fashion and data, who are not only participating in the e-Commerce wave but also leading the way for enthused entrepreneurs by way of product differentiation. Voonik’s Co-Founder Sujayath Ali shares his experiences on the perks of being an e-Commerce startup, engaging with SMEs on the way, and the road ahead, in an interview with SMEpost.com. Edited excerpts:
Q: How is Voonik different from various e-Commerce platforms?
A: We have personalized products for every customer. The Apps Voonik & MrVoonik are designed to show a personalized collection to each user on basis of their style preferences, body type, skin color and such. We believe fashion means different things to different people and every customer should have access to a large selection of products, from which she can pick what she prefers. Similarly Mr Voonik is the only personalized app for men’s fashion.
We directly connect users to manufacturers. As a result, our users get access to a huge collection of products at every reasonable price. So, whether your budget is 500/- or 15,000/-, you will find a designer saree collection to choose from on Voonik.
Our customers love the personalized feed and curated collection and keep coming back for more.
Q: How do online platforms build and raise business? What are the critical factors to be kept in mind when raising fund for a startup like Voonik?
A: Any business is built on a strong customer need, sometimes expressed, sometimes latent. While building online platforms, it is essential to think about the product differentiation that can help brands to create their identity and customer base. Voonik is India’s first personalised fashion platform. We connect a huge seller base with millions of fashion conscious people through a delightful online platform on App, mobile web and web. This helps customers make informed decisions about their fashion needs and be fashionable every day.
Our unique platform, a highly diverse product collection and a massive customer base spread across metros and tier 2/3 cities of India, has helped us raise funds and will help us in becoming a profitable self-sustained business soon.
Q: What kind of domestic & international competitions do you face?
A: Our customers are fashion conscious people who want variety in their wardrobe. Since only we have the capability of curating latest fashion for a customer basis her body type, lifestyle and budget, we don’t have any direct competition
Next best alternative for our customers are going to the high street markets in their cities and try to find things they see in movies and TV serials. So if at all, our only competition is the offline retail shops. Since we are bringing on board every city specialty such as shoes from agra, wollens from Ludhiana, sarees from Varanasi and Kanchipuram and much more, there is hardly anything that the customers can’t find on Voonik.
Q: There are various startups emerging in apparel sector. What kinds of problems are faced by them and what are the suggested ways to tackle those?
A: Price is a crucial factor in ecommerce. Funding discounts over a prolonged period is quite detrimental in building a sound business. Our merchandise comes directly from manufacturers. This ensures that customers get the everyday low prices for their purchases.
Q: How many SMEs are involved with e-Commerce platforms? How many of them have engaged with Voonik?
A: E-commerce in India has created a huge segment of SMEs and MSMEs. Sellers and exporters of various products, logistics partners and many tech startups have flourished as support system for e-commerce in India. We work with 15,000 plus sellers, 15-20 big logistics partners and many tech platforms who help us in serving our customers better and faster.
Q: How has been your experience with these SMEs till now?
A: It has been a great journey. We have dedicated account managers to work with all our SME partners. We maintain strict metrics to measure the ROI of our SME partners and take corrective actions as and when required to ensure that our channel partners grow with us and help us achieve a loyal customer base.
However, there are some ever present challenges such as working capital requirement, season impact on business operations and changing government policies, to which SMEs are more sensitive than established businesses.
We have credit evaluation and loan platforms such as Indifi Technologies Pvt Ltd, Capital Float and LendingKart for providing collateral free working capital loans to our seller partners.
Also with the high government focus on ‘Startup India’ the SME sector as well as e-Commerce sector, both are poised for tremendous growth in near future.
Q: How is the growth graph of startups & SMEs in your sector? What can be the learning lessons from your experience?
A: E-commerce is highly competitive sector, though most players find initial customer traction, the challenge comes in terms of sustaining users and keeping them engaged.
Our lesson is to keep costs low, so that you can provide very price competitive products to customers. And to keep adding freshness in terms of platform experience and product collection, which will make every customer visit a delightful experience.
Q: What is the overall outlook for SMEs in e-Commerce and which sectors seem bullish?
A: Logistics and manufacturers of fashion products are seeing a huge demand from e-Commerce, this trend will continue and gain scale in coming months.