Hitesh Dhingra, CEO & Founder, LetsBuy.com – An e-commerce destination for gadgets and gizmos
We live in a world where it’s increasingly acceptable to gauge a person’s worth based on the phone that they carry or the laptop that they own. Today, we have more gadgets than ever before and we buy new ones almost every other day. So, it’s only extremely appropriate to feature LetsBuy.com, an e-commerce startup specializing in gadgets and gizmos. Started by entrepreneurs Hitesh Dhingra and Amanpreet Bajaj, LetsBuy.com recently received a round of venture capital funding. In this exclusive chat with YourStory, Hitesh, the CEO, speaks about control over the quality of service and how customer delight drives his enterprise.
If someone asked you to tell them about LetsBuy.com in about three sentences, what would you say?
LetsBuy.com is India’s leading online retailer with pan-India reach. It offers the widest range in computers, communications and consumer electronic products. It offers gadgets and gizmos at the lowest prices.
How is LetsBuy.com different from other e-commerce platforms?
LetsBuy.com is completely focussed on the 3 ‘C’s – computers, communication and consumer electronics. We offer only branded products with manufacturer’s warranty. We work directly with manufacturers or their Tier 1 distributors.
We also stock and sell all products from our own warehouses, thereby maintaining complete control over the entire supply chain and quality of products and services. Due to this level of control, we aren’t just a platform for manufacturers to sell their products. We are ensuring that our customers get the best products at the best price and at the shortest possible time. Customer delight is the biggest driving factor at LetsBuy.com.
How did the business idea for LetsBuy.com come about?
World over, electronic gadgets are the largest selling products online in the non-travel category and till two years back, there was not a single successful e-commerce company focusing specifically on this category. One of the main reasons has been the execution and the supply-chain management.
We realised that to be successful in this domain, we will need to invest and pay special attention to our backend operations – be it in terms of convincing brands to tie-up with us directly or using technology for inventory planning to reduce the inventory costs.
Most e-commerce companies were just platforms to sell, relying heavily on their resellers to manage the deliveries, without any control over products and services. So, to get around that, we decided to tie up with brands directly and ship everything from our warehouse.
Tell us about your background.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a couple of startups in leadership positions before starting LetsBuy.com. Post MBA, I began my career as a Product Manager with a leading IT distributor in Singapore and went on to spearheaded e-commerce for them in multiple countries. I am also a founding member at Quasar Media (a WPP group company) and co-founded Tyroo.com, India’s first contextual advertising network.
Amanpreet Bajaj, my co-founder, has been a web entrepreneur since he was in college. He founded a youth portal in 1999 while pursuing an undergraduate degree in Information Technology from Delhi University. The website went on to receive 100,000 hits per month before being claimed by the dotcom burst. Then, he went on to work with Ernst & Young post his MBA. In the six years spent with E&Y, he worked across varied sectors in India and across the globe on various process improvement engagements.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have. Is there acceptance for your concept?
In the last 18 months, we have been able to offer more than 10,000 SKUs from over 175 brands across all categories. We were able to open up e-commerce as an alternate sales channel for most of the brands and are now the preferred e-commerce partner for most of them. Apart from brands, we have been closely associated with various banks, travel companies etc. for strategic alliances.
Where do you see the e-commerce space and LetsBuy.com five years from now?
The e-commerce space is definitely heating up. There are a number of new entrants with new ideas and new products across categories are being transacted online in India. From baby products to high-end LCDs, people are now experiencing and using the web with much more ease and confidence.
E-commerce has been growing at 40% year-on-year for the last few years and may see an exponential growth in next few years. We believe that e-commerce industry will be driven by few start-ups that are focussed as well as innovative in their approach.
LetsBuy.com aims to be the one-stop-shop for anyone to research, compare, review and buy a digital lifestyle product. If someone thinks of gadgets in any of the categories, they should think of LetsBuy.com.
What is LetsBuy.com’s revenue model? We understand that you have been funded. Can you tell us about how it happened?
The revenue model is simple. We earn commission on every product that we sell on Letsbuy.com. We got $6 million in venture capital funding from Helion Venture Partners, Accel Partners and Tiger Global. The investors saw promise in our business proposition wherein we were able to power e-commerce for some of the bigger brands and hence, decided to fund us.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
The joy of seeing your baby (company) grow gives you a huge high. You enjoy your work every day, even after putting in 15-18 hours a day. That’s a rarity today in any job.
Further, the joy of creating something on your own, making a difference and in the process, resolving a problem gives you another high. In our case, providing reach to the brands and accessibility to the customers was one of the critical gaps that we have filled in.
At the same time, every day throws a new challenge and it’s exciting to turn these challenges into opportunities. As an entrepreneur, you have to have a different level of motivation and you are in charge of spreading the same across the enterprise. There were different challenges like funding, team, infrastructure etc when we started out. Now, the challenge is to hire right people, maintain growth rate etc.
How big is the LetsBuy.com team?
In December 2010, the size of the Letsbuy.com team was just 15. Today, we have 60 people and we’re growing rapidly. We have people across different business functions – product, technology, supply chain, marketing, finance etc. We have been able to attract a good mix of senior and middle management personnel, with most of the senior guys having been entrepreneurs themselves at some stage in their lives. We have been able to get talent from the IITs, the IIMs and other reputed institutes. We are always on the lookout for young people with new ideas and we are in expansion mode as we speak.
As a leading player in the e-commerce space, can you tell us about some interesting trends with respect to the consumer profile?
Some of the most interesting trends that we have seen include the growth of online sales coming from Tier 2 & Tier 3 towns in India. So, we sell the maximum number of LCDs and laptops in the Tier 3 towns, mainly because of the lack of accessibility to these brands there. Another interesting trend is the increase in gadget consumption per family. In a recent survey by LetsBuy.com, we found out that an average family of 5 in a metropolitan city uses 52 gadgets in a day with a replacement lifecycle of 30 months.
Let us know about your expansion plans.
The focus is on increasing the width and depth of the product catalogue, strengthen supply chain processes and to ensure that customer service delivery is improved with each experience. We are currently doing everything we can to achieve these things.
We at YourStory wish Hitesh, Amanpreet and the entire team at LetsBuy.com much success. To know more about this startup, check outwww.letsbuy.com. Also, do let us know what you think of this story. You can write to us at email@example.com.
Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 2nd March 2010 | Bangalore