In Conversation With – Nikhil Rungta, chief business officer,

q-a-47424When eCommerce as a concept made its presence felt in India a decade back, everyone was skeptical about it. But those days are surely behind us and what we see now is a blistering growth story. With 139 million Internet users, India accounts for 75 billion pageviews worldwide, Indians spend 52 billion minutes on the internet and last year alone, India added 15 million eCommerce users. So notwithstanding the concerns caused by underwater internet cable cuts, we spoke to the new man on the block at who has been entrusted the responsibility of planning, execution and strategy at one of the fast-growing eCommerce business in India. YourStory caught up with Nikhil Rungta, who joins this startup from Google India. Excerpts.

YS: What made you leave Google to join

Nikhil Rungta: I have been following eCommerce very closely since the early days. When I met the founder of Yebhi at an event, they explained to me the lifestage that the company is at. I found it very interesting and saw a great opportunity. Today eCommerce in our country is at a tipping point. The number of users doing etailing today is going up.  2012 year was almost like a shakeout year and now the Top 4 or 5 players who are left are serious players.

The eCommerce business stands on three basic pillars – categories and catalogues, consumer or traffic and backend or logistics. And most players in our country haven’t got all three right, at best they have got two right. Similarly at Yebhi they have a great catalogue, inventory and sourcing. They have the best in class backend as well. But on the consumer marketing front, they still need to do some work. I saw a great opportunity and a good fit there and therefore came in.

nik pic linkedin1YS: Every eCommerce business is probably talking to the same set of consumers who are net savvy. How much room is there for growth?

NR: Let me share some numbers with you. There are close to 150 million internet users in India and less than 10 million of these are doing etailing, am not counting travel here that is separate. So there is a lot of potential for the entire category. In markets like US or China, more than 50% of the population is involved in eCommerce or etailing. And as the category grows, we will also grow, as we are a major player there.

YS: Can eCommerce businesses ever compete with your store next door? Or will there be co-existence.

NR: eCommerce gives you three things – value, variety and convenience. Amazon still has the biggest eCommerce site in the world, but still offline businesses like Walmart and Staples have entered the eCom space and they are doing very well. So there is space for everyone. What will be crucial is what each of these brands stand for and what is the kind of service they offer.

At Yebhi we launched the ‘Try and Buy’ concept, which is a very unique thing in India and we were the first ones to do it. The biggest barriers of eCom today is the lack of touch and feel when you buy something, especially when it comes to shoes and apparel – where you are worried about size and colour. But through this new service you can order couple of sizes, try them on and depending on what you like you can keep all, keep one or return all. So it’s important that brands build a personality and also offer innovative services to customers. Currently this service is available for 20 cities in India.

YS: What excites you about being with a startup compared to a big organization?

NR: One of the things I like about startups is the energy and passion. In a startup you are always crunched for resources, which makes you creative. You have lesser resources and you tend to think more creatively and try and come up with ideas to stretch the dollar you have. When you do that, it’s a great kick.

Secondly it’s about building something. For eg., when I was with Yatra, the whole eCom business did not even exist in our country, people did not know what it means. The whole joy of building a business from scratch is a tremendous motivation.

Thirdly, as a marketer when you have a deep understanding of the consumer and you can really change their behavior and get them to buy online, it’s very satisfying.

YS: Are you a risk-taker by nature? You moved from advertising to startup, to a corporate and back to a startup?

NR: I don’t have a forumula and I think I finally go for the people, whether its Yatra, Google or Yebhi. You meet different people at different stages and discuss opportunities and go for them. So these decisions are both a mix of heart and head. That’s how I have made my decisions. I have been focused on where I can build something; it was the same even when I went to Google. It was a big brand and dream company to work with and at that time, Google was looking to build its products like YouTube, Chrome, Android in India. So that is what I looked at, I like building businesses and brands and that was an opportunity I saw.

YS: Will you say the same thing about Yatra?

NR: Yatra was the tipping point in my life; it exposed me to the internet. I am where I am today because of Yatra, it has a special place in my heart. It changed the way I look at marketing. What we were able to do at Yatra was to build a very strong team. As a leader, if you are able to build strong processes, the company continues to grow from there and that is what has happened to Yatra.

Nothing is easy, whether you are a big company or a startup. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and toil to build. So its about having the right people and the right processes to grow the business.

YS: What are targets you have set for yourself at Yebhi?

NR: We want to be the no.1 eCommerce site in the country. Secondly and more importantly we want to have a business with the happiest customers. Because things like market share and growth will come if your customers are happy. While it may sound philosophical, it is critical and maybe old-fashioned in some ways. But as new-age businesses that is what we are looking at.

YS: There are many eCom businesses opening shop all the time. What do you think will be the future of this space? Will it only be the biggies that survive or even niche business can continue to do well in eCom?

NR: There is the concept of longtail which works in everything. So some of the longtail businesses will exist. But which of these will become a Rs 1,000-crore business, that will be businesses like ours which are horizontal – we have a play across categories and therefore have a better shot at becoming a mass business. Depending on the niche you are selecting for yourself and depending on the products that you are selling, am sure there is space for you.

YS: What is your advice to startups about marketing and branding?

NR: One of the things I tell startups or entrepreneurs I meet is when you startup you have to enter thinking it will take you 10-15 years to build this. There are no quick solutions. You have to get into it for the long haul and be prepared for the tough times.

From a specific marketing perspective, it is very important to know where your consumer is moving today and be able to market to him accordingly. Today more and more people are using multi-screens – mobile, tablet or laptop. So as a marketer you need to be able to identify this trend and able to market to these people through this trend.

The other thing that is emerging is that users are extremely finicky and they don’t like to be obstructed in what they are doing, so be very sure you use mechanisms that are non-obtrusive. You have to respect their privacy. Finally this thing about delivering happiness to your customers is the most difficult thing to achieve, although it may sound very easy to say. You have to really put in a lot of effort, day in and day out. And if you can do that you can be greatly successful.

Preethi Chamikutty

Preethi Chamikutty

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