Robert M. Maier and Johannes Schaback founded Visual Meta in 2009 (the company behind ShopAlike.in). Robert met Johannes in December 2008 through Oliver Samwer, the CEO of Rocket Internet, Visual Meta’s first investor.
When the duo decided to start Visual Meta, Robert knew Johannes only for a week, but he was a perfect fit from the beginning. “I had the business background while Johannes was a software genius. Together, we decided to take the chance of launching a website to make online shopping easier, faster and more transparent internationally – and well, so we did,” says Robert.
The idea of ShopAlike was to give people the chance to compare all offers and products of thousands of different online shops on one website. “We wanted to make online shopping for fashion, jewellery and furniture much easier, more transparent and even cheaper,” adds Johannes.
Robert always wanted to be an entrepreneur and his own boss. The only thing that was missing was that one great idea that really could become something big. “We were attracted to the e-business. I exchanged ideas with the Samwer brothers, the leading company builders and tech investors in Germany. So did Johannes, who was seeking a technical challenge. Together with Rocket, we identified this field of business, believing that buying fashion and furniture online will become a huge market in the future,” says Robert.
But the duo had the feeling that there were quite a few online shops already and they wanted to improve the shopping experience without starting a shop themselves. “We didn’t want the storage, logistics and customer care. So we were thinking of something in between — making lives easier for online shoppers with a technical challenging product for developers with hardly any set up costs. So that it could easily work internationally. That’s how ShopAlike and Visual Meta were born,” says Robert.
Reason behind evangelizing Indian market
As the second largest country in the world with an ever growing internet population, India was on the map ever since for ShopAlike. Additionally, Robert studied a semester at IIM Ahmedabad in 2003 as part of his business studies, so he was very aware of all the chances in India.
However, entering the Indian market was quite an adventure for us, points out Robert. “India was the first country we are entering in Asia and we needed to adapt to local regulations and laws,” adds Robert. Since India is a completely different market than the European markets, the duo had to conduct a thorough market analysis to identify opportunities and risks and potential competitors.
As a shopping platform aggregating the products of many different shops, ShopAlike showcases many more products and brands than an average ecommerce shop. “We’ve already got 30 plus partner shops as of today, and more than 1.2 million fashion and lifestyle products on our platform,” adds Robert.
E-commerce is still in the nascent stage in India
Robert doesn’t think that the Indian e-commerce market is overcrowded. Ecommerce is still at its beginning. “Though, many new concepts have been started lately, and some big players have emerged, but compare all that to the traditional markets. They are by far more crowded. We believe that there are many more products and services that are currently bought offline, but will be bought online in the future,” adds Robert.
Traction and future plans
For the first six months, ShopAlike offered a free testing period to its partner shops. “We were new in the market and had to gain some attention. Now we are switching to a paid model and on a very good track in terms of visits on our platform,” says Johannes.
The company plans to add many more categories and to further improve its filters as well as the possibility to save personal preferences in a user profile. The company is also hiring some more employees for their Indian team in Berlin.