Power Panel at eSparks Decode eCommerce in India

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If anyone had any doubts about the eCommerce sector in India, all they had to do was attend eSparks organized by YourStory last Saturday to clear the doubts. And over 400 attendees, top VCs and many promising eCommerce ventures in India did just that. The congregation all came together to share ideas, listen to experts and network with each other. Among many highlights of the day was the panel discussion with some of the brightest minds in the eCommerce business today. Karthee Madasamy, MD, Qualcomm Ventures; Bharati Jacob, Founding Partner, Seedfund; Vani Kola, MD, Kalaari Capital; Shailendra Singh, MD, Sequoia Capital India and Subrata Mitra, Partner – Accel Partners comprised the panel.

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(L-R) Karthee Madasamy, Qualcomm Ventures; Bharati Jacob, Seedfund; Vani Kola, Kalaari Capital; Shailendra Singh, Sequoia Capital India and Subrata Mitra, Accel Partners

Among the first things the panel discussed was the future of eCommerce sector in India. Subrata pointed out the need for all stakeholders in the sector to be futuristic. “Our job to see what will work 5-7-10 years down the line. The opportunity is much bigger than what we see now,” he said. Too many me- too companies and less innovators plague the industry today. For the growth of the sector it is important that areas evolve and provide more options than what the sector provides today. eCommerce in India still has room for more established players to come and make a difference and for that to happen there needs to be enough innovation in the sector. Karthee raised an important point about looking at opportunities in mobile space. “Currently users who use a mobile site are mostly those who have been exposed to the concept on the web and mobile acts as an extension. But the opportunity to create a business that has mobile as the centrepoint still exits,” said Karthee.

eCommerce also enables the creation of businesses that sell niche products. Vani spoke about an eCom company in the US which made $50 million in a year by selling razors online. “It must have been a difficult decision to make. In a market where Gillette dominates, how do you still take up something like this? In such case the differentiator is not the product but user experience,” said Vani. The need to have different building blocks in the system like eCommerce payments, SaaS products, comparison search, payment logistics etc are important things still missing in the eCommerce eco-system.

The panelists were unanimous on the need look beyond India-US comparison of businesses in eCommerce space. “We have a quirk as Indian businesses. We have different wants in payments, returns, what we want to purchase and such. My orientation would be around consumer behaviour and need,” pointed out Vani. The need to adapt to India market place is important to ensure that businesses do not risk alienating local customers. And to support all our eCommerce ambitions the need to have an infrastructure that allows smooth functioning of the business is critical, pointed out Bharati.

Indian eCommerce companies also need to build more products than be just service providers. Payment solutions, last mile logistics, analytics solutions and data centres are some places which present big opportunities for product development in India. Another thing that companies should keep in mind is a long-term eCommerce strategy. When the panelists were asked about their benchmarks for evaluation, Bharati said Seedfund likes to do it themselves. “We ourselves buy a lot online. If we like the idea that is talking to us, which we as consumers would pick up immediately, then we like it,” she said. Robust business fundamentals are also taken into consideration when Seedfund does its investments. Incase of Sequoia Capital, Shailendra said they get excited to see, how sustainable a business is. “But we get less excited if we see a crowded market,” said Shailendra about investment decisions made by Sequoia.

Check out the 12 presenting companies and we at YourStory.in thank E-Sparks Title Sponsor, Microsoft, Financial Technology Partner, Intuit, Associate Sponsors, ReferralCandy and Aramex and Exhibitor, Moolya

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