Six promising e-commerce startups with impressive customer traction
The monthly TiE Bangalore Product Showcase held this week featured six startups in e-commerce and m-commerce. The monthly events are a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to demonstrate and validate products to fellow startups and prospective investors – and face tough queries from an expert jury. See also my earlier coverage of the TiE Bangalore Mobile Product Showcase, IoT SIG, Eduthon, Business Hackathon, Retail Huddle, SMAC Day and South Asia Youth Entrepreneur Summit.
Each showcase featured a four-minute elevator pitch, two-minute product demo, and four-minute Q&A from the jury panel. The jurors this time were Muralidharan Loganathan (Target Accelerator), Anand Daniel (Accel Partners), Suresh Narasimha (Telibrahma), Geetha Ramamurthy (Career Confidence), Prasad Palisetty (Indian Angel Network), K. Vaitheeswaran (e-commerce consultant) and Vivek Pathak (eBay India).
Six startups in digital commerce were shortlisted from over 50 who applied for the showcase; selection criteria included having a minimum viable product (MVP) up and running, and adequate customer traction.
MediDart is an online marketplace for pharmacies. It connects patients with medical stories and registered pharmacists who validate the prescriptions given by doctors. The site has tie-ups with two payment gateway providers in addition to COD. The founders, Shravan Kesarla and Kiran Divakaran, met in high school. They claim their startup has 80,000 users, with 350 orders per month averaging about Rs. 890 per order. Twenty one per cent of the orders are repeat orders, and 19% of the orders are placed via mobile apps. Other services provided by the site are appointment booking and finding insurance policies.
Nifty Window promotes online traffic to physical retail stores. It is a content marketing platform that enables brands to drive traffic to local stores carrying their products. Many consumers may do market research online but mostly buy products offline. The startup has tied up with 15 brands and 15,000 stores so far, and offers services like SEO and SMO along with realtime analytics for retailers in cities such as Bangalore. The founders are Sujit Thomas Zachariah (ex-Yahoo) and Rakesh Raghuvanshi (ex-Publicis).
RentSher is riding the wave of the sharing economy, and lets users rent out their belongings to others. Needy users can rent products instead of buying them outright, thus saving money while also reducing excess consumerism and environmental waste. Costumes, electronic goods, kitchen appliances, and sporting goods are popular items so far on the online P2P rental platform founded by IT professionals Anubha Verma and Ketaki Shah. In the past few months, over 3,000 users have signed on to rent 500 product types; 50 per cent of them keep coming back. Users have to pay a deposit, and also a replacement fee in case products are damaged.
Drivekool enables individuals and businesses to search for driving schools nearby, and book lessons. The marketplace site connects learners with schools for two-wheeler and four-wheeler licenses. The founding team is headed by Mahesh Gidwani (14 years of experience in cloud computing). Over 7,000 schools in the top six cities in India have been mapped, with the business model consisting of listing fees and contract commissions.
TruckSuvidha is a transport industry portal to optimise usage of trucks as well as provide businesses and customers with information and services on transportation. Real-time mapping of truck locations and costs of transportation options are provided. The business audience includes transporters and logistics heads. The website displays recently dispatched loads and trucks. The startup is founded by Ishu Bansal, who describes his startup as the “redBus of truck transportation.”
Street Smart is a shopping app crafted for deal seekers and bargain hunters in neighbourhoods such as HSR Layout and Koramangala in Bangalore. It helps brands and stores create customised offers for profiled and regular customers. Offers can be received via Bluetooth and WiFi activation. The startup has been incubated by Tata Elxsi and is headed by S.N.M. Prabhu. Popular categories for coupons and deals are food, electronics, apparel and digital services.
The founders fended off a barrage of questions from the jury panel (and perhaps more questions could have come from the audience if time permitted!). From the evening’s discussion, here is my pick of Top 12 insightful questions which all startups in this space need to address:
- How much of the shopping behaviour happens on the go, as compared to in homes or offices?
- How will you maximise automation of content generation?
- How are you adding value by ranking and rating options for consumers?
- How are you connecting to the broader ecosystem, and adding value through services like comparison?
- How much have you spent on marketing so far and how much more will be needed to scale?
- What are the legal and regulatory risks for your business model?
- What are your offerings to B2B decision makers as compared to B2C?
- Where are the key metrics for unit cost economics, customer uptake and profit margins?
- What are the fixed, variable and repeat components of revenue generation?
- Where is the angle for gamification and group activities like bidding or auctioning?
- How long will your advantage of exclusive offers last before the competition does the same?
- What steps are you taking to map and reduce the complexity of the sales cycle and repeat cycle?