The advent of e-commerce in the country has opened up options for Indian consumers to shop from like never before. This has given a huge boost to small and medium scale retailers, who can now spread their presence without worrying about geographical boundaries and the slew of overheads that are associated with them.
When Namrata Soni, 31, was working with Wells Fargo in USA, she observed this trend with her friend and colleague Priya Ramakrishnan. Before long, she decided to return to India and build a platform for small Indian stores which did not have the right resources or knowledge to compete or build their presence in the modern retail era.
Namrata started her venture, Twikster, an e-commerce enablement platform for small-and-medium-sized businesses in India,making online selling simple, accessible and affordable to anyone looking to explore the online business model.
360 degree approach
Twikster offers a 360-degree approach that not only eases entry into e-commerce but provides tools needed by businesses to grow and expand. It helps store owners through their end-to-end online sale journey, which includes setting up an online store, enabling tie-ups with payment gateways and logistics service providers, managing their presence in online marketplaces, and other peripheral services needed to run an online business.
Though there are other players in the market like Magento, Shopify and Prestashop, Twikster, Namrata says, has a unique pocket-friendly pricing model. “Most popular e-commerce enablement solutions in India follow a pricing model that forces users to choose a plan and pay a monthly subscription fee for a set of predefined features. Often, users have to move to a higher, more expensive plan to get basic support or a few features that they may need on their store. These plans don't come cheap; some costing as much as Rs 60,000 to 84,000 annually,” she explains, adding that such a model results in alienating a large section of small and medium retailers and makes it harder for them to compete fairly in the market.
Twikster offers three different pricing models to its customers. “With our basic plan, ‘Twikster GO’, anyone can create a forever-free, feature-packed, mobile-friendly online store at zero monthly subscription fees. From there on, users may choose to pay for specific support, services and features when their business demands it or their pocket allows it. It provides a wholesome package in the absence of forced pricing plans and monthly subscription fees,” explains Namrata.
Twikster also offers a ‘preferred’ and ’pro’ user plan which on payment of a small one-time set up fee and an annual maintenance fee ensures logistics, payment and other value -added services to its customers to ease their day-to-day operations.
Namrata started developing Twikster in December 2013 and did the beta launch of the platform in May 2014. Soon enough she understood the strategy to break through the cluttered SaaS provider market for e-commerce and came out with its unique pricing plan in May 2015. Along with the revised pricing, Twikster brought in a slew of services to become a one-stop shop for the needs of an online store.
She started off the venture with her savings, and Priya came in as an early-stage investor. While money was not a challenge, Namrata mentions that finding the right CTO and coming to terms with the attitude of people towards work was the biggest hurdle. “After a really long quest, we finally found Vinay Saini, who is now the Co-founder and CTO of Twikster. I worked in a very different culture in the States. It was difficult for me to understand why people were constantly delaying work and not delivering what had been promised,” says Namrata when describing the peculiar traits of Indian work environment. Twikster, today, is an eight-people team and is based in Bengaluru. They plan to raise funds six months down the line for team expansion and rapid product development. Delhi, Jaipur, Haridwar, Bengaluru, and Mysore have been the main focus of the company till date, and it plans to expand to other cities soon. Twikster’s customer portfolio mainly consists of crafts, apparel and retailers who sell handmade products. Art Space, a marketplace for artists was recently launched by the company, which will be focusing all efforts on the platform for the next year.
According to a latest report by PwC, the e-commerce industry in India has been growing at a CAGR of 34% since 2009 and touched USD 16.4 billion in 2014. Currently, e-travel comprises 70 per cent of the total e-commerce market. E-tailing, which comprises online retail and online marketplaces, has become the fastest-growing segment with a CAGR of around 56 per centin the last five years.
With the rising amount of offline retailers coming online, platforms like Twikster have a large ground to play their game. However, as the industry evolves, and support services for online stores become a hygiene factor; platforms like Twikster need to see if price differentiation would be a driving factor for decision making or not. Some interesting niche brands like Art beat paintings, Kili Shop, and Candy Shelves have created their stores with Twikster and show the large hidden potential waiting to be tapped in the market.