Social media has come a long way in India and its penetration is growing rapidly. While there were 86.7 million social network users in India in 2013, this number is expected to touch 197 million active users by 2017. India is the second largest smartphone market globally and is estimated to witness tremendous growth to hit the 520-million mark in the next four years.
With such a massive population being able to access Internet and various apps through smartphones, the e-commerce industry is undergoing an exponential growth. Also, this vast population of Internet users combined with social network users has given birth to a new segment within e-commerce: social commerce. Augmenting potential of the online retail in the country today is pushing many growth opportunities for the sector.
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Currently, there are plenty of startups evangelising their fate in the social commerce space. On similar lines, Alok Barua and Prashant Bhandarkar, brother of popular film director Madhur Bhandarkar, got together to float Ownow.com. It’s a social shopping marketplace that helps people discover, buy and share unique products that match their individual taste.
DNA of Ownow
While working in the founding team of Burrp.com and Askme.com, Alok found a gap in the supply of lead generation and business conversion, where SMEs are more keen on revenue sharing on business conversion. “With growing market of e-commerce and social media in India, I saw the gap as an opportunity to launch Ownow,” says Alok, Co-founder and CEO, Ownow.com.
Social commerce refers to involvement of social media in e-commerce at levels of social interaction and user contributions in online buying and selling of products and services. It also enables one to rate, recommend or follow the latest trends. Social commerce is a new tool being used in online retail models or marketing strategies that incorporates social networks and/or peer-to-peer communication to drive sales.
Differentiators and traction
Unlike most social commerce ventures that focus on women fashion or some niche market, Ownow has an horizontal approach. It offers a wide selection (for both genders) across categories like fashion, home, sports, jewellery, watches, among others.
Alok says, “The USP of Ownow is ‘shop at many Indian stores at one place’ and we aim to house designer brands from India in the forthcoming months. The products that will be available at Ownow are relatively exclusive and plenty of each is imported for the entire country.”
Launched in August this year, the company claims to have amassed 3,500 registered users so far and processes more than 120 orders on a daily basis. “Close to 65 per cent users are women and 29 per cent search is from jewellery category, while over 20 per cent traffic is fashion and apparel bound,” adds Alok.
The company aspires to cater to all e-commerce formats under one roof with an element of social media. “We will soon launch an ‘on map’ segment to venture into hyperlocal market to address home-based boutiques, bakeries, kitchens etc.,” he says.
Social media is driving an increases in online retail traffic than any other online channel. According to the Internet Retailer's Social Media 500, in the US, the top 500 retailers earned USD 3.3 billion from social shopping in 2014, up by 26 per cent from 2013. This trend is also likely to flourish in the Indian market as 65 per cent of the Internet users actually use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, G+ among others (Source: The Pew Research Center).
Over the past couple of years, we have seen the debut of a host of startups in the social commerce space. The prominent ones include Voonik, Violetstreet, Klip, Limeroad, and Wooplr among others. Social commerce is a big segment in the global market.
So far this segment had raised over $60 million VC money in India. Limeroad alone had raised $50 million across three rounds. While Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are major source of promotion for offline and online retailers, there is a scope for creating value by clubbing social and commerce.