One of India’s most successful women entrepreneurs, Radhika Aggarwal, in a recent conversation with YourStory, talks about her mantra for good business and what pushes her to overcome challenges every day.
Radhika Aggarwal is a firm believer in small things adding up to create a masterpiece. Her motto, ‘Making today better than yesterday. Small steps keep you going’, has stood her in good stead as the Co-founder and Chief Business Officer at ShopClues, and in building the company into the success story that it is today.
Having an industry experience of over 16 years in diverse industries, such as retail, e-commerce, fashion and lifestyle, advertising and public relations, Radhika started her entrepreneurial journey not with ShopClues, but with FashionClues, a social portal for NRI women.
Her next venture, ShopClues, started out of a basement and in just five years has become a household name.
Radhika recalls an incident that occurred on the first Valentine’s Day of the company. They got 300 orders — a huge number at that time — and the vendor went absconding. The team then came together to make sure that each order was fulfilled and sent an apology with each order.
The incident was a learning experience at ShopClues that mistakes happen, and how the company responds to them determines its character. “There have been several mistakes and we are wiser because of them,” Radhika quips.
She calls herself an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. The people around her — family and close friends — motivated her to become an entrepreneur, and gave her the push to follow her passion.
But where does she draw her strength on a daily basis?
There are days when crawling out of bed is a challenge, but at the end, it is all about showing up and putting in your best effort even when you don’t want to. I truly believe that setting goals, smashing the hell out of them, and clapping for yourself is far better than looking for accolades, and bouquets from others. The power and motivation come from within,
Radhika explains. The most important thing about entrepreneurship is the ability to take risks, stand by your passion and execute, execute and execute. Most of us feel having a Big Idea is half the battle won, which is not true. It is the execution that makes or breaks a great entrepreneur.
Scale and marketing
The key to scale successfully while moving from a startup stage is to keep your creative/innovative edge alive. At ShopClues, Radhika adds, mistakes are encouraged, failures are celebrated and the aim is to be better at something today than you were yesterday. And that’s how the culture of experimentation is kept alive.
ShopClues was bootstrapped initially, frugality being the crucial element of the company’s DNA. Any marketing idea that went live had a strong element of virality in it — whether it was the Jaw Dropping Deals or the famous Sunday Flea Market.
Radhika believes getting an investor on board in any stage of a company’s lifetime depends totally on the business model. WhatsApp raised a minimal amount of money, and had a team of 55 people, and went on to be bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion. So she advocates getting the model and the team right, and then focus on the execution. And when she says getting the right team in place, she does not mean B-school grads. Radhika shuns fancy degrees, calling them overrated. More than functional knowledge, it’s the attitude, passion and the ability to learn that’s given more importance at ShopClues.
Over the years, ShopClues stood apart because its differentiation was clear from day one and the team has consistently worked on honing it.
Today, ShopClues is one of the top three online marketplaces in India, selling across categories like fashion, home décor, and furnishings, electronics etc. However, unlike their two large competitors, ShopClues’ focus on consumers and sellers from Tier II, III has made it a true marketplace. It has gone beyond cities and towns by not replicating the mall behaviour and, instead, focussing on recreating the marketplace or bazaar shopping behaviour online.
Another focus of ShopClues’ is their strong 6 lakh+ community of merchants, for whom they have been constantly taking initiatives to create a level-playing field in the digital space. The capital efficiency of ShopClues is also significantly better than its competitors. This has provided the brand enough leeway to offer significantly lower selling price to its customers. These factors cumulatively enabled ShopClues to bring strong disruptions within the e-commerce space.
Radhika says there is much to be learned from the startups and is constantly impressed by Flipkart with the way they have impacted retail sales in India, Ola for taking on the bigwig Uber and growing impressively, and Amazon for having the aspiration and capability to take on the world.
Very proud of the team at ShopClues, Radhika explains the sort of environment that has been built within the organisation to ensure employees stay happy and productive.
We totally believe in the mantra, ‘never break something the same way twice’. As for motivation, we have built a culture in ShopClues that is inclusive, relaxed, allows for creative thinking and one usually gets a chance to work with like-minded team members. This is motivation on a regular basis, as opposed to motivating via incentives or bonuses.
E-commerce: The beginning
E-commerce is much more than just the horizontal players we hear about – there is huge opportunity for vertical players, for marketplaces catering to specific customer segments, and much more.
The future of e-commerce industry in India is very promising given that we self-regulate ourselves while having a farsighted view of the business. While profitability is still a concern for some players, in the near future, players who have a strong business model in place and are able to deliver true value to consumers will naturally be able to clock profits. We are seeing increasing internet penetration and mobile adoption change the way commerce is done in India- and this is just the beginning.
Being an entrepreneur herself, Radhika is well aware of the challenges that women face in leadership and entrepreneurial roles. She is passionate about empowering women to take on leadership roles within ShopClues as well as within ShopClues’ vibrant community of merchant partners.
Radhika urges women to fight to get equal opportunities and to raise their voice. Casual sexism at workplace should be called out by women. Businesses today, witness more women joining the workforce than, say, 10 years ago. Yet, according to Radhika, there are not nearly enough.
“Hard work is an outcome of passion. If you’re passionate, you will work towards achieving results and success will follow.”
For Radhika, seeing happy and passionate employees at the ShopClues office every day is a measure of success for her work. She is highly motivated and inspired by her team, children, parents and the joy of learning.
She believes grit and passion are the key to success, and that everything else comes later. She adds,
Kids, Netflix and some sound sleep help her unwind at the end of a long day.