Today you can buy everything -- from a pencil, to your monthly groceries, to state-of-the-art gadgets simply using your phone. The adoption of e-commerce and online transactions is seeing a rapid increase even in small town India. While there’s no doubt that mobile e-commerce is here to stay, one major challenge which the sector faces is the language barrier, considering that a majority of apps related to e-commerce are in English, whereas a significant section of the target audience is not comfortable with the language
This is the gap that Kottayam-based couple Zigi John and Liz Gabriel have set out to address with their multilingual app Tarjima. Started in July 2017, Tarjima is an affordable and multilingual mobile commerce app that aims to enable non-English speaking people to enjoy access to the online e-commerce world.
In a few years, the majority of India’s growing internet user-base will consist of non-English speaking people, according to Zigi, a digital strategy consultant. “Our solution to the problem is Tarjima - a white label, mobile commerce app that allows small and medium businesses across India to sell their products online with their own branded mobile app in English or regional languages such as Hindi, Tamil, etc,” he says.
Tarjima also works on the premise that business owners have now realised that merely having a website or app does not guarantee success in the digital space. Zigi tells us, “The do-it-yourself (DIY) model followed by most SaaS e-commerce platforms helps clients to create their own e-commerce website instantly. However, it requires a certain amount of technical expertise at the client end, which SMEs in smaller cities do not have.”
“We feel that most Indian SMBs need a fair bit of hand holding to begin their digital journey and DIY may not be suitable for the vast majority. Localisation is key to tapping the potential of India's Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. The Tarjima team customises the app with the client's logo and company colours, and helps sets it up on the app stores. We also train the client on managing orders, products and logistics, and help them devise a digital strategy to maximise the app's reach among the target audience,” adds Liz, a PhD holder in social work.
Like any other startup, Tarjima has seen its share of ups and downs. Zigi says, “App distribution was one of the key concerns that some SMBs had. They felt that it would be cumbersome for their customers to go to the app store to download the app. So we began providing QR codes to businesses to prompt downloads. In addition, our clients began distributing the Android apps privately to their customers via WhatsApp and e-mail.”
Liz adds, “The market is huge with millions of SMEs waiting to sell online. With current initiatives like Digital India, and companies like PayTM and Amazon spreading digital awareness, cheap broadband access and smartphones, Indian SMBs will be a force to reckon with.”
Tarjima also provides an assisted e-commerce (click and mortar) model, which allows businesses to leverage technology to boost in-store and exhibition/expo sales. The app is even used in a B2B model, where a manufacturer can customise their app for dealers/distributors, who in turn can use the app to search for products, get notifications about latest products, and place orders online. The app can also be used as a digital catalogue to display products and generate enquiries.
Recurring rentals are the primary source of revenue for the company. Explains Zigi, “We have two primary billing models - annual rentals and purchase. Since most SMBs find the price a big barrier, we provide a ready-made mobile app that can be rented for prices ranging from Rs.17,900 to Rs.39,900 (a year) per operating system (Android/iOS). If clients have the budget, then they can opt for a one-time purchase of the app at Rs 1 lakh per operating system (Android/iOS), instead of the rental model.”
So what sets them apart from other such solutions? Liz says, “There are several other e-commerce platforms offering open source/paid solutions, as well as SaaS-based DIY e-commerce providers, mostly focusing on web-based solutions. A few even have mobile solutions. However, none offer localised mobile commerce apps, which is India's greatest need at the moment.”
Although Tarjima's main focus is small and medium businesses and stores, the startup has already signed two large business groups as clients. In fact, they say that six weeks into their launch, they started acquiring a customer every week. Zigi adds, “With 34 million offline SMBs in India and millions of new internet users getting online, Tarjima plans to expand its reach with partnerships in different states of India. Currently we are bootstrapped and plan to raise funds shortly for our expansion.”
Looking for reliable technology that gave them robust performance, longer battery life while being budget-friendly, the Tarjima team chose Dell laptops, known for offering excellent value to bootstrapped startups. They use the Dell Inspiron 15-3567 laptop, which comes with Intel Core i5 processors and 8GB RAM, helping them with all the power and speed that is needed in a business such as theirs. “The anti-glare display is a god-send, especially for times when we code in the late night hours. The 1TB hard disk is an added bonus because it ensures that we have more than enough space for all our documents,” Liz adds.
Thinking big and starting small, that’s Tarjima for you. “We are just a small startup from a remote corner of India, hoping to do our bit in empowering SMBs to bridge India's digital divide,” Zigi signs off.
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