[App Fridays] Bulbul: just another shopping app or the start of something big?
On Bulbul, hosts use live demos to showcase products, or record short videos. Customers can not only ask questions on live chat, but can also buy products and pay on the app.Rashi Varshney
Online shopping in India is not just about transactions anymore but has become a full-fledged experience. According to a February 2019 Morgan Stanley report, India is adding one internet user every three seconds, and the country’s ecommerce sector is estimated to reach $230 billion by 2028, accounting for 10 percent of India’s retail.
Keeping this in mind, Sachin Bhatia, also the Co-founder of MakeMyTrip and TrulyMadly, Atit Jain, Co-founder of medicine delivery app Pluss App, and Sichen (Sianna) Liu launched Bulbul in November 2018. One of its kind, Bulbul is an online shopping app where customers can watch hosts present their products live - just like in a physical store. You can ask questions about the product on the app, place your order, and pay - all on one platform.
The company has certainly caught investor attention. In March, Bulbul raised Rs 14.05 crore in funding from 10XF, a Mauritius-headquartered-entity connected to Sequoia Capital, Leo Capital and its founder Rajul Garg, Sequoia Capital India Trust, and Mohan Krishna Lakhamraju.
YourStory decided to check out Bulbul shopping app and see what the hype is all about.
Firstly, the look and feel of the app is interesting. Similar to TV shopping programmes, Bulbul has a host of enthusiastic influencer-like individuals who try to woo the audience to buy something by demonstrating its features.
When you open the app for the first time, it starts with an intro video where a host explains how the app works, and how you can use it.
You can start browsing the app without even signing up. But, if you want to live chat with a host or decide to buy a product, you would need to sign up using your phone number, verified by an OTP. There is no option to sign up through social media yet.
There are a variety of lifestyle products, including bags, jewellery, apparel, accessories, kitchen appliances, cosmetics, and home decor - presented in video format. On its website Bulbul.tv, the company claims that it offers around one lakh products currently.
We browsed various videos, and the quality is quite impressive. Products can be seen clearly, with required information on best uses, needs, ideas, etc. For instance, a host demonstrating a certain T-shirt also spoke about the kind of pants to pair it with. The app also has makeup tutorials, fashion ideas, etc, centred on a certain product on offer.
Surprisingly, the app seems to have only women hosts, which may well be because it is fairly new in the market.
How interactive is the shopping?
The live chat works like on Facebook or Instagram, where you can ask questions or comment during a Live, and the host can read and reply accordingly. Other product videos do not have any chat option.
One of the major let-downs is a lack of user reviews, which are an integral part of the online shopping experience. This could be deliberate, given that Bulbul is trying to replicate the TV-like experience. However, TV shopping did include interesting, although a bit over the top, feedback sections from ‘customers’.
Besides that, buying on the app is a smooth experience. You just have to click on the ‘Buy’ button, and you can see other information like choice of colour, product dimensions, estimated delivery time, etc.
Bulbul’s target audience is the next 300 million Indians entering the digital world. For instance, the app’s page on Google Play Store is written in a mix of Hindi and English. Inside the app, you can choose between Hindi and English. However, the product videos are mostly Hindi, with a few English words here and there.
The app has a smooth and clean user interface. The videos are presented category-wise, which makes it an easy browsing experience. You can just swipe left and right to browse through the products. Overall, the app is easy to use.
The homepage has three tabs at the bottom - ‘Our Picks’, which shows popular products and ongoing live videos; ‘Bulbul Update’ with support, coupons, etc; and ‘My Bulbul’ with your profile settings and order history. We tried checking out Bulbul support’s chatting feature, but didn’t get a response to our question.
While the platform and influencer culture is rapidly picking up with LIKE, Vigo, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube channels, it might just have an edge in the market.
In less than six months of its launch, the app has already crossed 10,000 installs on the Play Store, and has a rating of 4.4 stars.
If you are a shopaholic, then this app could be fun. We recommend the app for its well-organised categories, good quality videos, and coherent product descriptions.