[The Turning Point] Working with consumer brands led this engineer to start O2O ecommerce startup CoutLoot
Jasmeet Thind, a computer engineer from University of Mumbai, worked with Godrej Industries before joining Hindustan Unilever as the brand manager of Pears.
Having observed the retail space closely and after working with consumer brands, Jasmeet realised that while the FMCG sector in India was organised and mostly controlled by the top five players, the non-FMCG space was extremely unstructured.
“I would visit new markets every month and interact with consumers and retailers. Non-FMCG sectors, which included fashion, lifestyle, and electronics, were unorganised and had a broken supply chain. This was largely because they work on credit and their reach was limited to physical stores,” Jasmeet recalls.
He started discussing this with his friends from college - Mahima Kaul and Vinit Jain - in early 2016. The trio realised that there were three major problems in the space: Indian sellers did not have proper documentation to sell online; they didn’t know how to use a computer and, as a result, could not list products on ecommerce platforms; and finally, they lacked logistics partners to ship their products.
“Our idea was to enable local sellers to reach a larger market. A seller from Bhopal should be able to sell products to a customer based out of Bengaluru,” Jasmeet explains.
“We wanted to standardise the sector, and create a proper supply chain for retailers for sourcing products and creating an online channel for them to grow their business,” he adds.
Mahima, who worked as an analyst in retail measurement services at Nielson, was able to back this with data, and Vinit helped with the technology. The discussion soon took the shape of a PowerPoint presentation and after three months of R&D, the trio launched the CoutLoot website in September 2016, as a pilot.
The Mumbai-based platform started operations in 2017 enabling sellers to list their products online.
The success story
The social offline-to-online platform helps players sell online for the first time by automatically cataloguing their offline inventory, and providing logistics, payment, and reconciliation support.
Instead of forcing traditional businesses to completely adopt digital processes, CoutLoot’s platform integrates certain offline buyer-seller behaviours. It also offers sellers and customers in the same cities a meet-and-buy option.
“CoutLoot is an abbreviation for ‘Couture and Loot,’ and aims at making style cheap and accessible to all,” Jasmeet says.
The startup also has an in-house language translator, and allows sellers to interact with users in their preferred language, out of the 12 options available. It has joined hands with 15 delivery partners, including Gati, Delhivery, India Post, and DHL.
Bootstrapped with Rs 10 lakh for the first three months, CoutLoot received seed funding of $200,000 from Artha India Ventures, Venture Catalyst, Redcliffe Capital and Samyakth Capital, in the pilot stage.
In 2018, CoutLoot raised another $1 million in pre-Series A funding round from Chinese unicorn CashBUS.
With a team of 70-plus employees, the social offline-to-online platform now has more than three lakh sellers on its platform. Its mission is to enable 25 million offline sellers to go online for the first time in their lives.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)