On March 24, when the nation-wide lockdown came into effect, Raghav Mathur’s online business came to a standstill. As an online business retailing gaming products on Flipkart, he knew he could do nothing else but wait. “Our biggest challenge as a business was to liquidate the inventory that we had stocked up,” shares Raghav.
Steep rise in demand post lockdown
Today, three months later, his business has nearly doubled, as compared to what he was doing in the months prior to the pandemic.
“We used to sell products worth Rs 18-20 lakhs a month. However, the numbers doubled in May. We sold products worth Rs 40 lakhs. This was also possible because in addition to the gaming products, we listed essential items like thermometers and masks” shares the online seller.
He adds, “I have been selling gaming products online for the last four years. But, when I realised the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19, I realised that the demand for gaming products might see a decline during the crisis. So, I decided to sell thermometers and masks. Not only was there a market demand for it, but also these products were of utmost importance.”
Challenges in tapping into the opportunity
Today, even though the orders continue to pour in, Raghav says he is taking it slow in the purview of the safety of his employees. “I had about 10 employees who worked for me. However, in the current scenario, I can’t expect all of them to report to work as it increases the risk. So, as an alternative, I arranged for accommodation near the office for employees who didn’t need to be around their families. I have five employees today who help me run the business, without having to risk their lives.”
Raghav says that when the lockdown brought the business to a standstill, he was a worried man.
“While I decided to focus on resuming the business once the lockdown would be lifted, what really made a difference was the proactive communication from the Flipkart team. My account manager stayed in touch throughout and kept me informed on what it would take to resume the business. Because they had intimated in advance, we had sufficient time to accommodate the requirements, be it the need to sanitise the products or ensure that employees follow all the hygiene and safety protocols at work.”
Flipkart paving way for growth
With the steep rise in orders, the seller is optimistic about the future.
“You can choose to be optimistic or pessimistic. I choose to be the former. The online seller community is anticipating 5x growth in the coming days. And, we are seeing that spike has already begun. Flipkart’s Big Billion Day will usher the next phase of growth for many of us,” he says.
But, he points out that if a situation arises that warrants a lockdown yet again, they will be stuck with inventories and the cash flow will never be the same again.
Unlike online businesses, the period of struggle hasn’t ended for offline businesses, which has led many businesses to shift to online selling, shares Raghav.
“My neighbours and friends, some of whom run offline stores are now planning to shift their business online via platforms like Flipkart. They have seen how my business has not only grown over the years but is also thriving amid a pandemic and what looks like an economic crisis. They have reached out to me to understand what it takes to get started as a seller on Flipkart and what the modus operandi is like for the day-to-day operations. I, for one, most definitely think that platforms like Flipkart will be crucial for the survival and growth of small businesses across the country. Just like it was for me.”
A journey that began four years ago
Interestingly, Raghav’s journey as a seller began four years ago, when he quit his job to take up online selling full time. Growing up in a middle-class family, Raghav aspired to start a business. Though the norm was to get a well-paying job in a MNC, he wanted otherwise. After completing his MBA, Raghav got placed with HCL’s online marketing team and later moved to Dr Murugan where he handled their e-commerce business.
“These initial four years helped me understand the sector and prepared me in a way to take up online selling. I learned most of what I needed from those initial years. It groomed me well,” he reflects.
And, given that gaming had always been a huge part of his life, Raghav decided to start an online business retailing gaming products. “Gaming has been my hobby for many years. In the last 20 years, I have invested my time, effort and money in it. So, four years ago, when I decided to start selling, I knew it had to be gaming products since I knew all about the products and had a visibility into the demand side as well,” he says. Raghav started his online business on Flipkart under the name RPM Euro Games. “The first ever product that we sold was a gaming trigger. I had not seen many sellers online that sold triggers, so I knew it would be a good product to start with.” And, on the very first day, he sold 70 triggers and in a matter of days, that number had shot up to 600.
Soon, he also started selling mobile pads and other gaming accessories. “Six months later, I decided to quit my job and put 100 percent effort into growing the business,” says Raghav. Today, 60 percent of the business’ online sales comes from gaming products. “Pads and triggers continue to be our highest-selling product, followed by gaming earphones. We are working on bringing a lot more products for gaming and music.” The online seller says that their products have a four-star rating on Flipkart and the customer reviews are good. “We sell the best quality at reasonable prices. The key USPs of our products are quality and price.”
A Flipkart seller: A identity that he takes pride in
Reflecting on his journey as a Flipkart seller, Raghav says, “I chose to start my online business on Flipkart because of its market share. But, today Flipkart has given me an identity. Today, I am living life on my own terms. Coming from a middle-class family and to have started and grown a multi-crore business is an achievement I take pride in.”
Raghav advocates that Flipkart is for everyone. “Anyone who wants to try online selling, should definitely consider Flipkart,” he says.
He adds, “Also, what makes me really proud as an online seller is that my products reach customers across the country. A few days ago, a friend from Indore noticed that his acquaintance was using a product from my business. When he sent me a picture, it made me so happy. It gives me a sense of validation about what I do.”
In the last two years, his business has grown from strength to strength. From Rs 1.5 cr in FY 2018-19 to Rs 3 crore the following year.
Given the uncertainties in the market and economy today, he says, “I have always believed in staying positive. You can’t predict or control the future. You can only adapt. You can however live in the present and that’s what I am doing.”
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