[Startup Bharat] COVID-19 led this entrepreneur to start Panchkula-based online marketplace Yes Genie
COVID-19 single-handedly changed consumer behaviour across the world, and India was no exception. The adoption of online shopping got a massive fillip as people were locked in by stringent regulations and preferred doorstep deliveries.
Metros and big cities offered a range of ecommerce and e-grocery options, but those in small towns often had to do without. Luv Bassi decided to change that with his Panchkula-based online marketplace. The startup functions as an aggregator, selling brands and products across categories.
Luv was one of the many people who operated in non-essential sectors such as entertainment, outdoor services, and travel and tourism during the lockdown. “I am from a travel and tourism background, and we had to close down our business during the first wave,” he says.
The pandemic forced him to don the thinking cap like many entrepreneurs across India. And in October 2020, he decided to start an online marketplace, with Co-founder Rajesh Markan, with an initial investment of Rs 3 lakh.
(L-R) Yes Genie's founder Luv Bassi, function's head Bronia Bassi and co-founder Rajesh Markan
“After the travel business shut down, I was looking to start something new. I noticed that many people were not able to get face masks, sanitisers, oximeters, and other COVID-related items. So, I decided to start an ecommerce platform,” says Luv, the Founder and CEO of Yes Genie Dreams Pvt. Ltd.
Luv outsourced web development to a Bengaluru-based firm and started working to onboard sellers. The marketplace that started by selling masks and PPE kits now sells products across categories such as electronics, fashion, health and hygiene, among other categories. “We sell international branded products, but also sell local brands across categories,” he says.
The marketplace has varied listings, with Apple’s MacBook Pro jostling for space with not-so-known brands such as backpack brand JTB, Caretex Sanitary Pads, and ESS UV Sterilisation Boxes.
Yes Genie offers up to 5 percent incentives and also pays for pickup and delivery services to attract vendors to the platform. “These are a few schemes we have for now because we need people to sell on our platforms as well,” Luv says.
The platform at present has about 200 registered sellers who sell goods worth approximately Rs 50,000 per month. The website records 30,000-40,000 visitors per month, Luv says.
Running an ecommerce platform in these times has not been easy. Yes Genie is burning money every month as free deliveries are provided to customers, no-cost pickup is provided to vendors, and cashbacks and onboarding incentives are given to sellers. The marketplace itself is constantly under development, which is also “another cost”.
“Incentives are needed at this point because we need more and more sellers on our platforms. These are not permanent incentives; we keep changing them and will hopefully remove them over time,” Luv says. As of now, the platform does not charge any commissions from vendors; instead, it provides 5 percent sales incentives. However, it will start charging commissions once the marketplace gains more traction.
Market outlook and the future
Online buying has seen a boom in Tier II and III towns, and rural areas as COVID-19 swooped through India. As big markets and malls were shut down, people turned to online marketplaces to get groceries and other essentials.
The lockdown also disrupted the supply chain and delivery infrastructure in many states, creating delays in ecommerce deliveries. That’s when small business owners came up with indigenous solutions, such as the WhatsApp-based kirana delivery system, to sell essential goods.
Luv, who saw the delivery gap first hand, is now expanding his delivery circle. After Haryana, he is offering pan-India delivery by tying up with delivery providers such as, providing products across categories including electronics, clothing, and apparel.
The average order value on his platform is Rs 700-800 and the 10-12 member team, including part-time employees, runs the whole show.
The founder says that he is building an ecommerce platform for local sellers in Bharat, who cannot afford to pay 20-40 percent commissions to marketplaces such as Amazon and, by providing them with an all-paid platform to grow their brand.
Luv has also launched an Android app as people now access the internet more through their smartphone than desktop computers. “We are also looking at introducing grocery as a category in the next few months,” Luv says.