Brands of India: How social commerce unicorn Meesho empowered 13M entrepreneurs to sell online

At YourStory's Brands of India launch event, Meesho Co-founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey explained how Meesho emerged as a forerunner in the social ecommerce revolution in India, and why it is now looking to enable 100 million microentrepreneurs.
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While the traditional ecommerce model continues to flourish in India, social commerce is rising in popularity among sellers and buyers. The potential to build high degrees of brand loyalty, trust, engagement, low customer acquisition costs etc is driving this growth.

Social commerce in India currently clocks a gross merchandise value (GMV) of around $2 billion. By 2025, this could hover between $16 billion and $20 billion according to Bain, with a potentially monumental jump to $70 billion by 2030.

Primed to capitalise on this opportunity is Meesho - the Bengaluru-based social commerce startup. With a network of over 13 million entrepreneurs, Meesho became the first Indian social commerce startup to enter the unicorn club.

Speaking at YourStory's Brands of India launch event, Vidit Aatrey, Founder and CEO, Meesho told Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO, YourStory:

"Our vision is aligned to serving microentrepreneurs and small businesses, and we want to enable 100 million of them to succeed online. So far, we've seen success in enabling women entrepreneurs to start and run fashion boutique stores online, but we want to democratise ecommerce for everyone across categories."

YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma in conversation with Meesho Co-founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey

The Meesho journey

Vidit, who started Meesho in 2015 alongside Sanjeev Barnwal, explained how they landed upon the idea for a social commerce startup.

When they first started, they built a ‘Swiggy for fashion’, where people could select any product from the stores nearby, try them on, and buy them.

"But we knew that a lot more people used social media than ecommerce marketplaces. So the question was, how could we bring half a billion Indians on social media towards ecommerce? We also realised that a lot of women were using our app to run their own fashion boutique brands on WhatsApp. So I began talking to them to understand more about it," Vidit said.

On speaking to these women, Vidit found most of them had a similar story. He noticed many of them had stopped working after getting married or having children. But they all felt they had a good fashion sense and still harboured a dream to start a brand of their own.

"Conventionally, these women faced the challenge of access to capital. They needed funds to go to a wholesale market and purchase products to resell. But when they'd ask their families for capital, the answer was often a no," he said.

The women had figured out a way to collect the wholesaler's contacts, add them on WhatsApp, and curate groups of customers to whom they would send updated product catalogues. When a buyer placed an order on the group, the women would place an order with the wholesaler, who would dispatch it to the buyer.

As the intermediary, the women would make a profit. But it was never easy. Enabling cash on delivery, logistics, inventory management, curating content etc were no easy tasks.

So for Vidit and Meesho, the answer lay in building a platform for these women and anyone else to get easy access to products, logistics services, payment integrations, marketing tools, etc. - all on the Meesho platform.

This was the product that helped Meesho build a network of over 13 million entrepreneurs and cement its place as one of the forerunners of the social ecommerce wave on India.

The Meesho Team

The future of social commerce

For Vidit, the journey has just begun.

"Earlier, investors were not too convinced about social commerce, but now every business, even the large ones, have a WhatsApp strategy. It has become mainstream. People are also interacting with kirana stores, or even restaurants, to place their orders on WhatsApp. Other social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube are also rising in popularity for ecommerce," he said.

This is precisely why Vidit feels there is a long road ahead, and is looking forward to the ambitious target of enabling 100 million small businesses and microentrepreneurs through Meesho.

"For us, WhatsApp was just a go-to-market strategy. Now we have diversified through YouTube and other social platforms. Our vision is all about taking pride in serving small businesses and making big things happen for them across categories. This has become even more important due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as almost all small businesses have realised the importance of selling online." Vidit said.

Brands of India is a YourStory initiative to catalyse the growth of India's D2C economy. The initiative will bring together D2C ecosystem stakeholders, including brand builders, D2C startups, investors, corporates, and policymakers, to discover, build and help daring entrepreneurs create an additional 500 Brands of India in the next three years.

To know more about this initiative and the D2C ecosystem, visit brandsofindia.yourstory.com.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai