How this textile entrepreneur started a hyperlocal video commerce platform to connect urban dwellers with local retailers
In 2017, Sujitha S was busy learning the ropes of her father’s textiles business in Coimbatore, so much so that she never saw herself starting a tech enterprise.
But in 2018, Sujitha did just what she never imagined - launch a tech enterprise called Weedeo, offering a simple video-based shopping service that simulates consumers’ offline buying experience.
Claiming to be the first hyperlocal video commerce app in the country, the Hyderabad-based platform has an in-built video calling service that allows users to connect with local vendors and markets, and explore everyday essentials to traditional products.
Weedeo’s users can choose from a wide catalogue of grocery, pharma and wellness, home and furniture, electronics, books, and stationery, among others. While most retailers have been onboarded manually so far, it hopes to roll out a self-registration process by the end of this month.
The Eureka moment
Hailing from a business family in Coimbatore, Sujitha holds Bachelor’s degree in Computer Applications and a Master's in International Business from PSG Institute of Management.
After working in the textiles industry with her father in 2017, she moved to Hyderabad and founded Weaver’s Soul, along with her friend Shravan Kumar.
The brand specialised in manufacturing Ikkat and other traditional fabrics along with rural artisans.
However, the duo felt that weavers and the artisans do not get their due credit for their work in the market as customers are unaware of their hard work, and so purchase directly from sellers.
That is when the idea for a video-based shopping experience to connect urban customers with rural artisans struck them.
“Buying directly from the source not only means half the price available in the market, but weavers can also showcase the manufacturing processes as well,” Sujitha says.
They also noticed that many shopkeepers and retailers resisted selling on ecommerce platforms due to the perception that onboarding processes are complicated.
This prompted Sujitha and Shravan to found Weedeo, a video-based shopping platform that serves beyond the traditional textiles market and incorporates diverse product categories in the same year.
The pandemic push
When the coronavirus-induced lockdown and precautionary measures sent people into exile and social distancing, there was huge dependency on online shopping to get the daily essentials.
Not only were existing grocery delivery platforms crashing due to surge in demand, but users who placed their orders also expressed dissatisfaction, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
Although the pandemic offered a great market opportunity, gaining the first few customers was a challenge. “There are so many apps coming up every other day that one has to convince users why they should care to download your app,” Sujitha says.
The entrepreneur began by visiting supermarkets and interacting with people pushing their shopping carts. She explained how Weedeo allows them to be as picky with their online grocery shopping as well.
How it works
Once a user signs up on the app, they can navigate through various product categories and choose a retailer in their vicinity. Before adding products to the cart, users can either choose to chat or video call the vendor directly through the app without opening third party apps or share their contact numbers with the vendors.
“Although it is a video-first platform, users prefer to have options to chat and view pictures, and proceed to video calling when they are interested in certain products,” she says.
Operating on beta mode till the end of July 2021, the startup has over 2,000 downloads, with at least one transaction every three days. The startup claims to be less focused on gaining downloads, and more on ensuring quality products and good retention rate.
At present, its daily Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) stands between Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000.
Bringing vendors online
Despite the rise in digital adoption and online payment infrastructure, the initial challenge for Weedeo was to gain the trust of retailers and vendors.
“They would not trust easily and were hesitant about online payments, and whether it will get deposited in their bank accounts,” Sujitha shares.
The startup began by manually registering them on the platform one by one, and word-of-mouth helped gain more retailers on board. It will soon roll out a self-registration process by the end of this month.
A T-Hub incubatee, Sujitha says the incubator helped Weedeo navigate the tech entrepreneurship space and bolster its sales. The duo are now focused on scaling and entering other major cities this year.
Edited by Anju Narayanan