Saumya Tewari

"We are trying to formalise WhatsApp commerce," Snapdeal's Kunal Bahl on Shopo

Shopo was acquired by Snapdeal in 2013 and has now been relaunched as an app-only open marketplace for small sellers.

Snapdeal has relaunched Shopo, an online marketplace for handicrafts and Indian designers it acquired in 2013, as a zero commission open marketplace mobile platform. It is currently available on Android and iOS. Targetted at non-registered small businesses who do not meet the essential requirements to list on managed marketplaces like Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon, Shopo is for businesses that are currently serving 100 odd consumers through messaging platforms like WhatsApp. These could be artisans, home businesses (baked goods etc) or individual sellers.

Currently, the app has 14 categories including clothing, accessories, electronics, beauty and cosmetics, among others.

"We are trying to formalise WhatsApp commerce," Snapdeal's Kunal Bahl on Shopo
Designed along the model of a simple messaging app, Shopo has a one-step registration process and requires the name and contact number of sellers to come on board. Post which the seller can click pictures of products and upload them with descriptions and pricing. The uploaded products can then be shared on social media (Facebook and Twitter), as well as popular messaging platform WhatsApp.

On being asked on the need for a separate platform, Kunal Bahl, co-founder and CEO, Snapdeal, explains that the two are different use cases, from a seller and user stand point.

"Snapdeal as a platform is for intent purchases and, hence, we have organised businesses selling standard products. The user experience here is different. Over the last three years, there were 450, 000 sellers that we had to turn away from Snapdeal because they did not meet the minimum seller requirement. We did not want to miss out on this seller base. Our mission is to bring a million people online in a year from seller point of view, and we do not want to mix these two user and seller experiences. Hence, we created Shopo," he explains.

Shopo also provides chat facility to its seller and buyer, wherein both can directly exchange message, bid for a particular product and negotiate on the price as well. Bidding and negotiation is notified to both the parties like a regular messaging notifications.

"There is so much commerce happening at WhatsApp in India. Sellers are connecting with consumers on WhatsApp, sending pictures for sampling. We are trying to formalise this WhatsApp commerce and make it more convenient through various features," Bahl further adds.

Currently, Snapdeal is not involved in logistics or integrated payment solution on Shopo. A seller will be responsible for shipping and payment of the products which is likely to be in cash or direct bank transfer. Though an open platform, Snapdeal states that the product listings will be monitored and action will be taken against the sellers who upload inappropriate or illegal products on its platform once it is flagged.

The company aims to get one million shops online in the next one year. For the record, currently, less than 0.1 per cent of the SMBs in India have online presence, and Shopo is trying to address this opportunity by creating a platform which is very easy and convenient for the shop owners to set up their shop.

Shopo takes zero commission and fees; however, it may look at premium listings and in-app advertising in future as the platform builds up. The company plans to promote Shopo through the digital medium.

Sandeep Komaravelly, senior vice president, Shopo, says, "The e-commerce space is evolving at a fast pace in India and the industry is moving towards open and free models of e-commerce. Shopo aims to build a platform to help millions of small businesses, home entrepreneurs, artisans and individual sellers set up their online shops in the most convenient way and grow their businesses."

According to the company, the retail sector, comprising primarily of small and medium sized businesses, contributes over 13 per cent to India's GDP. However, a major segment of this market is fragmented and unorganised. Roadblocks like packaging norms, distribution logistics, inadequate knowledge of newer marketing mediums, lack of sufficient resources etc, restrict their growth and reach. Snapdeal has been focussed on helping SMBs overcome these challenges through its digital commerce ecosystem.

Launched in 2010, Snapdeal is currently backed by marquee investors and individuals such as SoftBank, BlackRock, Temasek, eBay Inc., Premji Invest, Intel Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Ratan Tata, among others.

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