ProductNation interviewed Nitin, CEO of Zepo.in to understand his successes in enabling Indian businesses sell online. Zepo.in boasts of enabling more than 1200 businesses to sell online within a short span of 30 months. Read further to understand the key aspects that facilitated this success…
What was the motivation to start Zepo.in?
The idea of Zepo.in came as a result of some challenges I faced during my previous stints of managing a T-shirt business and a startup. In particular, while I was running the T-shirt business, I realized how difficult it was for small businesses like us to get online and sell to the Indian market. We got fooled by a web developer who charged us a bomb and came up with a crappy website, we had to shell out huge percentage of our sales to payment gateways, and we did not have the right logistics support to help us deliver our products to our customers on time, to name a few.
These challenges made me realize that there is a huge opportunity in India, if I could make it easier for businesses to sell online, relieving them of all the pains of operational details such as website management, payment and delivery headaches. Zepo.in was born to address these pain points, and I am happy to tell you that we now have successfully enabled more than 1200 small businesses to conduct business online in a hassle-free manner!
Very Interesting! Could you share with us your initial experiences – both good and bad, as you started Zepo.in?
Sure. I think there have been lots of good things that have happened since we decided to start Zepo.in. The first thing that comes to my mind is that, before even we formally started off our operations, we had 6 customers who had already given us post dated cheques – just by listening to what we were building. This gave us validation from the customer end – also helped us to tweak our offering better based on the initial set of feedback.
Secondly, we got into the Morpheus accelerator and on account of that, we learnt a lot from Sameer and others out there. The Morpheus team helped us with lots of things, most importantly in bringing in very good and talented people to our company early on. All our key people – the CTO, our designer, key Sales and Marketing folks were all on board, thanks to guidance from Sameer. We also were able to get the angel round of funding at the right time, from Vijay Shekar Sharma, founder of the One97 Fund. Both of these helped us immensely to start on a strong foot.
On the things that we did not do correctly, perhaps pricing was something that we did not do correctly at the beginning. We started off with our pricing being nearly half of what we charge now. However, based on initial customer feedback, we arrived at the price which is a win-win.
Could you describe the current portfolio of businesses that are using Zepo.in to sell online? Also, how are you ensuring that they benefit from working with you?
While Zepo.in can be used by any business willing to sell online, we right now have retailers and manufactures using our site predominantly. Most businesses in the retailer segment are from fashion accessories and clothing, while home based product manufacturers, women enterprises, proprietary and partnership firms and even a few private limited companies have been using Zepo to sell their products online from the manufacturing segment.
Over the years, we have made significant enhancements to our platform that has benefited our customers, and has helped in deepening their engagement with us. By leveraging technology, we started off by providing a very simple and easy way to put and sell products online. We then entered into strategic alliances with logistics firms and payment gateway companies that made it easier for our customers to avail all these services from one place, through a single click of a button.
Prior to this, all small businesses had to go searching for courier firms that would accept to ship their packages. Very few courier companies would accept to ship in small quantities. Similarly, due to high payment gateway charges, one had to price their products artificially high to breakeven. Now, we launched a products as a value-add to Zepo, calling it ZePOST, we offer free pick up and delivery service that makes it so convenient to our customers to focus only on their core activity and leave mechanics of order receiving and delivery, payment collection and other things for us to manage.
On a different note, how have you organized your internal operations to support these activities? Could you provide us some insight on these aspects?
For us, an unwavering focus on user experience, refinement of our offering and user acquisition has helped us scale and grow so fast in the past couple of years. We invest a lot of time in understanding how the user experiences our site. By thorough research and analysis, we identify the places where the user is experiencing problems, or is spending more time to finish an intended transaction/activity. We prioritize these and fix them at the earliest. On the product offering refinements, we have introduced new things almost every quarter – which has further benefited our customers, including revision of pricing to suit particular needs. This has helped in customer acquisition as well.
Further, on the user acquisition front, we have tried very innovative ways to get new customers and have a fair share of successes. We do a lot of campaigns – one of them – chotuchaiwala.com was a big hit, we leveraged social media to reach out to prospective customers, also do some inbound marketing to targeted set of prospects. We also did some very different things such as putting our tagline and company information on big carry bags that retailers use for transporting goods. This automatically provided visibility of our offering to many distributors leading to more customers. The most recent attempt was to use twitter to promote our offering – and we became the third most trending handle for all of India for almost 11 hours straight!
Thank you for those valuable insights. In closing, what would be the three things that you would like to share as key priorities a product entrepreneur should have, when they focus on the India market?
In my opinion, a differentiated product which provides a satisfying user experience, a focus on user acquisition to sustain and scale your company and superior customer service are the three things that every entrepreneur should focus, irrespective of the target market that they focus on. I believe these aspects will provide you happy customers, satisfied employees and good business success!