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Can GlowRoad’s 2 Mn-Strong Reseller Network Drive Its Growth In A $70 Bn Social Commerce Market?

With the rise in Internet usage and social media engagement, non-metro consumers across India are rapidly embracing a trust-based social selling model

GlowRoad claims that 84% of its consumers are based in Tier 2 cities and beyond and its strong reseller community sees strong buying pattern

The social commerce startup has developed several tutorials on reselling best practices and helps its resellers zero in on best-selling products in tune with their social media focus

Prior to 2019, Akanksha Agrawal, a homemaker from Raipur, Chhattisgarh had no income of her own and lacked the funds to start a business. But when she heard about GlowRoad, a Bengaluru-based social commerce platform that enables resellers to earn without investing any seed money, she decided to give it a try. 

After creating a profile on the platform (the company has a website and a mobile app), she started reselling women’s apparel across her social circles on WhatsApp and Facebook. With a commission of INR 200-300 per sale, she earns more than INR 50K a month and calls herself a micro-entrepreneur. 

The rise of social commerce in India has similarly empowered many people, but women like Agrawal, with a huge social following, have benefited the most. The reason lies in the business model itself. As the name suggests, social commerce is all about selling directly to consumers on social platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and more. And the bigger a reseller’s (aka influencer, in social commerce parlance) social circles on these platforms, the greater the income opportunity.

As India is home to 776 Mn active social media users and counting, the number of resellers has grown exponentially in the past few years. Realising how to monetise one’s social influence, millions have collaborated with social commerce platforms like GlowRoad and its same-city competitor Meesho, Mumbai-based Shop101 and Jaipur-based Cartlay to generate additional incomes as resellers.

Interestingly, more than 75% of resellers in the segment are women, typically homemakers or self-employed, who want to attain financial independence by working from the comfort of their homes.

The GlowRoad Way Of Collaborative Growth

Set up in 2017 by a group of five Sonal Verma, Kunal Sinha, Nitesh Pant, Shekhar Sahu and Nilesh Padariya GlowRoad today has more than 2 Mn resellers catering to 50 Mn customers across the country.

This platform and its ilk have grown quite popular not only because they help individuals enter the ecommerce ecosystem for substantial earnings but also allows brands to sell their products pan-India without worrying about customer acquisition, digital transactions or logistics management.

The whole process is designed to connect three segments — the sellers, the resellers and the buyers — in a seamless fashion through GlowRoad’s flagship technology. The company onboards small businesses and manufacturers who typically sell their products offline. Upon registration, sellers can display product images and their prices on the platform, while the social commerce company adds a small markup to the original price. The seller’s listings are accessible to the resellers.

To facilitate sellers further, the company has developed an easy-to-integrate API that allows apps with high footfall or D2C brands to set up digital shopfronts on their respective platforms.

Onboarding the resellers is done in a similar manner. These are individuals with large social media followings, although the company has not mandated any particular limit (minimum/maximum followers). After registration, they can explore the products on offer and add them to a digital shopfront provided by GlowRoad.

A reseller determines the product price over and above the asking price of the original seller post which a custom URL for each product is generated for sharing on social media to start selling. For instance, if a seller lists the price of a T-shirt as INR 1500, and the reseller sells it for INR 1700, he/she will make INR 200 in commission. 

Next comes the ‘buying’ part, again kept quite simple for consumers’ benefit. When a buyer clicks on a link on the social platform (Facebook or WhatsApp in this case), they are redirected to the reseller shopfront and see the reseller’s price tag. GlowRoad offers all major payment options, including UPI, credit and debit cards, net banking and e-wallets, besides deferred payment options such as cash on delivery (COD), BNPL and EMI. 

Once an order is confirmed, GlowRoad handles the logistics through its tie-ups with various third-party logistics (3PL) companies like Shadowfax, Ecom Express and Xpressbees. The company has a delivery reach of 26,000 pin codes through its shipping partners, and customers are kept updated on shipment and order status. Both sellers and resellers get their payments after delivery. 

As resellers no longer stay in the loop post-purchase, it allows them to focus on scaling up their business and increasing order volumes. Many of them push sales through live video commerce, engaging content and attractive discounts to retain loyal customers. 

GlowRoad claims that its strong reseller community sees repeat business that translates into better trust and growing profits.

Why Tier 2, Tier 3 Locations Play A Key Role

Social commerce has largely flourished beyond the metros for a critical reason — the trust factor. The quality-conscious and price-conscious consumers from India always preferred to shop in-store, but the customer mindset changed drastically in the wake of Covid-19. 

Around 72% of Indians are still hesitant to visit physical stores as per the Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper Report 2021, and many offline shoppers have opted for the online mode for the sake of safety and convenience. Given this scenario, social commerce is the next best thing to happen as non-metro shoppers depend heavily on peer validation before making a purchase.    

A small segment is also buying online as established brands have fewer outlets in Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations. But even they require similar validation before putting in their money. 

Social commerce has bridged this trust gap as resellers do business within their social circles and hold influence over most consumers. This means when they recommend products, people are more likely to make a purchase. GlowRoad benefits from this trust-driven popularity as 84% of its customers are based in Tier 2 cities and beyond, says the company.

“When it comes to Tier 2 cities or places beyond that, the selling strategy has to be very different. In fact, we have connected end-customers with resellers whom they already know, and it builds trust in social commerce. Additionally, most of our sellers are small business owners, and their prices are quite affordable. That is another attraction for customers to go for it with confidence,” said Sahu.

Nurturing The Reseller Economy

India’s burgeoning reseller community is propelling the growth of social commerce. Its market size was valued at $2 Bn in 2020 and is expected to reach $70 Bn by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 42.6%, a report by Bain & Company says.

But unlike leading markets like China and the US, the country’s reseller ecosystem is still in an early growth stage and faces many challenges while captivating a price-conscious audience or building a loyal customer base. For first-time resellers or those with very little knowledge of marketing and sales, these problems loom large as they may get too aggressive while selling and scare the prospect away or give in to customers’ demands all too easily and lose out on their commissions.

GlowRoad is trying to solve this problem through several tutorials on reselling best practices, posted on its platform. It also adds short videos of resellers sharing their experiences to turn their buyers into loyal customers. In addition, the team helps resellers zero in on best-selling products in tune with their social media focus. For instance, a person who makes videos on make-up tips will benefit more by selling cosmetics.

Today, the APAC and North American countries with huge consumer bases are tapping into reseller power to drive social commerce. One of the most renowned names in this space is Shanghai-based Pinduoduo that has added several engaging solutions like group buying, live commerce and gamification elements to its platform. The Indian ecosystem is also adopting new and innovative shopping modules for better engagement with new-age customers who want the best of both worlds the convenience of online shopping and the personalised experience of physical retail.

With GlowRoad and its ilk building a trust-based social selling model to cater to a growing market — the share of social commerce in overall ecommerce is expected to rise from 1-2% to 4-5% of an estimated $140 Bn by 2025 — India seems to be heading in the right direction.