The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a ton of disruption for businesses at large, but small-medium businesses (SMBs) in particular have been impacted heavily. For one, these businesses are dependent on consistent revenue for survival and for sustaining employees. Now many who have not used technology or digital tools in their business have had to foray into online platforms for selling and procuring products and services. Millions of SMBs are expected to go online in the coming months to sustain their business and find a way to earn more revenue through various online distribution channels for both B2B and B2C products.
Throwing light on the same, GV Ravishankar, managing director at Sequoia Capital India, believes that while traditionally most small businesses are not technology-enabled and lack width and range of distribution, once businesses start getting comfortable with ecommerce, there will be no stopping them. “We have started to see people adopting more to commerce because of them ordering items from B2C ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart, then why not take a similar convenience to corporates?” Ravishankar had said earlier.
However, for a generation of sellers who have been hesitant in even adopting tech billing and inventory management systems, complete digitisation is much easier said than done. Also, going digital does not mean just enabling online sales or ecommerce. It also involves constant updates and interaction with customers to drive traffic.
According to Quicksell founder Deepak Bhagchandani, most businesses have websites that are dysfunctional, by which he means that a business purchases a web domain but never builds the website or updates it. As Covid-19 continues to hamper business operations across domains, a lot of SaaS players are emerging in the SMB space with customised solutions specific to small businesses. While large retailers have tied up with ecommerce platforms directly, smaller offline traders retailers and enterprises have turned to SaaS players for tech enablement. The question is whether India will be able to ride this opportunity smoothly, as the majority of the Indian businesses are still sceptical when it comes to paying for enterprise software services.
Another alternative available to businesses is to list their products on traditional ecommerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. But popular ecommerce platforms also have a discovery problem and there’s no guarantee on how many sales a business would be able to make on such a huge platform.
That’s where Bhagchandani saw the need for a product like QuickSell, which enables small business owners to instantly create a product catalogue and activate online sales. SMBs can easily share catalogues with resellers and customers over-familiar platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, SMS, and even on email.
The Mumbai-based startup also offers an integrated payment gateway, order management dashboard and a free domain address to SMBs to provide end-to-end support, with the exception of fulfilment. Clicking on any product in the catalogues redirects customers to this free domain or seller specified web address. However, the company does not provide any logistics support to the sellers.
Founded in 2017 by Bhagchandani, QuickSell is a mobile commerce platform with over 2.1K customers and it has a presence in over 80 countries. The startup has raised about INR 1.5 Cr from Silicon Valley-based angel investors. The app currently supports catalogues in English, Hindi, while for the overseas market it has support for Spanish, French, Portuguese, Indonesian, and Arabic. It’s working on adding more languages through user collaborations and spreading its network.
Personal Experience And User Analytics
At first glance, it might sound similar to a social commerce company like Meesho, Shop101 but QuickSell’s focus on businesses is what differentiates the app from social commerce companies which primarily caters to resellers.
It attempts to emulate the physical shopping experience through customised catalogues. Similar to how sales executives present customers with a customised collection of products based on their requirements, QuickSell’s WhatsApp-first design allows sellers to interact with the customer and present them with a custom list of products matching their respective needs. For example, if a user wants to find a pink formal shirt. The seller can send a custom catalogue link with only pink shirts from their inventory.
Another interesting feature of QuickSell is user analytics, which provides merchants with in-depth analytics on things like, when a customer opens a shared catalogue, what products the customer is viewing, and also how much time they spent on each product.
“This kind of information and time is really helpful for the merchant to understand what their customers are thinking and what kind of products they like or not like. Based on these metrics, they can even upsell a product or offer an exclusive discount to close the deal,” said Bhagchandani.
SMB Market In India
In FY2019, the total number of MSMEs in India were reported to be more than 63 Mn. According to a Zinnov report of September 2019, SMBs contributed to 40% of India’s GDP, 50% of the exports and provided employment to over 180 Mn in 2019. Thanks to these contributions, the SMB sector has been called the backbone of the Indian economy for years.
The huge SMB market in India has also attracted the attention of big tech companies. Earlier this year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a $1 Bn investment in India to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Later in March 2020, Google also committed over $800 Mn to address some of the challenges faced by businesses during the pandemic.
Many small retailers have suffered losses because of the nationwide lockdown in India. This has forced them to use SaaS products because asking an employee to physically get a receipt or maintaining a physical inventory was no more an option. As Shashank Dixit of Deskera puts it, “The question is no longer ‘why’ a SaaS product is needed for SMBs, it’s about ‘what’ and ‘how’.”
In the past few months, QuickSell claims to have seen a huge spike in demand from all over the world. The company claims to be nearly tripled its average monthly revenue in the last two months. According to Bhagchandani, whatever digitisation was going to happen in India in the next six to eight years is going to happen in the next 12 months because people will be hesitant in stepping out of their house for basic purchases.
“With retail footfall dropping to 50-60% in the coming year, the entire supply chain is going to need to move to where customers are — which is online,” said the QuickSell founder.