39-year-old Raju from Mumbai was happy with his wholesale and retail business dealing in electronics, mobile accessories, home and kitchen items. When he did enter the e-commerce business, his technical knowledge helped him to make his first listing. But he got motivated to dive deeper into the business only after 3-4 years.
Is it better to sell on marketplaces or your own store? What prompted Raju to start www.store503.com? Why does he feel that was his best business decision? Read on as he shares the experiences and learning of his e-commerce journey.
How did it all begin? How soon did the e-commerce bug bite you?
A cousin from Delhi was in town and he saw our business operations. He kept prodding me to start online selling. Just because he insisted, I started selling online on eBay in 2007, armed with some technical knowledge of coding and html that I had. But I faced a lot of problems and headaches and it affected my daily operations. So I left it but got back to selling on eBay in 2010, when again it wasn’t very inspiring as profit margins were very less. But I kept going and in 2011, business picked up.
Is that when you felt the sting of the bug?
Can say so. We got sudden success with our products and we decided to dedicate a separate team of people to it. So we kept 2 people just for handling the eBay operations, which had picked up momentum.
Did it excite you because it was all roses along the way?
Actually, we faced a number of problems initially. eBayPowership option was a total mess as we were not getting full payments for as long as 8 months after products were delivered. Sometimes there would not even be any response to our phone calls to eBay.
When we started selling through other marketplaces, we faced problems there too. Tradus has a very unprofessional team and its become too much now with the endless restrictions it places on sellers, in addition to payment cycle of 21 days. Shopclues is equally, maybe worse, as account managers show bias towards certain sellers and promote only them. We sold 3 products in 15 days!
But Amazon has probably been the worst so far. I’m yet to come across a seller who has made profit through Amazon. They sometimes suspend accounts and hold back payments for 90 days!
Did you feel like saying bye-bye to these marketplaces?
Some powership payments due to us were delayed for more than 8 months and every 20 days they kept coming up with some kind of limitation (without intimating us). We started exploring the option of having our own website so that we wouldn’t have to be answerable to anyone. www.store503.com has been operational for almost a year now.
So are you channeling all your efforts towards your own store only now?
We have previously tried almost all marketplaces but did not find any satisfactory ones. Either payment were too delayed frequently or commission charges were too high, as high as 22% sometimes. So now we are selling only through our own online store.
Is selling through your own website easier?
Actually, developing the site and marketing it is not that easy. But compared to the problems we faced with marketplaces, it’s much easier and more satisfactory.
Do you stock your products or procure them after orders come in?
We have ready inventory of everything we list.
Did you ever feel like giving up on e-commerce?
Never, we have always felt it’s a burgeoning business, which is going to be even better in the coming 2-3 years.
Is there a secret mantra you would like to share with us?
We have always tried to launch new international products with very good quality at competitive rates to our customers in India. The promise and excitement of e-commerce keeps me motivated to look for new products for customers.
Raju would advise new budding sellers to start selling on eBay as it’s a great learning platform when you are trying to get the grip of things. However, he suggests starting your own store in parallel as soon as possible to ensure customer loyalty. Although marketplaces helped him to learn a lot the tough way, he does not want to sell through them again.