[Seller Interview] How a 24 Year Old Built a Solid Online Selling Business

‘Jugaad’ is an Indian term worthy of a mention in the Oxford dictionary. The literal translation of jugaad would be resourcefulness against all odds. But, it’s much more than that. It’s a fundamental life skill required to negotiate the sinuous walks of Indian life (especially Government offices). 24-year-old Huzefa Siamwala put it to good use to build his company PureNexus without taking a single paisa from his father, friends or the banks. Indian Online Seller (IOS) caught up with this avid mountaineer recently to find out how he scaled the e-commerce summit with derring-do and good old-fashioned jugaad.

IOS: Huzefa, let’s start at the beginning…
Huzefa: It was July 2012 and I was back from a climb in the Himalayas. Google had announced the Nexus 7 tablet and I searched for it on the Internet. I found out that no one was selling it in India yet. So I thought, why not sell it in India? I had done some research previously on how I could import fabrics for outdoor gear in bulk from the USA in the most cost effective way. I needed it for some new adventure gear designs I had in mind. This came in handy and I was confident that I would be able to import the tablets. So, I listed the Nexus 7 tablet on ebay. I got an amazing response. I got more than 20 orders in one week.

Nexus 7 launch

Google Nexus 7 Tablet Launched [Image courtesy: telegraph.co.uk]

IOS: Since the Nexus 7 was not available with the retailers or anywhere else in India, did you realize at that time that the importing process would take close to 20 days and would mean a big financial risk considering the fact that the Nexus 7 is an expensive product? 

Huzefa: Yes, I knew it was a risk and quickly realized it was a big mistake to list so many pieces. I was tempted because the margin was very good. I went to my Dad to borrow some money but he was not interested and I was not able to arrange the capital needed to import them. I had to cancel all the orders.

IOS: Time for some jugaad?
Huzefa: Yeah! I said to myself, these guys seem to like the product so why not ask for some advances offline in lieu of a discount. I tried my best to explain my situation to the customers. Most of them refused but incredibly two of them agreed. I guess they really loved the Nexus 7.  They paid me an advance and I fulfilled their order within two weeks.        

IOS: That’s incredible! You used their money to fulfill their orders. What happened next?
Huzefa: The news spread through word of mouth and I got more orders similarly. I set up a Facebook page for my company – PureNexus. I set up a Facebook cart (ecwid) and linked it to my Paypal account. I got a lot of enquiries on my FB page through the ebay listing and sold many tablets through my FB store.     

IOS: From then on, like they say, you never looked back?
Huzefa: No, far from it because ebay closed my account. I started a new account which was also linked but ebay closed that one too. So I decided to focus on selling through my FB page. I also set up a website using WordPress and WooCommerce.
IOS: What was your motivation to start PureNexus?
Huzefa: Honestly, I just wanted to make some money to fund my next expedition to the Himalayas. Which I did. J. I was still in college, studying mathematics and didn’t have a job or any work experience to do so.
IOS: So now with a mathematics degree are you better with numbers and finance?
Huzefa: Well, I wouldn’t know because I dropped out and didn’t complete my graduation. My heart lies in the mountains and when I got a chance to go for an expedition to Mt. Kamet, the third highest mountain in India, I went for it.  From February – June 2013, I was skiing, training and went on the expedition. All self-funded. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy math. But I love the outdoors.

Huzefa in the mountains

Huzefa in the mountains

IOS: What about PureNexus?
Huzefa: Before going on the expedition, I set up a new ebay account in my brother’s name and avoided previous mistakes. It was slow and steady but the response was great. Once I left for the mountains, my brother took over customer service and handling of orders. I was back in July 2013 and Google had already launched the new Nexus 7 model. This time, I managed to raise some capital from a friend and things got rolling quickly. I must admit, I have made a cool profit in the past two months.         

The IOS Point of View:
Huzefa’s success is truly an astonishing tale of enterprise and street-smartness. Being from a humble background, Huzefa experimented with e-commerce only to fund his love for the mountains. Unknowingly, his marketing strategy hit the bull’s eye.

  1. He cashed in on the global hype in the media around the launch of hi-tech products. Specially Apple and Google phones. While the phone launches are covered at length across all media in India, they are not available right away. So, early on, there’s demand but no supply. PureNexus capitalized on it.
  2. He used social media smartly to promote his company

IOS interacts with a lot of online sellers and often, we see that individual sellers are novices and experimenters who learn quickly from their mistakes and become successful. While the global e-commerce biggies make a beeline for a share of the Indian wallet, IOS believes that the enterprising individual seller too will play a significant role in shaping the Indian online space. Huzefa’s story is a sneak peek into the immense potential and possibilities of e-commerce in our country.

By the way, Huzefa has sold more than 500 hundred phones single-handedly in the last year and a half. He came. He sold. He conquered.

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