When cousins, Dhruv Goyal and Kaushal Goyal, were on a trip to Jaipur after finishing their engineering studies (Computer science and Electronics respectively), they were bowled over by India’s diversity in art, handicrafts and culture. Converting this amazement into an entrepreneurial venture was but natural in the form of online home décor brand, ExclusiveLane.
28-year-old Dhruv feels online selling is the easiest business to be in right now and wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else. In an exclusive to IOS, he has more interesting thoughts to share about their ecommerce journey.
Starting the online journey in 2012
Craftsvilla was the obvious choice as a starting point. We started handmade terracotta products with warli madhubani and dhokra art on them. We had multiple items like lamps, wall décor, clocks, vases, tableware and so on. We used to handpick them from UP and Rajasthan.
Our first order was from down south and we had to use India Post for delivery then. It wasn’t actually a pleasant experience, as we had to get the product wrapped and stitched in jute before they would accept it. Just this took us around 2-3 hours!
We have tied up with India Post this week due to their reach in the remote and the rural areas of India. They have the biggest network in terms of pin codes they service. Hopefully, it should be an easier ride with them now.
Apart from maintaining the uniqueness and exclusivity in product selection, we had challenges in procuring the right inventory and setting up the inventory process and warehouse management. Also with limited capital, we had to have a planned approach to scale up.
Until we set the processes in place, selling on multiple platforms was not easy as keeping track and maintaining stock was a herculean task. So was coordinating with buyers across these platforms.
Our accounts have been suspended a couple of times, sometimes due to unethical practices by competitors, and sometimes due to frequent changes in the policies of platforms. But we ensured we maintained a good rapport with these teams all the times, so we were able to bounce back quickly if ever there was a problem.
But we knew the key was to be present on as many platforms as possible so we tried to sell through all the options we came across. At one point, we were running out of platforms to close on. But now we have stopped doing that.
The big WOW moment
We did flash sales with Heaven and Home. The sales figures and customer experiences (testimonials) gave us a boost like never before and we felt more motivated towards the business. The hearty feedback from customers made us realize we were doing the right things, being at the right place at the right time and we wanted nothing else but to scale up to the next level.
Revenues and orders
We do around 8,000-11,000 shipments every month. We are working towards 30,000 shipments per month. Sorry, we will not be able to disclose the revenue figures.
We recruited our first employee, ie. Packaging boy, after 3-4 months of starting the company.
Since we work with handicrafts, as unique as possible, we are talking about dealing with small-scale artisans who are not aware of the do’s and don’t’s of ecommerce. We knew about the challenges involved like packaging, logistics, in-transit damage etc. Since the start, we worked on the model of storing products in our warehouse after procuring from the artisans. Now we are trying to expand by getting some designers and artisans on board to make some products in-house.
And the best ecommerce portal in India now is ..
.. definitely Amazon from a customer’s point of view. Jeff Bezos has inculcated such effective customer service policies that it is almost impossible for a customer to be disappointed.
Even for a seller, Amazon works best. Their business reports, policies, payments and seller support are just rocking.
Starting online store, balancing sales
We started our own online store in 2013. Although profitable, it’s not without its share of challenges:
- Acquiring customers & driving traffic to the site
- Engaging existing customers
- Building a dedicated marketing team
- Handling technology & IT with limited capital
We promote our store mainly through newsletters, apart from promotions that we run via different channels. To increase visibility, we use social media channels like facebook, instagram, twitter, google etc.
Maintaining our own online store and selling through multiple online marketplaces is tough. Some of them are quite profitable while we are present on some only for the visibility factor. Operating through own site is any day easier since we have built enough traffic now. Also, benefit of doubt is always biased towards customer by a marketplace, which incurs losses for us sellers most times.
So will you eventually stop selling through online marketplaces?
No, we intend to always follow a hybrid sales model.
We will continue to sell on various platforms while operating our store as well.
Turning points in business
Ecommerce currently runs on investment and funds pumped in by investors, of courses due to great ideas being pitched to them. We are in talks with a few VCs but they are still to mature in terms of understanding from both ends. It would definitely be a big turning point.
I feel we made the right call about the following:
- In-house design team to design and work closely with artisans, so the products turn out to be within our quality standards
- Initial core team, from which each and every member is still with the company
- Tying up with the tech company that has built and has been managing our website from day one
Nothing explains this better than the below quote:
“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – STEVE JOBS
Advice to budding sellers
Keep track of your costs like packaging charges, logistics charges, inventory holding cost, commissions and penalties charged by marketplaces. Many feel they are earning proficts but when they actually take stock of their monthly P&L, they realise they are making losses.
“Just go out and start selling,” Dhruv signs off.