Although based out of Chennai, hyperlocal B2C platform Demoport is intended to reach out to customers pan-India. Launched in June 2015, it enables buyers to quickly discover and connect with genuine local sellers of their chosen products. Through a seamless convergence of online-offline platforms, Demoport delivers a highly personalized and reassuring online shopping experience.
Founder & CEO, MV Praveen brings to the table years of sales experience, with different companies and also his own entrepreneurial ventures (including manufacturing and marketing water and air purifiers under Kelvinator brand in India and Sri Lanka).
In this IOS exclusive interview, Praveen tells us the story of their hyperlocal ecommerce journey and the challenges and developments associated with it.
What are the challenges in keeping the hyperlocal promise?
All our sellers are brick and mortar guys and many being little technophobic, they feel overwhelmed by the use of technology (Merchant Dashboard / Code).
Ensuring that the sellers promptly (real-time) respond to buyer enquiries requires monitoring.
Our operations team has to keep a tight watch on the order fulfillment process (handled directly by sellers) to stick to our assurance of hassle-free and super fast deliveries.
What is the backend preparation you need?
A robust online technology platform that by itself can handhold both buyers and sellers, and take the process forward smoothly.
A small team that can closely monitor the process.
We have an automated order management software (developed in-house) that closely monitors the fulfillment process at every stage. In case of deviations from pre-set conditions, auto prompts are sent to the parties concerned in addition to manual intervention from our team.
Hyperlocal was a buzzword last year. How are you leveraging on this concept?
Enabling pre-sales engagements is one. Demoport has already gone ahead with that. We enable two types of engagement based on the products:
1. Products that need a pre-sales discussion between buyers and sellers (B2C products, B2B segments like office, education, hospitality, healthcare, construction)
- Buyers search and discover products. They book an enquiry.
- Enquiry is auto-shared with nearest authorized dealer.
- Dealer contacts buyer through phone or in person, gives a presentation and clarifies buyer queries.
- Buyer places order.
2. Products that may or may not need pre-sales engagement (Popular consumer products like electronics, appliances, mobiles, computers and other similar products)
- Buyers can search for sellers selling their preferred products in their area location/pincode wise.
- They get a list of genuine local stores with respective offer prices.
- Buyer makes choice.
- In case of query, Demoport has incorporated a quick enquiry form that they can make use of.
What are limitations in the hyperlocal space?
Hyperlocal marketplaces, probably, may not be able to offer the range of products that are offered by the conventional online marketplaces.
What are your marketing activities?
For now, our marketing campaigns are confined to select digital media. ie., Social Media, Emails and SMS. However, we also have a network of Independent Associates who promote Demoport offline.
Why did you choose this business model?
The present online shopping model has visible gaps. While the volumes are growing, only a few product categories are bought online in a big way. i.e., mobiles, laptops, tablets, computers, accessories, books, apparels, footwear, lifestyle items. Market observations and Media info reveal that a majority of shoppers are still wary about buying high value products online and prefer going the offline mode.
We are aiming to address these apprehensions by mimicking the offline buying processes and also give the convenience of online shopping. A capital-efficient and scalable model, Demoport enables a seamless convergence of online and offline platforms to deliver a better performance.
How do you handle inventory? Do you have a warehouse? Or is it seller-fulfilled?
We don’t. Demoport is a pure play marketplace model where the sellers handle the order fulfillment directly. However, our Operations Team coordinates and monitors the process.
Assumption: Sellers will be more meticulous about order fulfillment since it involves their reputation in the local market.
How do you handle customer service? Do you have a separate team?
Yes. We have a dedicated Customer Care Team to resolve customer queries / issues.
To cover 200 Tier I and Tier II cities in India by the end of 2016
What challenges do you foresee?
High competition is a challenge. The biggies in the industry have already acquired a larger-than-life image and fighting with them for market share is a real task at hand. But then the market is growing exponentially and there is space for efficient players. Operational efficiency is the next big challenge. As we scale up, we will need to expand our team with the right people and that needs to happen at a frenzy pace.
What are the drawbacks in ecommerce as you see it today?
Not drawbacks really. Every business model has limitations. New models evolve and emerge from these limitations. Conventional Ecommerce (1.0) serves well for many product categories. However, it has its own challenges. ie., Logistics, Delivery Delays, Transit damages, after-sales issues. These challenges are highly pronounced when it comes to bulky and large products. Except for the convenience factor, M-Commerce is just an extension of Ecommerce 1.0.
From here emerged Hyperlocal Ecommerce (2.0) where buyers can discover and shop products online from neighborhood sellers. Hyperlocal Ecommerce went a step ahead by bringing brick and mortar stores into the online ecosystem.
Hyperlocal Online Plus Ecommerce (3.0) virtually delivers the best of both the worlds by mimicking the offline buying process and at the same time gives all the convenience of online shopping.
The Demoport team aims to leverage on their decades-old offline selling experience to bring a paradigm shift in online shopping practices in India.