eCommerce Blog

eCommerce Blog – Opportunities in US and India (by Darpan Munjal)

Entrepreneurship in difficult times

Posted by Darpan Munjal On November - 24 - 2008
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It is about 6 weeks before Christmas. One can feel the holiday spirit in the air. However, something is missing. Even though one can see people shopping in the malls, there is a general gloominess in the air due to the worsening economy. The coming months look certain to bring more turmoil. Even if events do not turn out to be quite as bad as those of recent weeks, it is still highly likely that we will – in the words of US treasury secretary, Paulson – live in “extraordinary times” for quite some time.

Obviously this is not good news for online retailers. Although the US online retail has been hit much harder, there is clear evidence that eCommerce in India is slowing down as well. The question has now shifted from “will the internet economy be affected?” to “how bad will the internet economy be affected?

There is no question this downturn will be deadly for a considerable number of internet startups. However, some of the victims will not be killed by the recession itself; many would have inevitably failed because they didn’t have a sound, fundamental business case to begin with. A recession that makes it harder to generate revenue and to raise additional capital will simply speed up the dying process.

However, I am an optimist. I think there are plenty of reasons to believe that Read the rest of this entry »

New Venture Series – Social Shopping

Posted by Darpan Munjal On February - 13 - 2008
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It is human tendency to resist change. The most natural instinct is to continue doing things the old way. And when changes are implemented, we try to fit them back into the mold because of our comfort level with how things used to work in the past. That is kind of how online shopping has evolved. Even in the western world, not many physical retailers believed in online channel during its infancy – they looked at it more as a distraction. However, when they started understanding the potential of online shopping, more and more retailers began to build an online presence. However, they did everything in their power to ensure that the online shopping works as close to the physical channel as possible – whether it was pricing decisions or merchandising decisions or logistics – everything was designed to work similar to how it works in the physical store. Most of the online retailers overlooked the power that internet offers around connecting individuals so that they can help each other in making better purchase decisions. Since then several new age online retailers have come up and have started capitalizing on the true potential of internet, and the role it can play in changing how people make their purchase decisions. These new players have started questioning the well accepted norms such as “category managers are the ones responsible for selecting the product assortment and making the pricing decisions” – Why should an internal category manager’s intelligence be better than the collective intelligence of hundreds of thousands of online users – who use these products day in and day out?

This question is the premise of my topic today – a topic that is near and dear to my heart and the one that happens to be first in my series of new venture ideas – Community based shopping. Before we go further, let me just clarify what I mean by community based shopping. At the most basic level, this describes an environment where online communities or users play a key role in helping other people make their purchase decision. As you read this post, I am sure one thought would certainly go through your mind – is India ready for this? At a time when internet hasn’t reached the home of a common man, when users aren’t even able to do their own online shopping, how can we expect them to help others shop online? This is a good thought and at a high level, it makes a lot of sense. However, we really need to dig a bit deeper to understand the real opportunities.

 

For a few minutes, let’s keep the issue of internet adoption in India aside (I promise, I will come back to it later). Let’s just evaluate, at the most basic level, whether the concept of social shopping makes sense. If we look at most online players today, the notion of human touch is missing from the online shopping experience. For all its power, Google can’t tell shoppers what’s cool or what their friends or like-minded consumers recommend. Same is the case with majority of the shopping sites. A search for men’s shoes on a typical shopping site Read the rest of this entry »

Business Ideas for the digital India

Posted by Darpan Munjal On February - 5 - 2008
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As the internet penetration reaches the average household in India, the digital eco system would need to evolve, opening up several gaps in the value chain. If you are an entrepreneur or dream of becoming one in the near future, there are significant opportunities related to internet/eCommerce that might give you a first or early mover advantage for the Indian market. Until now, my blog has focused on discussing trends, opportunities and best practices at a macro level. Now, however, I think it is time to make things a bit more interesting, and start focusing on specific concepts or business ideas that can be monetized in the Indian context. Over the next several weeks, I will be posting a series of blog articles which will showcase different business ideas in various categories related to internet/ online commerce in India.

Needless to say that these are just ideas and an idea alone cannot make a venture successful. End of the day, it is about execution and the team. If you have a strong team, with solid execution, the chances of your success are significantly higher even if you don’t have a killer/unique idea. Read the rest of this entry »

5 things to consider when starting an eCommerce venture

Posted by Darpan Munjal On September - 18 - 2007
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The other day, I met someone at a conference who mentioned to me that he was planning on starting an online retail venture in India. He said he has already begun the software development for the platform and one of his friends is a great SEO person so marketing should not be an issue. Is there anything else critical that he should plan for, he asked? Although his level of planning (or lack thereof) didn’t give me a lot of confidence in his venture, it did give me few ideas for topics that I should write about in my Blog.

 

Although technology plays a critical role in building an eCommerce operation, just focusing on a technology platform without careful planning of other factors is a recipe for failure. I have heard a lot of people say that successful eCommerce companies require a strong technology orientation and should therefore, be led by a technology team. Although a technology leadership can certainly help, having a strong technology foundation doesn’t obviate the need for traditional factors that make a retail business successful. Customers don’t buy products in an online store just because they love the technology. At the end of the day, it comes down to having the right mix of products, at the right price, coupled with a strong execution and end to end experience that is difficult for other competitors to copy. No doubt that technology can and should play a key role in all above factors. However, one must remember that technology is like a foundation of a house, it is a necessary component, and if poorly designed, it can destroy the house. However, Read the rest of this entry »

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