We are interviewing Mr. Viral Thakker, Founder & Director, eBZaar.com – A Mumbai based startup which is making local shopping easy for the consumer!
Please tell us about the founders:
I (Viral Thakker) have 13 years of corporate experience (prior to starting up), primarily as a corporate banker (Relationship Manager) working at ICICI, HSBC and JPMorgan amongst others and managing a portfolio of the largest of top 10 Indian Conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies. A Chartered Accountant by qualification, I had started career in audit, though business (sales) was always my calling. Audit happened by chance (or brutally put for incorrect guidance and then lack of opportunity) and a Sales role was by choice. My last role was an Executive Director at JPMorgan providing Trade Finance and Working Capital Loan products for North and East India markets.
I also have 20yrs+ of experience as a grocery retailer, in a family business. We grew our business operation from a small time packaged milk retailer to one of the biggest milk wholesaler/retailer in our catchment and add a convenience store to the equation few years down the line. Have first-hand experience as a milk delivery boy to procurement, selling at the cash counter, keeping track of margins, SKUs, what inventory to push and how to build a loyal customer base built on customer service and trust. One part of selecting this segment is this aspiration from growing up years to convert a one store operation in to 100 stores. With backing of experience on seeing how large organized businesses are set up and run, and right network with some bootstrapped capital, gave the confidence of taking the plunge. But there is a larger inspirational story too as to why this segment over Fintech [the natural choice coming from a Banking & Finance Domain].
While I am the founder, my wife, Shivangi Thakker actively supports me whenever she has time off from her work [mostly weekends]. She is a masters in engg., Asst. Prof at a leading college for last 11 years and pursuing Ph.D in Supply Chain. Her support is also instrumental in keeping me going on with this mission. She brings a women angle to the project, and is a constant sounding board and a shoulder to crib upon!, a helping hand in times of emergencies.
What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
eBZaar.com makes local shopping easy and rewarding for the consumer. Local shopping has many inconveniences and despite that customers love their local stores. We empower the local neighbourhood store to have a quick online presence while customer gets to see all of them at one place. In other words, we empower customers to shop from a real world store without the need to visit one.
If all things equal we believe customer would prefer to shop from their known local stores. In a way, eBZaar brings back the parity back between the lesser evolved offline retailers and the much more tech savvy online consumers, realising that the retailer has failed to keep pace in the embracing technology. India has 14 million retail outlets, while our segment accounts for 55%+ of the $600bn Indian retail market – showing the scale of the opportunity at hand. We are determined to make positive impact in life of our users, helping them lead happy life, spending more time with their families.
To the customer, we want to be their preferred destination when it comes to “local online shopping” and to the retailer, we should be their preferred online channel partner helping them “sell more, sell better”.
We are live in Grocery, Indian Sweets, and Fruits, with service across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and pockets of Surat, have processed few hundred orders with sales of close to INR 1mn. We are:
- Incubated at Govt. of India approved incubator (SPTBI: http://sptbi.spit.ac.in/)
- Part of IBM’s Global Entrepreneurship Program
- Microsoft BizSpark program for start ups
- Recognised as a Changemaker as part of Economic Times Powered Catapooolt Changemakers (Season 2.0) – see this link: https://goo.gl/rAKfLT
What is the uniqueness about your Startup?
The uniqueness is that today no one is thinking about the local store on one hand and about efficient utilization of capital on other. In our case, we believe local stores are great at:
- Supply Chain
- Procurement – right quality from right process
- Price – what is price point in every area
- Assortment – what sells in his area
Where as our lean business model philosophy ensures that we do not reinvent above aspects and leverage their strength. We complement it with our strengths in
- Technology, where they lack
- Marketing to online customer, which they are losing out on
We believe our platform creates a win-win for all
- Customers: get Best of both worlds – local store but convenience of online shopping.
- Stores – sell more & sell better with help of technology.
- eBZaar develops a lean & scalable business model, least cost with maximum value creation to all stakeholders.
Why do you choose crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is our way of reaching out to the crowd, to garner crowd support for our mission and cause. To get confidence backing us up. To get visibility. To have another iconic opportunity to explain our mission and cause to thousands of people.
Additionally, being associated with marquee names like Catapooolt and The Economic Times brings credibility to eBZaar, specially when we speak to multiple stakeholders – for e.g. prospective hires, propsective business alliance partners, vendors, sellers on platforms, brand owners and also investors.
This is what made us choose crowdfunding.
Why should anyone or investor back you?
We have a great team led by the founder with relevant experience, network and skin in game in terms of significant cash committed from own pocked, for the project, not to mention opportunity cost of leaving out a cushy job as an Executive Direct of the world’s largest bank – J.P.Morgan We have tech lead designate and CMO designate identified, a great set of mentors.
Importantly, we have early stage traction; and even more importantly, we are booking and collecting revenue today. Some other important updates that shows the progress we have made:
• Served hundreds of customers with a good repeat rate.
• 13000+ products listed on website
• 10 sellers live, 3 in implementation, 3 work in progress
• Services across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and pockets of Surat
• Part of IBM Global Entrepreneurship Program
• Incubated at Sardar Patel Tech Buss. Incubator (by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s)
Where can people back your project?
From the URL: http://bit.ly/Support_eBZaar
What would you do after raising funds?
The first thing, thank all contributors. The next thing – dispatch their rewards to them!
Like we explained, for us it is more about creating visibility and deriving confidence from the crowdsupport. If after dispatching goodie bags and rewards we are left with cash flow, we will utilize that in explaining our products to our customers and in improving our technology.
What is the revenue model? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
The base platform is free for everyone – customers and sellers both.
We earn revenue when we generate a sale for our store partners; it is directly linked to quantum of sales.
In future as we bring the efficiency of data to help our store partners improve what they sell through value added services [price points, assortment, influencing customer choices etc] we would think of charging fee for that. However, that is the next phase and will be important for us to build scale before this fee based model kicks in.
Who are the consumers that you are targeting? How is this going to affect them?
We are targeting women customers with:
- Current or prior corporate job or work from home.
- Educated and fairly computer literate.
- Values convenience.
- Like to spend time on one self [sports / fashion / entertainment / trek or travel] or
- Likes to spend time with family and kids.
- Would rather not spend time on routine chores like local shopping.
What is the big picture of your startup? Will it lead to something bigger? If so, how?
While we work with curated and hand picked stores only, we have a roadmap for broadbasing the platform by opening it up for mom & pop stores as also for modern format retail stores [Big Bazaar, Dmart, Reliance Fresh etc]. We are very clear about the brand promise & value proposition we will bring to consumers at each stage of our evolution.
Also, at backend, we intend to provide deeper technology services and enablement for our store partners. It will be interesting to see what forms does it take, we are not too much worried about this right now – no point in thinking so much ahead.
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
To get first few external customers, and to move from that to processing few hundred orders and seeing repeat customers, who vouch for the positive difference we are making to their life – this is the biggest success story. Our best customers repeatedly come to us and help spread the word for us.
Despite all the challenges, these faith of repeat customers is what keeps us going.
The second success story is to see customer delight where after understanding our concept, they themselves are contributing by suggesting stores they would want to see on our platform!.
Any other information about your startup that you would like to share with us.
Some other videos and posts that can be interesting or useful:
- Story (video) in words of founder: http://bit.ly/eBZaar_Video
- Salty facts – http://bit.ly/Salty_Facts
- Wheaty facts: bit.ly/Wheatty_Facts1
- Juicy Facts: bit.ly/Wheatty_Facts1
- Salty (Historic) facts: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6273194354534379520/
Some useful links:
- eStart Up Story: http://www.estartupstory.com/ebzaar-mumbai-based-hyper-local-shopping-startup/
- Tech Start up: http://mumbai.techstartup.in/ibm_case_studies_gep/ebzaar/
- Your Story Marathi: https://marathi.yourstory.com/read/ed09d4657e/click-on-a-grocery-
- Your Story Marathi to English translation: https://www.slideshare.net/ViralThakker/ebzaarcom-yourstoryunofficial-english-translaction
- Nearfox: https://nearfox.com/mumbai/mithibai-alumni-startups/
- Start Guru: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WIHA-Xvbmo
Thanks Mr. Viral. Best of luck!