10 sharply focussed ecommerce players in India

Looking into the future: India's online successes

Ashish Hemrajani, founder-CEO, BookMyShow
Image: Courtesy BookMyShow
Ashish Hemrajani, founder-CEO, BookMyShow

BookMyShow
Funds raised:
Rs 300 crore
What does it do:
BookMyShow is India’s biggest online movies and events ticketing company and occupies 85 to 90 percent of the online entertainment-ticketing market; 70 percent of its sales comes from movie tickets and the remaining from sports, plays and live events. At present, sports accounts for almost 20 percent of its revenues and is seen as a future growth area. BookMyShow reaches about 800 to 900 cinemas in 200 cities and towns. About 60 percent of its transactions take place via its mobile app which, say experts, is the most successful mobile ecommerce app in the country.

Its USP:
“Discovery of entertainment events-based information, curation and smooth fulfilment makes BookMyShow different from others [like Kyazoonga, Ticketgenie]. Its focus on customer experience, ability to offer a consistently good booking experience, and its knowledge of changing consumption patterns hold the key to its dominance,” says Prashanth Prakash, partner, Accel Partners, an investor in the company.

How niche BookMyShow’s focus has always been ticket bookings, but it now intends to go deeper into content around movies and events. It has started offering reviews and consumers are lapping it up. It will soon integrate social interactions on events in its services. “We have expanded to tier II and tier III cities too and want to go even more local. Payments continue to be a problem and we would like to focus on that. It is the next thing to solve,” says Ashish Hemrajani, founder-CEO, BookMyShow.

Why it will survive:
One of the key realisations for BookMyShow is the role that content can play. It is therefore working at beefing up its content offerings. “The recent acquisition of Bangalore-based social media analytics firm Eventifier is a step in that direction. BookMyShow is well-poised to becoming a billion-dollar company. I don’t see too many roadblocks,” says Prakash.

mg_80245_vijay_sharma_280x210.jpg
Image: Amit Verma
Vijay Shekhar Sharma , owner, Paytm


Paytm

Funds raised $575 million (committed)
What does it do: Paytm is a unique web-cum-mobile platform. It has taken a big leap towards mobile commerce, trying to cash in on the wide mobile handset penetration, and is today India’s largest mobile commerce company. It started by offering mobile recharge and utility bill payments, and now offers a full marketplace to consumers on its mobile apps. It has over 20 million registered users and has in a short span of time scaled to more than 15 million orders per month.

Its USP: It is a mobile marketplace in the making—one that can compete with ecommerce sites such as Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal. It has got commitments from deep-pocketed investors, including Alibaba (China’s ecommerce giant) and SAIF Partners, among others. The funds will be used to expand Paytm services with a view to dominating the online payment business that is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years in India.

How niche Paytm is already a leading firm in the electronic payment space. The long-term goal of Paytm is to be a financial services company for India’s unbanked population (41 percent of the total). The company intends to be the first gateway for paying bills and transferring money.

Why it will survive: A unique, well-accepted model and deep pockets will certainly help Paytm grow into a larger firm. “Payments are natural monopoly... The world has three large credit card companies; there would not be more than two large firms out of India in this space,” says Mukul Gulati, India head, Zephyr Peacock, an India-focussed private equity firm.

Ashish Shah, co-founder and COO, Pepperfry
Image: Joshua Navalkar
Ashish Shah, co-founder and COO, Pepperfry


Pepperfry
Funds raised:
Rs 164 crore
What does it do: Pepperfry is India’s largest online furniture, home and living marketplace with over a million customers. It offers more than 45,000 products across categories like furniture, home décor, lamps and lighting, bath and body, kitchen, home appliances, housekeeping and pet supplies. Started in 2012, its managed marketplace model allows small and medium businesses to sell their merchandise to millions beyond their geographical reach. It has over 250,000 registered customers and has grown 350 percent year-on-year.

Its USP: Reach and range. It delivers to customers’ doorsteps in 150 cities. It plans to have 380 trucks by year-end, becoming one of the largest logistics companies. Its overall catalogue size is 80,000 listings (of which 10 percent are furniture), which is eight times the size of the next player, claims Ashish Shah, COO and co-founder of Pepperfry.

How niche It will remain loyal to its niche of furniture and furnishings, though it plans to go deeper into these segments by increasing product categories. About 55 percent of its business comes from repeat customers.

Why it will survive: Pepperfry’s current USP is reach, says Srikanth Iyer, founder and chief executive, Homelane. “They are in more locations than any competitor. They are far quicker than others in terms of delivery to remote locations. Pepperfry also stands out because it is the only one that is trying a mix of marketing: Not only online but also brick-and-mortar in airports etc. They are trying to build a brand which has the touch-and-feel element.”

Lenskart
Funds raised
: Rs 200 crore
What does it do: India’s largest online optical store, Lenskart, makes, prescribes, delivers and services eyewear to over 1,000 customers per day. Nearly half of its customers live in tier III and IV towns, such as Coimbatore, Puri, Mangalore and Agartala. Though Lenskart sells high-end products like Ray-Ban, most of its revenues come from mass-focussed in-house brands like Vincent Chase and John Jacobs. It has also rolled out 60 physical stores, mostly in tier III towns, to conduct free eye check-ups. Lenskart does about 500 home check-ups every day.

Its USP: Over a third of Indians need corrective eyewear, and only a quarter of them have access to it. That’s the problem Lenskart is seeking to solve. Also, it has a first-mover advantage and is being backed by deep-pocketed investors. Physical stores will also add to its customer base and visibility.

How niche Lenskart has decided to focus on eyesight solutions in India. “It will not start selling shoes,” says founder Peyush Bansal. It already sells contact lenses, and ships products to countries like Australia, the UK and the US.

Why it will survive: Lenskart is trying to bring variety, says Pragya Singh, associate vice president, retail, consumer products and e-tailing at Technopak. “They have identified a space dominated by large regional chains with few national players. It’s about value and convenience. Eyewear needs a high service element. It’s a working model. What drives traction is multiple pairs—it becomes a fashion accessory. It’s easy to sell sunglasses but prescription eyewear has many other elements. They have a first-mover advantage too,” she says.

CarTrade
Funds raised:
$44 million, one more undisclosed round
What does it do: CarTrade is India’s leading auto classifieds platform with a focus on used cars. It offers vehicle listings, price information and car certification. For those interested in buying new cars, there are reviews, on-road prices, comparisons with other models and latest news from the industry. It also operates a B2B auction portal called CarTradeExchange, which is used by banks and other institutions to sell cars in bulk. “We have about 1.45 lakh listings on the site, four times that of any competition,” says promoter-CEO Vinay Sanghi.

Its USP: It is the first company to offer consumer certification and repair estimates. There are 110 engineers in CarTrade who are responsible for a 125-point check about the car. They also produce the certification report. “We were the first ones to enable inter-city buying of cars. We got down to collating and bringing dealers from across the country on the platform,” says Sanghi.

How niche CarTrade will remain focussed on cars. Its main objective is to help consumers buy and sell cars using the internet. Its B2B exchange became the largest car auctioning site in the country.

Why it will survive: The automobile classifieds segment is being identified as the next billion-dollar opportunity, says Alok Mittal, ex-MD at Canaan Partners, who led the investments in CarTrade. “If you take any geography in the world which has more internet users than India, for instance the UK, the US and China, there are multimillion dollar companies in the used car space,” he says.

Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder, Ola
Image: Joshua Navalkar
Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder, Ola

Ola
Funds raised:
Over Rs 1,300 crore
What does it do: Olacabs.com is a marketplace for all kinds of cabs and cars which can be booked on its online platform as well as through mobile apps. The Bangalore-based company has a fleet of over 1 lakh vehicles (an aggregated model as opposed to ownership) operating across 67 cities. Ola says that it is India’s largest aggregator of cabs, taxis and autos.

Its USP: It commands a market share of over 60 percent in the fleet cab-services industry in India. “Along with the mobile app, the cashless payment options [through Ola Money] and mobile technology for driver-partners, we have also localised offerings through a 24x7 call centre, cash payments and dedicated driver support systems,” says Bhavish Aggarwal, founder, Ola.

How niche At present, Ola plans to operate in the transportation space and expand its services across multiple categories (mini, sedan, prime and pink for women) within the cabs. “Our vision is to revolutionise personal transportation in India by making transportation available as a service on-demand without having the need to own a car,” says Aggarwal. Its current network has about 35,000 auto rickshaws as well.

Why it will survive: The main differentiator for Ola is the quality of the entrepreneur, reckons Avnish Bajaj, managing director, Matrix Partners India. Matrix is a series B investor in Ola. “Bhavish’s desire to win is par excellence and it shows in the aggression in execution. He is also the rare breed who has learnt quickly on the job and added strategic clarity to complement the executional excellence, which is a potent combination,” says Bajaj.

Housing
Funds raised
: $121 million
What does it do: Housing.com is a real estate portal which allows users to search for apartments for rent or for sale through virtual tours of each room, using photographs and authenticated details. Late last year, Tata Value Homes tied up with it to sell apartments online, putting up an inventory of 150 homes across four projects in Pune, Bangalore and Chennai on the site. Housing.com sold 115 homes worth Rs 60 crore in five days, and has now tied up with Tata Housing to sell properties in eight projects.

Its USP: Giving clients a near-perfect sense of properties and delivering realistic leads to brokers. Its proprietary 3D rendering platform, Slice View, helps customers check the building plans and floor plan for each home through a 3D model of the structure. It also uses data analytics to weed out listings that may have expired.  

How niche Housing.com will always be in the real estate space, but within that, it is mulling over a precise business model for ecommerce, allowing end-to-end buying and selling of properties. Right now, it is into rentals, resale, land and new projects. It is about to launch serviced apartments, which would give it presence across all housing categories.

Why it will survive: “If you’re only depending on the integrity of online listings, platforms are open to misuse. You need to have verification and validation and that’s what Housing.com has done well. Realistic photographs are a huge plus,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a consulting firm.

Caratlane
Funds raised:
$50 million
What does it do CaratLane is an online jewellery retailer with a network of over 4,000 global vendors. It offers the largest collection of diamonds and diamond jewellery in the country. It has over 100,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) for solitaires. CaratLane sells only diamonds certified by international laboratories like GIA, AGS, IGI and HRD. Every gold product of CaratLane is hallmarked. While CaratLane offers products in over 150 cities and towns in the country, it also offers home trials for up to five jewellery items across more than 20 cities.

Its USP: CaratLane, with its largest collection of diamonds, solitaires, unique and updated designs, has already established a name for itself among customers. Free trials called ‘try at home’ and no questions asked returns, along with authenticity guarantee certificates have further added to the comfort of customers.

How niche It will always be jewellery for CaratLane, which was originally into solitaires and later expanded into diamond jewellery and everyday wear. Now, it has launched evening wear. “It’s a function of us designing and moving up the ladder,” says Mithun Sacheti, founder.

Why it will survive: People might still buy traditional jewellery in-store but for gifting, everyday wear, online could occupy a nice niche, says Pragya Singh of Technopak. “CaratLane has bridged the gap between online/offline through ‘try-at-home’. The first few times you have to give customers this feeling you’re choosing the right product. They have also successfully established a niche,” she says.

Meena and K Ganesh, promoters, BigBasket
Image: BMAXIMAGE
Meena and K Ganesh, promoters, BigBasket

BigBasket
Funds Raised
: $60 million
What does it do: BigBasket.com is the first comprehensive online grocery store operating in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. It has over 10,000 distinct SKUs and more than 1,000 brands in its list. No other e-grocery has managed to raise money in a business where margins are wafer-thin. Fruits and vegetables are procured only on order, which reduces loss of stock by 3 to 4 percent.

Its USP: It has the first-mover advantage as well as a pan-India presence. BigBasket has access to large capital, its founders have domain expertise in grocery management, and its emphasis on the use of technology and analytics distinguishes it from others. It also has the ability to supply and source products directly from farms and mills. Therefore, its perishable products have no warehousing, no storage and no preservatives.

How niche It will remain loyal to grocery etailing, but within that, it will add as many products as possible to cater to all household needs.

Why it will survive: Grocery shopping is a big pain in India, with heavy traffic, lack of parking space, long queues at payment counters and difficulty in carrying the products home, says K Ganesh, promoter, BigBasket. “We have grocery and tech domain expertise and the ability to scale and have a presence at multiple locations at low margins.”

PolicyBazaar
Funds raised
: $37 million
What does it do: Policybazaar, co-founded by Yashish Dahiya helps consumers compare products like term insurance, health insurance, motor insurance and investment plans. It provides a neutral comparison from all major insurance companies. Its online systems and integration help consumers analyse products and provide them a hassle-free gateway to buy online.

Its USP Unlike its competitors who tend to highlight the selling propositions of a plan, but hide its fine print, Policybazaar first understands the needs of the consumer and then suggests options to choose from. It is the single largest insurance distributor (online or offline) in India outside of banks, with over 30 million unique visitors each year.

How niche In early 2014, it launched a new platform called Paisabazaar.com to offer financial advisory services. Under this, it provides comparisons of non-insurance products, including different types of loans and credit cards. It will be further expanding its product offering by introducing financial instruments such as mutual funds and corporate deposits this year.

Why it will survive:
The insurance sector is expected to get a major boost from the Reserve Bank of India as the central bank is looking at ways of financial inclusion, says Harminder Sahni, founder and managing director, Wazir Advisors, a consulting firm. “Insurance retail has a lifetime value; the customers are acquired for a lifetime. It has far more stickiness than brands,” Sahni says.  


HOW THEY WERE CHOSEN

Forbes India spoke to a cross-section of experts in the ecommerce space, including investment bankers, private equity investors, venture capital firms and angel investors, besides analysts from various industry verticals to arrive at this list. The companies were selected on the basis of having a well-accepted product or service, funds already raised and the potential for future growth. 

(This story appears in the 20 March, 2015 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Geomaria

    But by numbers paytm is bigger than bookmyshow. BMS has 300 cr while paytm has $575 Million. INR 378 Crore.

    on Oct 30, 2015
  • Jaswant Gogar

    like this article

    on Jul 19, 2015
  • Sandeep

    housing.com is one brash company. Giving multi crore ads rather than on product development will only burn cash at rapid rate. You should know what are you doing. Promoter is known for dog fighting.

    on Mar 20, 2015
  • Sreekanth Yelicherla

    Bigbasket.com I doubt its profitability owing to the fact that Reliance is entering into e-commerce too. In a vertical like groceries where there can be only itsy-bitsy profits, it is hard to compete with online-offline integration which can be managed easily by giants like Reliance or MORE! Remember, online e-com grocery is not like Flipkart or Snapdeal as the focus is only on cities and areas where they can deliver easily. I myself a happy BigBasket customer, but surely move to Reliance once they start delivering to my area. BookMyShow: They seriously need to re-consider the convenience fee they charge, as a customer I don\'t know what convenience they are offering as I still need to stand in the queue to get printed tickets even after booking online (kiosks are not being managed well by Multiplexes and this is beyond BookMyShow). And there is no need to use BookMyShow for weekdays. It is mainly helpful during weekends. BTW, why is Flipkart, Amazon etc not mentioned?

    on Mar 19, 2015
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