Many small businesses are banking on the online ecosystem to augment their sales and grow their business during these pandemic times. Meesho, an online marketplace for non-branded products, recently launched its campaign – Humara Mission, Sabse Kum Commission, to create awareness about the ease of doing business on the platform. Vidit Aatrey, Founder & CEO, Meesho, discusses the campaign and how the platform is enabling small entrepreneurs to continue doing business during these tough times
Q] Tell us about your latest campaign and your mission to enable small businesses to stay afloat during these times.
Our vision is to enable 100 million small businesses to succeed online. The reason we picked them is because most of e-commerce in India so far has been about branded products like smartphones but most small businesses, even in 2021, are primarily offline. One of the reasons is that the folks are not tech savvy so they find it tough to go online. It’s important that we build a product, which makes it easy for the small businesses across the country to come online and become successful. Most small businesses have suffered due to COVID-19 so at this point in time for them to come online and gain growth has become more important than before. This campaign has been done with a focus on these small businesses.
Q] What is your marketing mix? How are you amplifying this campaign to your target audience?
I can’t share specific details of how much we allocate to different mediums, but we want to reach all the people across the country. It will be achieved with a good mix of traditional media like TV and a lot of digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Google. We want to make sure that we are where our potential customers are. We started doing TV now; we are late to the game because we always wanted to grow virally through WhatsApp earlier and it worked out well for us. We believe we have to reach out to people through all possible channels to provide an opportunity to our product and a billion people.
Q] You have announced numerous initiatives for employees, entrepreneurs and sellers amidst the devastating second wave. Tell us a bit about them.
None of us was prepared for a pandemic like this. We responded with this initiative after evaluating the situation on the ground where our team members, colleagues, entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs and small businesses were struggling. One of our cultural values is to put people first. The most important thing is to take care of our folks. We saw a lot of people in India losing their livelihoods. Many of our women entrepreneurs reached out to us and said: “My husband has lost his job, I’m not able to function as much because of the lockdowns.” So we started provided short-term working capital loans. We started to help them with payments and free doctor consultations. We went to small businesses and we asked them their problems. They also had financial problems so we decided to waive off our commission for some time. We worked with banks to help them get access to credit. All of this did not come from some playbook that we had but from understanding what the issues were for everyone on the ground.
Q] You also recently received fresh funding from SoftBank of $300 million. What will be the key focus areas of this investment?
There are three areas where we’re going to invest, the first one is around getting people, in terms of consumers as well as small businesses, to know about us. We are going to spend a good chunk of the investment on marketing to raise awareness about our product. The second thing will concern scaling our categories by building our tech and product teams and investing in people, capital and supply chains. The third focus area will be starting new businesses. We launched Farmiso recently, which is our grocery segment and it is different from what we’ve been doing so far. We are going to invest a lot of money in it because the opportunity is quite large.
Q] Can you elaborate on the response to Farmiso? It’s a hotly contested space, what made you want to enter it?
During the first lockdown, most of our entrepreneurs and small businesses had to shut shop because e-commerce had been banned. We wanted to help users in figuring out how to make an income and essentials were allowed. We started to work on what we can do in grocery and essentials. We started with one experiment, which did well and we kept iterating on it. We realised that it is something that we can build and it is aligned to our mission and vision of getting small businesses to come online. Most small businesses in India are not in fashion or apparel but grocery. It’s promising so far and we are excited about this business. It is still early but it is growing fast so we’re investing in team, product and tech. It has the potential to become as significant as our core business.
Q] With the number of cases reducing now, what will your priority be once things open up?
Offline commerce was struggling, which aided our demand as many people were coming to the app to buy. We saw good business growth. There are a lot of supply chain disruptions because of the lockdown across the country so it’s like a balancing act. The first priority will be people and helping them. We will look to vaccinate our entire team, the process for which is underway. We’re not going to open our offices. We are figuring out how we can continue to work remotely. The next quarter is the most important quarter for any retail company because starting July until October is peak season for retail in India. We are doing a lot of things to ensure recovery of whatever loss some of our businesses incurred in the last two months. There will be a lot of pent up demand because people haven’t been buying as much. We’ve been building products over the last couple of months focused on this season like new tools around supplier intelligence, scaling up supply and supply chains.