Meesho’s Vidit Aatrey takes entrepreneurial dream deep in Bharat

  • Meesho is the new kid on the block who has emerged as a challenger for Amazon and Flipkart with 120 mn of users
  • Aims to bring 100 million small sellers across India online
  • The newly created unicorn plans to go public in less than two years after becoming profitable.

Shaan Ansari is a 19-year-old entrepreneur who lives in the historic town of Panipat, 100km north of Delhi, and he may never qualify for a list celebrating entrepreneurs under the age of 20, but his story does is no less inspiring than the character of Ranveer Singh in
Ravine Boy. The pandemic put his father out of work and Ansari in school in 2020.

When the crisis hit, Ansari went looking for online opportunities that wouldn’t require any investment and found it in Meesho, a social commerce platform designed to help individual entrepreneurs and small businesses sell. their wares to a wider audience.

Ansari sourced locally made bath mats and doormats and started selling them on Meesho. When its suppliers could not meet demand, Ansari borrowed money to start its own factory. Today, he manufactures these mats from a rented factory, employs 50 people and generates income of ₹30 lakh per month.

It’s transformational stories like Ansari’s that drive Meesho co-founder and CEO Vidit Aatrey and his team forward.

Recalling his trip to Panipat, Aatrey says, “The neighborhood Ansari lives in is really humble and his house actually doubles as a warehouse. When I visited him, his staff and family offered dried fruit with chai. Ansari kept telling us how his family’s fortunes changed after discovering Meesho. As a team, we travel quarterly to hear from sellers like Ansari on our platform and are now trying to solve some of their other financial needs so they don’t have to go to lenders for their financing needs. working capital.

100 million sellers to reach a billion buyers
Aatrey’s dream is to bring one million local businesses online to expand their markets by selling goods across India wherever they are. Over the past two years, this new kid on the block has become a challenger to the Big Boys of e-commerce.

Meesho – which is short code for “my store” – grew in size post-pandemic with 120 million monthly active users (MAUs) in a short time. Flipkart and Amazon each have 200 million registered users. Meesho’s goal is to have 100 million sellers on its platform and to sell to one billion buyers.

Meesho was born on the principle that for e-commerce to truly deliver value, local retailers needed to connect. Unorganized retail accounts for 90% of India’s spending. But when Aatrey and his co-founder Sanjeev Bamwal discovered that sellers weren’t coming online because buyers weren’t doing all their shopping online. The pandemic allowed Meesho to bring many more local businesses online because it was about their survival.

Challenge Amazon and Flipkart
At first, Meesho’s sales were driven by 15 million female marketers, who bought products on the platform and sold them through WhatsApp and Facebook groups. From a reseller-driven social commerce platform, it now accounts for nearly 30% of total daily online deliveries.

Of the 9 million e-commerce orders processed daily, Meesho accounts for 2.7 million, while the two biggies account for 5 million. Clearly, Meesho is the challenger no one expected to catch up with Amazon and Flipkart.

Another interesting statistic states that of the 70 million online shoppers, only 10 million are digital natives. It is therefore evident that Indian small businesses can provide the network effect to any e-commerce platform that chooses to target this segment.

Meesho waded into this space in 2015, but struggled to convince small entrepreneurs to go online because their customers weren’t online either. Language barriers and poor internet speeds were just a few of the reasons sellers weren’t online.

Even when they put sellers online, their buyers were still not online, nor was Meesho’s app on too many smartphones. That changed after the pandemic, but before that, it was Meesho’s army of 15 million female dealers who drove its gross merchandise value up into 2020.

Meesho is called a social commerce channel because it was built by female resellers who found a vocation and economic independence by reselling goods purchased on the platform on WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

Between 2017 and 2020, 100% of sales were made through resellers. The share of these female resellers has now fallen to 20% as consumers have now started downloading the app. Meesho’s average monthly users stand at 120 million and 35 million users transact on the app every month. On average, 110 million Indian shoppers bought on Meesho last year.

Not surprisingly, investors also lined up to invest in the company. Having raised $300,000 in seed capital from angel investors in March 2016, Meesho is valued at $4.9 billion after its last round of $570 million in September 2021. Its list of Prominent investors include Soft Bank Vision Fund 2, Prosus, Fidelity Management and Research, Yuri Milner’s DST Partners, Sequoia, SAIF Partners and Y Combinator, among others.

Sellers become brand ambassadors

Meet India's Real Gully Boy: Meesho's Vidit Aatrey Takes Entrepreneurial Dream Deep Into Bharat

Currently, there are six lakh sellers like Ansari on Meesho and the start-up wants to increase that figure to one million. That goal may be on the way, but every week employees join the Meesho Sabha, a meeting where examples like Ansari are discussed at length so the team won’t take their eyes off the goal post. Even though Meesho continues its outreach program to help sellers, existing sellers have now become brand ambassadors helping others connect. The platform offers peer-to-peer learning in multiple languages ​​for those who want to get started.

Dhiresh Bansal, CFO of Meesho, says, “We continue to run our outreach programs, but many people are now coming to our platform as they need to diversify by targeting new markets. Also, the younger generation is more progressive and is bringing their family businesses online. »

After its success over the past two years, Meesho is working hard to resolve several seller issues on its platform. Most of these sellers have seen a surge in demand for their products after they went live and the need for working capital has risen sharply.

Lucknow-based Suman Agrawal used to sell women’s fashion clothes in her shop but closed it after her Rudraksh brand saw a sales boom on Meesho. It currently handles 22,000 orders per month.

There are several sellers in India who cannot go online because they do not have the required GST number. Aatrey has been a supporter of their cause for some time. In June this year, the GST Council approved a proposal that will no longer require sellers on e-commerce platforms to have a GST registration, if their turnover is below ₹40 lakh and ₹20 lakh for goods and services respectively. This rule will come into effect from January 2023. Aatrey believes this will be a game-changer for millions of small sellers across India.

Although the company is not looking to raise capital immediately, it plans to become profitable and enter the markets in a few years. The e-commerce player is looking to tighten its belt on costs now that it has gained momentum. If it is to become profitable in less than 2 years, Meesho will have to reduce its consumption of cash and preserve its capital.

Aatrey says: “This festive season will give us an indication if there is a downturn. We haven’t seen this so far, so it will be something to learn from.

Meet India's Real Gully Boy: Meesho's Vidit Aatrey Takes Entrepreneurial Dream Deep Into Bharat

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