Ecommerce goes rural: This startup is helping villagers buy on Amazon

It was one of those times of the year when every ecommerce portal in India was running massive sales with massive discounts. The advertisements were everywhere – TV channels, billboards, newspapers. Yeswanth Devisetty’s relatives living in a small town called Enkoor in Khammam district in Telangana, were quite intrigued by this and asked Yeshwanth, who was working in Mumbai at the time, to order stuff for them as internet access was an issue and they did not know how online ordering was done.

And this wasn’t a one-off incident. His junior from college Snehith Budime, who hailed from Karimnagar district, also had similar experiences where family members would often seek assistance in shopping online for similar reasons.

Having known of a few assisted ecommerce players like StoreKing, they thought of starting something that could help take ecommerce to rural areas.

“Around the same time, we came to know about Amazon Udaan, which was the ecommerce company’s program to take ecommerce to rural areas. We approached them, partnered with them and set up IndiaBuys,” Snehith adds.

Founded in June 2017, IndiaBuys is an assisted ecommerce startup, which helps people in rural India buy products online through, what they call, ‘phygital stores’ (Physical + Digital). These stores give complete assistance and information about online shopping. The first store was set up in Rajahmundry, followed by Tenali and Karimnagar.

Team of IndiaBuys

The stores are equipped with internet access, large display screens and well-trained store managers, who help people walking in to buy on Amazon. Every order is cash-on-delivery. Once the product arrives, the customer is informed and he comes, pays and picks it up.

IndiaBuys stores can be opened by any person in any town on a franchise-based model. The total investment into setting up an IndiaBuys store is Rs 1.25 Lakh for the micro entrepreneur.

The customer is not charged anything for the sale. IndiaBuys earns from the franchise fee and charges the store owners 10% of the store earnings. For the store owners, revenue is generated for every sale that happens through the store. Bonus is given when a new customer account is created and there are incentives based on the monthly performance of the stores.

Snehith claims that on an average, each store earns between Rs 35,000- 50,000 per month depending on the city or town they are in.

He says that this way, not only does it take online shopping to rural areas but also provides entrepreneurship to people living in these small towns.

IndiaBuys currently has over 125 stores across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

And on an average, time taken by a store to break-even is five to six months. Snehith says that this is achieved in such a short period of time since the sales volumes are usually pretty high, due to lack of a competitor who provides a similar service.

In the month of September alone, IndiaBuys sold 13,050 products across 55 of its operating stores.

“Demand for this kind of service is very high in rural parts because everyone knows that products are cheaper online and customers get huge number of options to choose from. But due to reasons mentioned earlier, customers are unable to avail these benefits and we are offering a free service which will make them comfortable with online shopping,” he adds.

This bootstrapped startup now plans on reaching out to more towns and expanding to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Orissa by the end of the year.

It also plans to introduce other services such as recharges, bill payments, travel ticketing, insurance, banking services and medicines at these stores.

It is also looking at forging more partnerships with companies that want to expand into rural areas.

Snehith and his team believe that the assisted ecommerce model can do wonders in the rural domain as many people still do not have access to the internet or do not know how to order online.

“Creating a unified platform of various internet services like money transfer, ticket bookings, online shopping, e-bill payments, insurance, etc. will help consumers avail maximum benefits of ecommerce like any other urban netizen. Setting up such brick and mortar stores in rural areas is highly lucrative as the investment required is low and the equipment needed is very minimal. Considering the extensivity of services, the store owner too gets an enhanced opportunity to earn,” he adds.

This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.

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