At a time when online retail business in India has reached an all-time boom, with the likes of Flipkart, Homeshop18, Myntra, Jabong, OLX, Amazon jostling for the customer's attention Limeroad.com, backed by co-founder and chief technology officer, Prashant Malik – the mind behind Facebook messenger – believes integrating social media into the e-commerce portal is just the trick to win a consumer hook, line and sinker.
"Having debuted a year ago, we won our first million unique visitors all thanks to the fact that we are more of a social platform on top of an e-commerce portal with a social network of our own, apart from syndication like following fellow users or creating a social graph via popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc."
Thus, Limeroad, that sells women's lifestyle and home products, allows viewers to talk to each other on their own network, has notifications, instant messenger, alerts and directly connects with the customer allowing them a share in the company's profits through a unique revenue model, called 'Looks'.
"On our platform, there is also user-generated content called 'looks' which are an aggregation of a number of products put together – like a scrapbook – so users can actually buy from these scrapbooks, and we have affiliate models in place that ensure a 'looks' creator gets a percentage of the sales. There are also various other kinds of revenue models that can be built on top of this platform, an e-commerce is just one of them," explains Malik.
And what else makes Limeroad unique?
"We are probably the only true marketplace that existed from day one itself. However, the idea was to have a managed and controlled marketplace so that quality control of the images and products that are posted on the platform are maintained. We also keep very tight control of the orders and tracking on the platform so when somebody buys anything, they actually buy it from Limeroad, and it is our brand name at stake from the time the order is placed till it reaches the customer," explains Malik.
However, a marketplace comes with competition as the biggest challenge.
"One of the biggest challenges of a marketplace is predicting relevant content, so as the marketplace grows and we get more and more vendors on to the platform, it becomes a matter of personalisation, wherein each user can follow the brand he or she wants to see, so that way the site becomes personalised for every individual user. Besides, our notifications centre sends IM messages to the user based on various triggers with discount offers, etc, he adds."
A marketplace model also means Limeroad does not have a warehouse or pay anything for keeping their inventory. This means more value to the consumer in terms of better pricing, as well as better margins for Limeroad. "In fact we have negative margins, as we pay only after the order reaches the customer, "claims Malik. Delivery takes between 3-4 days and a maximum of 10 days, and both the prepaid model and cash-on-delivery are available…with a soon to start EMI option as well.
And variety is ensured in the form of 450 vendors from all over the country – 50% exclusive to Limeroad. "We started out with 20 vendors in India and now we are looking at tying up with vendors from neighbouring nations like Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, etc that will lead us into our next diversification into men's lifestyle products. "The ultimate idea is to connect all the hundreds of exclusive vendors that are across South East Asia that do manufacturing for various lifestyle products and bring them all together on a single platform," believes Malik.
However, Limeroad will not venture into the ever popular electronics and mobile phones space, as they fit better with a search-oriented platform, while Limeroad is more of a social discovery platform, where lifestyle fits in perfectly.
So any revenue target? "Our focus is more on growth of the users and vendors, rather than hard revenue numbers. We are a social platform on top of an e-commerce platform. Thus we are aiming to grow from one million to 5-10 million registered users by the end of this year," states Malik.
And what's the road ahead for Limeroad?
"We are getting deep into the mobile space, integrating with Whatsapp or phone numbers of users via messages/SMS. At present, we are not tying up with telcos, but maybe in the future we will look at it. Playing with location-based services is also on the radar," concludes Malik.