By Rozelle Laha Hindustan Times, New Delhi
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) This article features Indian entrepreneur Suchi Mukherjee, founder of "Limeroad." LimeRoad is a crowdsourcing forum for creating styles as a platform. It hosts three groups of people -- the vendors, scrapbookers and consumers. The vendors are the sellers who post photographs of goods they want to sell. Scrapbookers are independent people who style and mix-and-match apparel, footwear and accessories to "create" a look. These scrapbookers can also earn money depending on the number of users who buy something from the ''styled look", therefore building in extremely strong direct selling incentives.
Suchi Mukherjee has always been driven by an urge to create something new. As she believes, in order to be able to do well as an entrepreneur, "you need to have the desire to make something happen. You need to have the 'can do' attitude; I call it the fighter gene to build something new and make something happen."
Right from her college days, Mukherjee was breaking norms, doing new things. As an economics honors student of St Stephen's College, New Delhi, she had played a vital role in reviving the fine arts society of the college, which had remained inactive for a very long time. As a member of the drama society at college, she hosted a drama festival and broke the conventional norm of replacing plays written by popular playwrights with ones written by students.
She's constantly on the lookout for new ideas. In fact, her venture, LimeRoad, is also an idea, conceived in the flash of the moment. "LimeRoad as an idea was conceived after the birth of my second child, while snatching a few minutes of me-time flipping through a magazine," says Mukherjee. Going through the pages, she had discovered a piece of jewelery that she wanted to touch and buy. That made her realize two things -- There was no consumer technology that made discovery of products easy and entertaining, just like reading a nice magazine and no place where one could access the vast array of products that were being manufactured and shipped out of India. It is this seed that led to the birth of LimeRoad--an online women's lifestyle platform.
Mukherjee who completed her masters in economics from the University of Cambridge, went on to pursue a finance course in London School of Economics and Political Science on full scholarships. For her, "entrepreneurship is about passion and following it. The journey of entrepreneurship is full of ups and downs. If you are passionate about building something and keen to fight it out whenever any hurdle comes up, you can excel in the field," she says
Before starting LimeRoad in 2013, Mukherjee spent two weeks every month in India, did a lot of back and forth between India and London. "Despite having a six-month year old son at home, I had to give a backseat to my personal life to start with my entrepreneurial journey. I was meeting consumers, exploring the market trying to figure out the logistics business."
Her priority, specifically towards e-tailing, is to enable the vendors to create beautiful online stores with an incentive to showcase their products in the most unique way possible.
So, LimeRoad as a platform hosts three groups of people -- the vendors, scrapbookers and consumers. The vendors are the sellers who post photographs of goods they want to sell. Scrapbookers are independent people who style and mix-and-match apparel, footwear and accessories to "create" a look. These scrapbookers can also earn money depending on the number of users who buy something from the ''styled look", therefore building in extremely strong direct selling incentives. Scrapbooking for LimeRoad is a crowdsourcing forum for creating styles.
"It's an entirely symbiotic association between the vendor and the consumer. Vendors have access to a strong community of scrapbookers, who are essentially helping the brands make their products look gorgeous, and thereby reach out to millions of potential buyers," says Mukherjee.
So, is e-commerce only about entrepreneurs? The answer is no. E-commerce sites are among the top job creators in India at present. Starting from top business school and technology institutes to tier-2 and tier-3 colleges, e-commerce recruiters are picking up talent from everywhere for different functions, including technology, digital marketing, content writing, communications and strategy building. These firms are also sought after by students for summer internship programmes. Some startups are also among the top paymasters.
India's e-commerce market is expected to reach US$ 220 billion in terms of gross merchandise value and 530 million shoppers by 2025, led by faster speeds on reliable telecom networks, faster adoption of online services and better variety as well as convenience, as per a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
However, with the mushrooming of e-commerce firms in India, evaluating the performance of a startup is not easy. How do you ensure that a startup you want to join is a sustainable one?
As Mukherjee says, market valuation is critical and the best thing is to look for a public listed organisation. In private companies the speculation game is very dangerous. Funding is very important but that alone does not guarantee a great company.
With regards to the lifestyle and fashion segment, the irrefutable fact is that great consumer brands are built from establishing a tremendously passionate loyal base of customers, who love something fundamental about the product, something that is beyond simply discounted prices."
Born in 2012, LimeRoad has grown to be quite a favourite with shopping enthusiasts. About 15% of Indian women who have internet access visit LimeRoad four to 10 times in a month. As a result, 85% of the orders on LimeRoad come from organic traffic and 70% of orders come through the mobile app, says Mukherjee.
LimeRoad has already raised Series C funding earlier this year, taking total funds to $50 million ('332 crore) in the past one year. Tiger Global Management has led the new round of financing with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Matrix Partners India.
Where are the jobs?
E-commerce businesses are among top job creators in the country. Here are the hot profiles on offer at e-commerce startups: --Human resource manager --Business developer --Business analyst --Digital media executive --Content writer --Sales and marketing --Android, web and software developer --User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designers --Corporate communication manager
How to check out an e-commerce firm:
A well-funded organization might not be the best yardstick to gauge the performance of a startup. You must do a good background check of a company before joining it. Register yourself at the Registrar of Companies website to evaluate the financial health of any startup. Also, talk to employees in the startup to get an inside picture