K Vaitheeswaran, known as Father of e-commerce in India, is the founder and CEO of Indiaplaza.com. He was listed amongst top 20 people in Indian Internet industry by Pitch magazine.His experience, ambition and efforts have together changed the course of history in the online retail space.
Let’s hear from him about his experiences:
Tell us about your early life, education and work.
I spent the early years of my life in West Bengal and shifted to Chennai when I was in seventh grade.. Later I joined the Government College to earn my engineering degree and began my career at Murugappa Electronics wherein I was responsible for sales and later product management. From the year ’85 till ’99 I held various positions at Wipro Infotech in sales, marketing and business planning. It was in year ‘99 that I started Fabmart.com which has flourished over the years.
You are called father of e-commerce in India, what’s your take on it?
I feel very happy and proud that a business I started on small scale is today a multi billion dollar industry. One needs to travel on the path no one has explored before, and I am glad I did so, because today when I see many youngsters following my footsteps it is a reassuring feeling that I made no mistake in taking risk in exploring new path.
Describe the journey from Fabmart to Indiaplaza.
When I started working on the idea of e-commerce in the year ’99 there were only 20,000 people in India who shopped online. There were many challenges to be faced. First was to convince the vendors to sell their products; Second was hiring employees who believed that we are a software company and not a retail company. The main challenge was to get customers who were reluctant to use retail services online due to security issues. This way we started with Fabmart.com.
In 2002 we found Fabmall which is India’s first integrated offline and online retail company. The Fabmall.com was the leading internet retailer, and the Fabmall chain of grocery stores went on to become successful and was later acquired by Aditya Birla Group. In 2007 Fabmall.com was acquired by US based Indiaplaza.com and thus we launched the Indiaplaza.com in India which is the oldest online shopping destination for Indians worldwide.
How did you manage the funding?
Fabmart was started with the help of angel funding but the real funding was provided when we split the company into two- offline and online. 2011 onward we have dwelt upon Indo-US ties for funding of the company.
What all does Indiaplaza offer and what are your plans about its future growth?
As you open indiaplaza.com you’ll find a list of things we offer ranging from apparels, books, toys, electronics, gift items, cakes, cookies, jewellery, mobiles and sports products.
We are planning to expand and focus on building a mobile application as most people use internet on their cellphones.
How has the success of Flipkart impacted e-commerce domain in general and Indiaplaza in particular?
In the initial years, growth of e-commerce was fairly slow. Gradually people became comfortable with the idea of shopping online after positive experiences in buying tickets online. So the credit goes to the customers who supported the expansion of e-commerce and not any particular shopping site online.
Fabmall co-founders Sudhakar and others launched Big Basket. How does this model impact Indiaplaza?
Fabmall is an exclusive grocery store based only in Bangalore. Indiaplaza has national distribution and we do not deal in groceries, so it bears no impact.
What do you feel Indiaplaza is missing to make it big?
The question here arises as to how we define the word big. We want a business which is profitable and sustainable not just high on sales growth. Our philosophy is we will rather be 5th largest in e-commerce business but profitable than have the highest share of losses. We have a plan and a path and we are moving ahead on it. And from where I am standing I see Indiaplaza making it big in future.
Why isn’t Indiaplaza taking on Flipkart aggressively, and if you are doing so please explain how?
We are growing the business in a sustainable manner where our primary goal is not to show high sales growth. There are certain parameters on the basis of which we are ahead of Flipkart. One being the range and variety of items which is more than what Flipkart offers and the other is the pricing variation. As i see it, we are doing pretty fair business so there is no point taking aggressively on any e-commerce site.
Your take on entrepreneurship in India and advice for youngsters?
I think it is a great time to be an entrepreneur in India. Today the stigmas associated with entrepreneurship such as fear of failure are withering away and people are keen on taking risks. Also, entrepreneurship is important for the economy of our country as fresh jobs are created on a daily basis.
My advice for the budding entrepreneurs is ‘nothing ventured nothing gained’. We do face many challenges on this path but we have only one life and if we do not listen to our hearts we never achieve anything. My motto in life is ‘better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all’ and I want youngsters to follow it as well.
Author of the article, Chirmi Acharya is a Dare Community Writer
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