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Manu Agarwal got into the business of e-commerce in 2008. He launched Naaptol, which is essentially a price comparison engine. But, a lot has changed since then. Today, Naaptol is virtually an online market place with the company facilitating transactions worth Rs 1.5 crore every single day.
Q: In fact researching for Naaptol, every fifth link led to an aggrieved customer. What are you really doing to manage that part of the business?
A: Today, we run like a 100 member cell, only to address, to be able to make sure that any customer who has a complaint can report it back to us. Our logistics partner can pick up the goods. We only have a warehouse only for the reverse logistics. We don't have a warehouse for dispatch which we use to supply warehouses. So, it comes to our reverse logistics warehouse where we can decide whether now a refund needs to be given or our replacement needs to be given. So, the focus is there.
Q: So what are the kind of revenues that you have been able to manage at Naaptol?
A: We move parcels worth about Rs 1.5 crore everyday. A lot of growth for us is coming from the TV area because we would cut across all the media and grow.
Q: What margins do you operate on with the dealers?
A: Depending on the category, the margins on our sector is between 15% to 30%.
Q: So in terms of a ballpark what is the kind of turnover you are looking at for the year to come?
A: I think we would be expanding at least three times in next 12 months.
With plans to triple Naaptol's turnover this year, Manu Agarwal next wants to launch a private sales section on the website and eventually a home shop TV channel. Raising its first round of funding in 2010, Manu Agarwal is looking to consolidate his business and he is investing in essential elements like payment gateways, logistics and warehousing.
Q: Sanjeev Bikhchandani was on our show a few weeks back and he was talking about how e-commerce has got very little to do with "e" and it is all about commerce. It is all about logistics, stock management and the entire backend. How have you been able to manage all of that at Naaptol? What are the kind of challenges in a business like this?
A: One is your warehousing, which is accessibility of inventory which is readily available, which is quality checked and can be dispatched faster. The second area is the logistics. The third area is the customer service. Today, we work with seven different logistic players. Again for customer service, for a resolving side, getting that reversed logistics in place, giving customer multiple options. You are right. e-commerce is not about “e”. It is actually about that commerce. It is about being able to manage all of these things at a scale.
Q: Do really feel that e-commerce in India today has created enough traction to compete with traditional retail or traditional shopping?
A: Today, traditional retail is close to USD 500 billion. e-commerce, if you leave travel apart, it’s probably less than a billion dollars. So, it is way apart. e-commerce or the virtual commerce also has an advantage to be able to go to every nook and corner of the country. So, I see traditional retail succeeding in near-term onto the larger cities. However, as you go tier two and beyond, the virtual retail will have an edge.
Q: So what are your future plans? What are your next growth targets?
A: Today, I am very clear that even at current levels we are just a small speck in the whole world of retail. So, today for us to grow from here ten times would not be a challenge at all. So, I am looking at doing 50,000 transactions a day in next couple of years to come, which is really giving the traditional retail a run for their money.
Q: So are you looking at a second round of funding now?
A: We are not actively looking at a round. But we have been in discussion with few players. People are seeing us as a very mature virtual shopping player and a company at our scale also ramping up very fast. So, there is lot of action in the market as to say into that space.
Q: You have been a serial entrepreneur. In 1998, you launched Design Expo. In 2003, it was ANMSoft which is a software company. 2008 was Naaptol. Are you again at the cusp of another big opportunity?
A: Not at all. A lot of people tell me that Manu you have got lucky the third time. So, I have not really succeeded the past two attempts, though all of them in their own ways were reasonably successful. But I think Naaptol is the big idea I am working on. Everyday as I start to see as to what we are doing and how much we can grow, it actually gives me goosebumps.
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