Moneycontrol
Oct 06, 2017 03:41 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

GST a temporary burden for e-commerce, beneficial in the long term: Sonal Puri, Webscale

GST has been a temporary burden on all e-commerce companies as they have had to redo their online pricing and calculations across the board for all inventory, says Puri.

Neha Alawadhi @alnehaa

US-based Webscale is an Indian talent-led firm which helps its customers manage the sizing and scaling of their cloud infrastructure, and works with mid-market e-commerce businesses, with a few customers in the enterprise, media and the education sector.

Its CEO Sonal Puri spoke to Moneycontrol’s Neha Alawadhi about a host of issues in the startup and e-commerce ecosystem in an email interaction. Edited excerpts:

Q: What are the challenges in India’s e-commerce sector with the advent of GST?

Like any significant change in policy, the new GST has been a temporary burden on all e-commerce companies as they have had to redo their online pricing and calculations across the board for all inventory.

However, with its aim to bring all indirect taxes under one umbrella, the effective implementation of the new GST will likely lead to drastic improvement in logistics and warehousing and overall simplification for both, the buyer and seller of online goods.

Q: How can Webscale help e-commerce companies in India, especially during high traffic days such as the Independence Day sales?

It’s exactly these scenarios of flash sales, unexpected viral traffic, or regular online focused shopping events like Independence Day, Diwali, Christmas and other holidays that demonstrate the power of the Webscale platform. Webscale believes in right-sized infrastructure and in empowering all companies irrespective of their size to have access to everything the market leaders like Amazon, Flipkart and Walmart have.

Specifically, in the case of sudden surges in traffic, our auto-scaling technology intelligently predicts demand ahead of the incoming load and scales the cloud-hosted application infrastructure appropriately, in real time, without manual intervention, giving e-commerce business owners unprecedented control over their web storefronts and ensuring that their websites are always available, and consistently fast.

Q: What lessons can the Indian e-commerce sector draw from the more mature US e-commerce market?

India and the US are two very different markets in terms of infrastructure development, internet/mobile penetration, credit versus debit card adoption and more but there are a couple of key lessons Indian e-commerce companies must take from their US counterparts to succeed in the local and global markets.

US e-commerce companies have built brand loyalty over a period of time with quality, association, customer service, same day delivery, easy returns, 24x7 support, product innovation for better customer experience, and robust loyalty programs to reward repeat customers.

For the Indian e-commerce industry, on the other hand, while booming at an exponential rate, customer loyalty still remains a big question mark. cash-on-delivery first introduced by Flipkart in India and adopted by almost every big e-tailer in the country, as well as deep discounting models, have helped e-commerce companies overcome the initial adoption challenges. However, loyalty is lacking and that is presenting its own challenges.

An important lesson managed well by US e-commerce companies is the importance of customer data security and compliance. Indian e-commerce vendors still have a long way to go with extensive bottlenecks along the way including the use of paper-based documentation and unprotected records.

Q: The issue of women in senior positions and co-founder positions in Silicon Valley has remained a contentious issue, even more so in light of the recent controversial Google memo. How do you see the conversation surrounding sexism in technology in India and the US?

I believe the biggest challenge we face as women in any career starts from our middle-school, early teen years where we diverge from careers in math and science. There is, however, tremendous focus around the world today to provide young girls with the tools to be successful in STEM-based careers like technology. The results of these efforts will take a few generations to bring a marked change in the overall balance.

Webscale hires the best people for the job, regardless of gender or colour, and we will continue to do so. Webscale employs women in all our three offices – Silicon Valley, Boulder, Colorado and Bangalore. These women hold roles from CEO, to finance, customer support, engineering, and sales and are held to the same standards as their counterparts. I personally wish we had more of a balance but that continues to be a challenge because of a much smaller pool to hire talent from.

Q: What kind of future investments do you plan to make in India?

In the coming 2-3 years we expect to invest heavily in India, with regards to hiring talent and expanding our sales and support operations to businesses in the region, as well as globally. Our Bengaluru office has recently expanded, and is now home to our largest team worldwide.

Considering India’s explosive growth from an e-commerce perspective, as well as in cloud services, this region is a great market fit for Webscale. We believe India is the perfect Launchpad for our cloud-native, cloud-agnostic solutions, to the rest of Asia, and with a solid established base here, we will be able to make significant progress in our goal towards building a billion-dollar global business.
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