Marketplace only sustainable model for online retailers: Tony Navin, Snapdeal [Interview]

To gauge the trend in the online shopping industry, we spoke with Mr. Tony Navin, VP - Business Development, Snapdeal, one of the largest online shopping sites in India.

Published Date
26 - Sep - 2013
| Last Updated
26 - Sep - 2013
Marketplace only sustainable model for online retailers: Tony Nav...

The Indian online shopping space has seen some significant changes, from the online retailers changing their business models to a number of new websites joining the segment. With growing competition as well as changing consumer trends, the online shopping giants have to come up with new ideas to sustain their position. 

Where is the Indian online shopping segment heading? Is the 'marketplace' concept best for sustaining the online shopping industry? What possible changes should we expect in the near future? Snapdeal's Tony Navin, VP - Business Development gives his detailed views on these issues. He also elaborates on how Snapdeal is helping out the sellers across metros & small towns, who are now able to cater to demand across the country.  

Snapdeal has been in the Indian online space for quite some time. In the meantime, many new websites/shopping portals have come and gone. How have you managed to sustain your position? 

Our business model & fundamentals have always been very strong with clear focus on large goals; while being nimble on our feet on any changes that we need to embrace. Solid business model, Smartest team & Big goals have been a key reason for Snapdeal being ahead.

How many active users does Snapdeal have? Which demographic has been the most active? 

We have over 20 million subscribers spread across the country. More than 45% of our customer base are from Tier-II & Tier-III towns and cities. 

What do you think of the competition in the online shopping space? Has it stiffened?  

We can always keep looking back at competition and move at their pace or just focus on large goals for ourselves and set a new pace for ourselves. We follow the latter approach and that has been one of the reasons for our growth. Snapdeal is THE destination that provides the largest assortment of products across 500 categories at prices better than other offline / online destinations. We live up to our promise and that has been the differentiator.

Of late we’ve seen major online shopping portals changing their business models. From being direct sellers, shopping portals are now choosing to be intermediaries. Do you think the ‘marketplace’ is a better concept? 

With no doubt, marketplace model is not just the better concept, but could be considered as the only concept through which one can build a sustainable & profitable model that can scale up fast. It gives companies like Snapdeal tremendous leverage in scaling up on the assortment front, seller base front & driving better discovery of pricing from a customers’ perspective. 

Does it have any impact on customers’ experience?  

Building trust among customers & keeping up to the promise is the most critical aspect that any business model should aspire for. TrustPay launched by Snapdeal is precisely to address such concerns of customers and building trust in the business model.

How do you plan to secure customers’ interests as well as regulate the sellers? 

Snapdeal is a platform for B2C and not C2C (customer selling to customers) and hence control over quality of sellers is better. Our policies around TrustPay ensures that customer interests are of paramount importance and is covered adequately. All products sold on Snapdeal by the thousands of sellers are all genuine & we have high service delivery standards signed up with sellers. These steps are to ensure that customers can freely purchase a product from any seller on Snapdeal without worrying and if they do come across any kind of issues, our robust systems & policies ensure that the concern is addressed with immediate effect. 

Could you tell us about Snapdeal’s policies for customer support? How simplified is it for users? Do you think there’s more scope for improvement? What are the possible challenges? 

Most answers to queries of customers in terms of product availability & status of shipment / delivery are all available in the panel available to every customer on the Snapdeal website. Any other queries / concerns are addressed by our 24x7 helpdesk that is in-house and equipped to take very quick calls on customer concerns. We follow a very stringent TAT for closure of tickets raised by customers and this is only going get shorter as we progress. 

How are sellers benefitting from the online shopping portals? How many sellers are associated with Snapdeal?  

We have over 10,000 sellers across metros & small towns who are now able to cater to demands across the country. The biggest change for them is addressing this increased demand which were till now constrained to local areas where the seller was located. Regional products which were out of reach for customers located elsewhere are now easily available online at great prices because we are able to cut the multiple channels in between the seller & customer. The seller benefits in this model as he takes in larger margins which was otherwise going to the channels in-between. 

What are your various product categories and which ones are the most popular? 

Mobiles, Computers, Appliances, Cameras, Home Entertainment & Automotive are all popular within Electronics. In Fashion, we see great traction in Footwear, Watches, Men’s Apparel, Perfumes. With the largest online assortment in the country in Home categories, we are seeing significant growth in Home, Kitchen, Furnishing & Health categories. 

What according to you are the sunrise categories in online shopping? 

Any category that is fragmented in the offline market is a great opportunity in the online space. 

Do you see a significant growth in online shopping in the near future? 

We believe so and hence the existence of our company & business model. In the next 2-3 years, the e-retail market is expected to become 5X the current size. 

What new things/innovation can we expect in the online shopping space? 

I believe personalization of offers & products showcased online is something that will evolve & be a key differentiator. Customers do not want to see products that are irrelevant / of low interest to them. Customizing offers & products to cater exactly to what the customer needs or might need is key. 

What are Snapdeal’s plans for the near future? Any new major business deals on the cards? 

Our focus now is to keep moving at this breakneck speed. Everything else we will take up as it comes along this journey.

Tony Navin, VP - Business Development, Protection Status