Sanjeev Barnwal, Founder & CTO of internet commerce unicorn Meesho, spoke to BusinessLine about the company’s efforts to solve its sellers’ challenges and help their businesses grow with the help of technology. Meesho had crossed 6 lakh seller registrations on our platform last month, a seven times increase from the company’s April 2021 number.
Can you give us an insight into what challenges Meesho sellers typically face?
More than 50 per cent of suppliers who start selling on Meesho are new to e-commerce, which means they were selling offline otherwise. They have started exploring online as a distribution channel for the first time with Meesho. That comes with its own set of interesting challenges like how we keep the experience very simple and how we help them overcome some basic difficulties like how to price the products online. Most of our sellers are manufacturers and wholesalers, meaning they have been selling in bulk in the offline market, so we need to help them find the right products, they should list. So that is broadly the seller persona that we work with.
What are some tech solutions that you have built to help sellers?
Starting with the initial onboarding, we have ensured that it is easy and quick. It takes less than 12 hours for sellers to be onboarded on Meesho. We have always operated with desktop and mobile compatible views for sellers. Recently, we also launched a separate section on the Meesho app for suppliers to go and create their accounts, create listings, toggle orders, and so on. We are using videos to help train sellers on how to deal with the errors the system flags like missing information or other problems. It is a self-serve platform because we have a vast number of suppliers, and for all of them to call our customer support is not very scalable.
Once they start getting orders, we have a stack of tools to help them grow their business. Price recommendation is one such tool. We use data science to compare similar products, similar categories, and other factors to recommend the right price for their products to sellers. The second is inventory forecasts, which help sellers know when to manufacture again and when to restock. The third is this product recommendation depending on the predicted product demand. This allows suppliers to understand which 10 or 20 in their product catalogue should they list and focus on. Fourth is the feed algorithm, which makes sure that every supplier gets the right amount of visibility and creates a level playing field for the new sellers, which then helps them succeed on our platform.
As you said, these sellers have been primarily selling offline. Does this mean you must invest much in human customer support team?
The beauty of our platform is that it is all self-serve. So without help from an account manager or customer support person, sellers can go ahead and do all these processes. Some will face difficulties, and some questions, but they are in minority. We have custom support channels where they can raise a ticket. Then someone from our side would help them and guide them in the right direction. This cannot be a high-touch model. If you end up building a product that has a steep learning curve. I think it is difficult to get the adoption right in our seller base, which is massive. We are trying to solve problems through technology so that it becomes more self-serve.
With time, we will also bring in some AI chatbots to help them resolve their queries faster and much more automated. Those are things on the roadmap but also help them further improve their experience regarding support.
Will the company consider foraying into video and live commerce?
We have been experimenting with live commerce, and it has been there for 4-5 months now. We are seeing very good traction, and many suppliers are using it. These are suppliers themselves creating videos, live streaming and answering questions with their customers.
We help them through technology which is creating the right app, which not just captures video frames but also sends them out to millions of users in an optimized format. Playing these live videos on unstable internet bandwidth is going to be challenging. So, we are focusing on building the technology. We will not creating video cards because that is not scaleable.
Going ahead, what are some tools on your tech roadmap?
The focus is on how we help them grow their business further, beyond price and product recommendations. Overall, many sellers have queries about how they can double their sales, how to surface higher on searches or how can they make the description more accessible for buyers etc.
Maybe a supplier is doing well in a particular type of shoes but does not know they are doing well. Just perhaps giving that insight that you are doing well in this but not in the other 4 shoes, so double down on this. We we are trying to automate these kinds of insights because when you individually look at a supplier you can always figure out these insights, but they are not scalable. We want to do it in an automated manner, through AI, to get insights out of the entire business that a seller has done over the last year. Combine it with the trends of what is doing well in the category and what is not. Then given feedback in a manner the sellers can consume and take action in a simple descriptive way. So supplier insight will be one area that we will double down on.