Capturing the Meesho journey that began from the lanes of Bengaluru and continues with an online presence across PAN-India, and exploring how the social commerce platform turned homemakers into entrepreneurs.
In conversation with Vidit Aatrey, Founder & CEO, Meesho, Social Samosa narrates the chronicles of raising the social commerce platform in India, the fertility of the retail ground for the social factor, and the fruits reselling through social media can bear.
India’s diverse and vast clothing industry is bound by a dense population and multi-cultural regions but remains largely unorganized. The city of Mumbai itself has at least one popular market every five kilometers, and unorganized markets in the metropolitan cities make up only a small chunk; unorganized markets have fluctuated between 75-90% of the market share in the whole country between 2019 and 2021.
The masses in the country drive the financial gain, and therefore a standard apparel retail brand is more profitable than a luxury brand. Unorganized markets are where these masses have been catered for a while now, but the drawbacks, pandemic, accelerated digital revolution, stay-at-home lifestyle, delivery options, the growing inclination towards social media and digital marketing channels are causing the shift towards social commerce.
Sanjeev Barnwal, Founder & CTO, Meesho and Vidit Aatrey, Founder & CEO, Meesho engaged in a number of experiments, business models, through on-ground research and conversations with local shop owners, to check the fertility of the retail ground before burying the seed of social commerce.
For the unacquainted, Meesho is a social commerce platform that enables reselling through the seller’s social channels such as profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and more.
The Seed Of Social Commerce
During the initial phase of developing Meesho, the founders would map out stores in the localities of Bengaluru and converse with local shop owners.
The interactions led to an understanding that several were exploring social media platforms as a way of connecting with consumers and turning their business digital. After experimenting with propositions such as ‘trying before buying’ and learning about the user and consumer behavior, and problems with retail, the Meesho journey began by collating dedicated groups of sellers and buyers on Facebook.
“With Meesho 1.0, we soon found that people were not able to find new products or suppliers on the app conveniently. So, we started experimenting with what we call Meesho 2.0 which is also our current model. We are learning each day in this journey of ours to provide our entrepreneurs with the best of the business world and we are growing better with each learning”, Vidit shares.
Social commerce was not entirely a new concept at the time of Meesho’s launch, but the platform touching upon consumer and retailer pain points such as limitations on access to supply, lack of logistics, minimal online payment options, deficiency of customer-friendly policies, and more, enabled the founders to improve their proposition.
The Nourishment Of Social Commerce
The majority of the user base on Meesho is female, and a substantial chunk of the resellers are not as tech-savvy. Resellers being the core of the platform, marketing and communication that addresses their lifestyle, attracts them in authentic ways and makes them familiar with the digital platform. This strategy has been an integral part of nourishing the brand.
Vidit mentions leveraging referrals from their entrepreneurs has been a go-to-market strategy over the years. “For a larger segment of awareness- we have utilized TV quite well, to communicate to not so tech-savvy audiences”, he adds.
Women have been at the forefront of the marketing strategy, and the communication was altered as soon as it was realized that they make up for the majority of the user base.
“We tweaked our communication strategy to speak to these women and further improve the platform so that they can be successful entrepreneurs without worrying about capital and other prerequisites”, Vidit adds. Local influencers, vernacular content, and TVCs are the three main legs of the overall marketing strategy.
Local influencers from Tier II, III, and IV cities have also been leveraged to talk about Meesho and the opportunities the resellers would be exposed to. Vidit reckons, “A good chunk of the user base, about 10% of all the user acquisition, happens through influencers on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook”.
Meesho has recently launched two TVCs in October 2020, and February 2021. Both have been created in association with DDB, and touch upon the factors such as women gaining financial independence, creating their own identity, overcoming social and economic barriers, along with the social aspects such as each person in a contact list having a specific persona, reflecting their interest and fashion choices.
Many Names, One Identity
Regional demographics are targeted through vernacular content distributed across community channels, marketing, and app. The first TVC was launched PAN-India in Hindi, Marathi, Odia, Bengali, Assamese, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada languages.
The Headwinds On Social Commerce
Digital channels and online transactions have been prone to fraudulent or potentially harmful activities in all industries and not just retail or commerce, and hence it becomes one of the major headwinds that a social commerce platform would have to deal with.
Protection of users against fraudulent activities, transactions, and web malpractices has been an essential part of Meesho’s agenda, Vidit shares. Along with communicating precautionary measures to the users, verifying identity before granting access on the platform, is another step taken to protect privacy and maintain security.
Vidit further adds, “The Quality Framework that we follow for our listings has helped us to successfully eliminate malpractices. We also deploy Machine Learning algorithms at multiple stages of transactions to ensure the interest of our users is protected”.
COVID-19 has been another headwind for all industries, and Social Commerce has not been indifferent. Lockdown restrictions affected the movement of products and delivery, although Vidit states, “Despite so many challenges that the pandemic brought, changes in people’s mindset and behavior regarding online buying experience changed completely”.
The Fruits Of Social Commerce
Meesho has enabled more than 9 Mn entrepreneurs across India to sell through social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. Seventy percent of these entrepreneurs are homemakers, career women on breaks, and students. The platform has generated more than 80 Crores INR in income, and hosts more than 10 Mn users, and spans across more than 5000 towns.
By analyzing the offline retail space, attracting resellers with campaigns that makes the audience believe they can be an entrepreneur along with being a homemaker, providing them with products, logistics, and payment tools, Meesho emerged from local shops to hosting more than 9n Mn digital entrepreneurs and is leading the social commerce space in India.