Feature

Taking Offline Online

Paytm Mall aims to rival Amazon and Flipkart by offering competitive pricing and fast deliveries from offline stores in small cities

Vishal Koul

In May, when SoftBank finally confirmed it had sold its stake in Flipkart to Walmart, all eyes turned towards another homegrown e-commerce player, Paytm Mall. It had received $400 million from SoftBank when it still held a 21% stake in Flipkart and was tied down by a clause. The Japanese giant’s exit from Flipkart had fuelled speculation that it would pull out the cheque book for the Noida-based marketplace, soon.

In February 2017, Paytm’s parent company, One97 Communications, decided to hive off its three-year-old e-commerce arm. It was a late entrant to the e-tail space, which had seen many players such as Myntra, Jabong and Snapdeal getting taken over or struggling, leaving just two goliaths in the Indian e-commerce space — Flipkart and Amazon.

Realising it was not prudent to go head-on against the two giants, Paytm Mall decided to focus on small towns with its online-to-offline (O2O) model. Amit Sinha, COO, Paytm Mall explains, “We are a technology player and that is why our approach to e-commerce is different. I would not want to run my own logistics network, do warehousing or carry inventory, which is pure retail work. Instead, we intend to be a pure play marketplace by enabling shopkeepers of this country.”

The idea for Paytm Mall is to reach offline customers in small towns through local shopkeepers, by giving them access to technology. “There are around 15 million shopkeepers in this country, and about 96% of them operate in less than 500 sq ft area. They are hence unable to increase their traffic, stock or invest in getting customers online. Moreover, they are not able to provide endless consumer preferences like online players or services such as bank loan and warranty. That’s where we come in,” adds Sinha. 

Every shopkeeper who signs up on Paytm Mall gets an online store on the platform, which can be managed by them or Paytm. The shopkeepers can list inventory, do promotions and even tap Paytm’s inventory. Furthermore, they can form partnerships with brands and distributors to reach out to customers. Paytm supplies QR codes and point-of-sale (PoS) machines to these vendors, ensuring customers get the same offers and discounts offline as on their online portal.

With 15 million potential fulfilment partners, Sinha believes he has a scalable mod

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