Recently published insights from Alibaba.com showcased that 65% of Indian sellers on the platform have no exporting experience while 32% of incoming sellers have no international eCommerce experience. In light of this, Alibaba.com conducts regular training programs that can empower our sellers and help them go through these special circumstances. Well, in order to understand the digital journey of typical Indian MSME through Alibaba, Faiz Askari of SMEStreet initiated a conversation thread in which we try to understand digital usage experience of an MSME.
In a conversation with Niraj Choksi, owner of DVN Traders, we understood the following key points with regard to Mr Choksi’s experience of using Alibaba’s services. Here are the edited excerpts:
What was the main business challenge you were facing before you realized the need for Alibaba’s platform?
Prior to working with Alibaba.com, our sales in the high-end designer jewellery space were unpredictable and involved a lot of manual effort and travel. At times these meant sales were good and at others, we were barely able to meet our operating expenses.
We were then advised to explore online platforms to expand our seller-base. With some exploration by our family we found Alibaba.com. We tried it as an experiment at first but it has proven to be a very successful method of sales for us.
Faiz Askari, SMEStreet: How did Alibaba solve your business problems?
Niraj Choksi: A lot of our problems have been mitigated as a result of working with Alibaba.com. For instance, we don’t need to undertake the risk nor cost of travelling distances laden with jewellery. Our cost of labour has come down since we undertake production once the order is received.
Additionally, an online platform like Alibaba.com allows us to communicate better with sellers and also highlight our offerings and successes with a higher degree of authenticity to prospective buyers.
What level of growth or profitability did you achieve with Alibaba?
Niraj Choksi: Following a motto ingrained in client servicing and quality-led timely delivery, Alibaba.com has been a very successful platform for us. We started with 10 clients over a three-month span. After 10 years on the platform, we have 2000 clients and a repeat customer-rate of 20%.
And this is reflected in our operations as well. When we began we had a 500 square foot workshop with a small office attached. As of 2020, we have factories in five locations (three in Mumbai and one each in Dahanu and Ahmedabad) and offices in two cities – Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Is there any observation on getting new customers through Alibaba?
Niraj Choksi: Alibaba.com has helped in ways that were expected and some that are a pleasant surprise. We have clients from across the world which includes markets we never expected to see demand from. The platform creates category-led landing pages that direct buyers to sellers in specific categories. With a section specifically highlighting Indian Jewellery, for sellers like us – it’s about continually improving the product listing, descriptions, and accompany it with vivid imagery to attract buyer interest.
Through the services from Alibaba.com, we have had buyers mature from being those buy in limited quantities to becoming wholesale consumers of our product. This has allowed us to grow to a point where we ourselves are wholesale buyers of other suppliers in the market.
What will your relationship with Alibaba be in next two years?
Niraj Choksi: We have leveraged the platform for quite some time now. With the curtailing of in-person events owing to the pandemic, platforms like Alibaba.com will be our preferred route to take products to global audiences for some time to come.
What are the key takeaways that an SME business owner can expect from online commerce or e-marketplace?
There are several. For instance, your products have a global audience and it allows you to identify upcoming trends in countries to better cater to them. You also get competitive analysis of suppliers from other countries as well as your own along with a cost analysis. Then there’s the ability to compare trends across markets for buyers and cater to them.
There are plenty more that we can delve into. However, at times that are as unprecedented as the ones we live in, it’s important for SMEs to look at online platforms to better manage their supply chain and inventory and cater to the right buyer interests.
“India has a vision to host a trillion-dollar digital ecosystem by 2025 and is encouraging MSMEs to play a significant role in it. As one of the world’s leading B2B e-commerce platforms, we have over 12 million active buyers from over 190 countries and regions, and more than 300,000 queries daily on the platform,” said Stephen Kuo, Head of Asia Pacific of Alibaba.com. “Our strategy is to help more SMEs go global, especially those from India. Today, we have over 600,000 products listed by our platform suppliers from India, and those suppliers have received over 50,000 enquiries in just the last 30 days. We hope to continue to play a meaningfully role in this crucial journey for Indian MSMEs.”
Alibaba.com has been at the forefront of leveraging big data and AI algorithm technology to enable SMEs all over the world. The ‘Smart Marketing Solution’, which was unveiled at the summit will help Indian suppliers market their products at the right prices using big data. The solution makes it easier for MSMEs to acquire new customer traffic and to understand their top products, market demand and conversion rates, which helps them develop business strategies and future growth. Through various ‘Value Added Service Solutions’ available on Alibaba.com platform, suppliers can set up their business online quickly with support for product posting, creation of online store and verification services.