E-commerce start-up Salebhai sells regional favourites to nostalgic migrants
For those away from home hungering for regional delicacies, Ahmedabad-based Salebhai.com has come to the rescue. Launched in September 2015 with a website, Salebhai now has an Android application which allows people across India to experience the food and culture of their hometowns.
The start-up, which is currently in the testing phase for its iOS application, was founded by Vishwa Vijay Singh, Purba Kalita and Pramod Rao. Having identified 17 diaspora communities living in Indian cities and abroad, the start-up allows customers to order food, handicrafts, pooja kits, herbal products and anything else that they identify with their hometowns.
Singh says, “We want people to be able to find things like the hottest chilli in the country or the best vadapav on our platform.” It, therefore, has a committed content team which provides customers with information on every single product as well as the seller.
Salebhai also does not have multiple sellers from the same place. “Hardly 5-10% of our vendors would be directly competing with each other. We do not have multiple people from Gujarat selling namkeen, but we have Induben for special items like khakra or Ratilal Chunilal from Khambhat for halwa,” he says. “It is not in the interests of most e-commerce platforms to highlight the seller, but we describe our seller’s heritage which adds to the discovery quotient.”
The start-up currently has 4,200 active users, and 33% of its sales are attributed to repeat buyers. Salebhai has seven customer focus areas which includes the National Capital Region, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, Gujarat and industry city clusters such as Dahej, Rajahmundry, Beed and Paradip. Many of Salebhai’s loyal customers have turned investors in the venture, each of whom invested between R5-50 lakh each in February 2016. In May 2016, it received Rs 10 crore in funding from Brand Capital.
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Salebhai was able to achieve operational break-even in October 2016, when sales amounted to R70 lakh. Average operational cost is R20 lakh, and it is targetting R1 crore sales in March 2017. By the end of 2017, Salebhai, which sees around 150 orders each day, aims to achieve R4.5 crore in sales and one lakh new customers. It is targetting sales of R20 crore by end of 2018 and R84 crore by 2019 end.
Calling itself a “100% marketplace model”, Salebhai prides itself on having no inventory or warehouse facilities like other e-commerce players. The orders are received directly by the vendors, who package the product in material provided by Salebhai, which is then picked up by logistic partners of Salebhai. The customer pays for the product and its shipping, while Salebhai charges a commission. With an average commission of 27%, Salebhai makes about 19% margin on sweets, 26% on snacks and 30% on handicrafts.
The start-up currently has over 350 vendors from across India. “Even today, it is difficult to bring vendors on board. For a popular seller in Mumbai, being with us is quite a task since he has to do extra work by looking up orders online, packaging, dispatching and then waiting a month for payment. There is still quite a bit of resistance, but we tell the sellers that through us they can get the national and international markets, an exercise for which they would have to put in place new infrastructure and develop new networks,” says Singh.
In its pursuit to provide items from home to migrant customers, Salebhai has also brought religious institutions like Ahmedabad’s Iskcon Temple and Varanasi’s Vishwanath Temple on board. “During Janmashthami 2016, we tied up with Iskcon Temple for making their prasad available to devotees living outside Gujarat and abroad. On Shivratri this year, we are planning the same exercise with the Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi,” adds Singh.