Mall91: Vernacular social commerce platform selling online to rural India

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Published: November 25, 2019 12:09:55 AM

Mall91 is available in several Indian languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Gujarati, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi

Nitin Gupta, founder and CEO, Mall91Nitin Gupta, founder and CEO, Mall91

Twenty-eight-year-old Mufaid Khan from Chhapra, Bihar had heard about the jaw-dropping discounts offered by e-commerce firms but was hesitant about shopping online.

English was certainly a foreign language for him, and he wasn’t too sure about navigating the world of passwords, filters and payment options. Till he came across—a vernacular social commerce platform – which actually ‘spoke’ in Hindi and boasted of a WhatsApp-like messaging experience to complete transactions.

Khan was floored. “It’s so easy to buy on Mall91 using videos and chat message,” he gushes, adding, “The products are good and just priced right.”

It isn’t just the buyers who are enthralled by Mall91. Anil Agarwal, proprietor of Delhi-based Nikush and Associates, says Mall91 has given him a completely new market segment which he was able to fulfill only through offline distributors so far. “The range of products that we sell do not do that well on other popular e-commerce sites because our market is the very small cities and towns,” he says.

Within a year of launch (November 2018), through a platform which combines live videos based shopping, local language voice AI-based catalog discovery and chats/messaging AI-based checkouts, the Noida-based startup has reached 2000-plus Tier 2/3/4 towns/villages of India. Its unique approach of offering additional high engagement, high-frequency use cases around gaming, content, payments are resulting in it becoming a daily first screen app for rural India.

Mall91 combines the principle of enabling commerce through mediums that users in small towns understand – which is video, voice and messaging, driven by people that they trust—via referrals and group buying, using completely local language interfaces. “The idea was to tap the massive opportunity that the next 400 million vernacular audience offer, especially after the data revolution that happened two years back,” says Nitin Gupta, founder and CEO, Mall91.

Mall91 is available in several Indian languages including Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Gujarati, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi. AI enables users to “speak” to their phone and discover things by speaking and not by typing traditionally, a big relief for the unlettered. Messaging AI based checkout gives a 0-cart checkout experience to complete the order in the most natural way possible. Live shows happen every hour on the platform to give a “TV shopping” kind of experience.

“A user can click on a “mic” icon in app which greets user and asks what help is needed. Users asks a “shopping query” and voice AI understands “local language” intent and converts it into shopping search results as if she is speaking to a shopkeeper. Users can complete order by clicking “buy now on chat”, which opens up messaging AI experience to start chatting with the user to take name, phone, address and payment mode,” explains Gupta. “A payment mode option is presented as if the user is transferring money from mobile wallet (instead of a complex credit/ debit/ netbanking standard screen).” The average ticket size of products is Rs 250.

Average ticket size of other digital transactions (content, entertainment, gaming) is Rs 100. Mobile accessories, fast fashion apparels, fast fashion accessories and daily needs items are the most popular products . Tier 2/3 towns account for 50-60% of the user base, with the rest from Tier 4 towns.

Mall91 has raised $9 million across two rounds of seed and Series A funding. Series A round was led by Go Ventures with participation from Kalaari Capital, Beenext and AngelList India.

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