Unable To Join Full-Time Work, This Woman Started Her Own E-Commerce Website!
Growing up in a family of civil servants, the idea of having my own business had never really crossed my mind. It was about studying hard, getting a degree, getting a good job and building a career. Unlike a lot of other girls, the idea of being independent and having a career had been firmly planted in my head by my parents. After completing my MBA, I joined ICICI Prudential Life Insurance where I played an important role in the training and content team.
In 2013 came that all-important crossroad which most of us career women face. My daughter’s birth was one of the happiest moments of my life but along with that came the questions on how would I balance my work and my responsibilities towards my daughter? Should I take a break till she grows up? Would taking a break impact my career?
The first few months passed soon, but as my daughter and I settled into a routine, I started missing my work. I realized that staying at home was just not my thing. Going back to full-time work was not an option since there was no one to take care of my daughter. Leaving her in a creche was something that both my husband and I were not very comfortable with.
That’s when the idea of doing something online started taking shape. My husband, thanks to his baniya genes, had always wanted to do something on his own. He had been exploring a couple of ideas but nothing concrete was taking shape. In 2014, e-commerce had started making its foray into India with people getting comfortable with the idea of making online purchases. Being in Ahmedabad we realized that for working couples like us, finding time for purchasing grocery and other household items was a pain point. Spending our Sundays on grocery shopping never really appealed to us. That’s how Apkamart was born, an online store that catered to your day to day needs.
Initially my husband and I had decided that he would continue working and I would take care of the day to day running of the business. With EMI's and a young baby to take care of, the idea of both of us giving up our jobs did not seem right. However, business and job require very different mindsets and concentrating on one would eventually lead to issues in the other. That’s when he decided to quit and we decided to move to Udaipur, my in-laws' place, to plunge full time into it. Since it was an online business, we felt that location would not be a challenge for us. The website had already been launched and in October 2014, we moved to Udaipur.
Within a month we realized that the business was throwing up challenges that were becoming difficult to meet. People in Udaipur were happy making their daily trips to grocery stores and sending products to other cities through courier was really costly and would start eating into our margins right away. After much contemplation, we came to a conclusion that selling groceries online would be a loss-making proposition right from the start. Now the choice was to wind up everything and go back to our jobs, which for me would have been difficult again, or to try and rework on the product line.
Walking through the markets of Udaipur one day, we saw a lot of tourists thronging the handicraft stores. After doing some research, we realized that at that point in time, none of the online stores was promoting Indian handicrafts exclusively. The products that were available online were limited and very costly. That’s when Apkamart, from an online grocery store, became an online handicraft store. The existing website was revamped and relaunched in April 2015. From 100 products that were initially listed, we have now moved to close to 1700 products which include our traditional jewellery and ethnic wear.
The journey so far has been full of ups and downs with new learnings and experiences. I'd like to share the key takeaways from my journey with you:
Experience Is The Biggest Teacher
Most of our initial hiccups pertaining to our website, SEO or digital marketing arose from the fact that two people from non-tech background had started their e-commerce venture. Words like SEO, SMM, and SEM, when thrown at us, became these big hurdles that we did not know how to deal with. Luckily, Google baba came to our rescue and we decided to deal with these giants one by one. Yes, we did burn our fingers initially but now things seem to be slowly settling.
Business = New Challenges Every Day
Every day brings with it a new set of challenges. An e-commerce store works very differently from an offline store. Since the customer does not physically see the product before ordering sometimes, his expectations may differ. Logistics and inventory management, especially in our case where designs of products keep changing, has to be taken care of on an ongoing basis.
Quality is King!
In handicrafts since there are no standard procedures, it is very easy to manipulate the quality of the product. However, since the beginning, we have been very clear that we would not compromise on our quality. We maintain our own inventory and each product is thoroughly checked for quality before dispatch.
The journey so far has been great and the dream is to make Apkamart a one-stop shop when it comes to handicrafts, decor and gifts. With support from our customers we hope to achieve this dream soon.
This personal narrative has been written by Sakshi Dutt who is the Founder and Co-Owner of Apkamart.com
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H*****Which are the initial steps for starting e commerce website???