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Online selling model: How tech enables micro-to-medium enterprises to scale up

By entering the world of technology, small sellers are able to find solutions to operational challenges and generate cost synergies.

By Gopal Pillai

The e-commerce revolution has radically transformed the way business is transacted, impacting both value and volume growth. Sellers have realised the potential of business opportunities offered by e-commerce platforms-where technology is helping empower the seller ecosystem at a rapid pace and unprecedented scale. From my own experience, tech has enabled a jump in the seller base of my company from a mere handful of sellers and 7 million products in 2013 to a phenomenal 500,000+ sellers and 200 million+ products.

Technology also enables channel partners to access customised seller services like registration, imaging, cataloguing and training. Thus, when you are working within a big seller ecosystem, technology helps in building scale, reach and engagement, while simultaneously offering support on an individual basis. In the e-commerce world, technological innovation revolves around stakeholder needs. For instance, India's small business owners are more comfortable with mobiles than laptops. Thus, easy-to-use mobile apps are clearly the best route to on-boarding sellers onto the digital ecosystem. These seller apps should be designed to enable business owners to manage their business end-to-end, with real-time updates regarding online registration, order notification, order details, shipment confirmation and fulfilment notification.

Technology has empowered local artisans, weavers and craftsmen engaged in traditional art and crafts to jump onto the e-commerce bandwagon. With tech having wiped away the boundaries of language and space, hyperlocal sellers, even in remote locations, are able to connect with customers, not just across the length and breadth of India but also globally.

By entering the world of technology, small sellers are able to find solutions to operational challenges and generate cost synergies. For example, with an inventory management software, sellers can maintain an online repository of their entire product base, which would be listed on the e-commerce portal, on a real-time basis. This can drastically reduce transportation and storage costs for sellers and enable stock holding at a single warehouse location.

Another benefit is better customer experiences. New tech tools have helped to bridge the gap between sellers and buyers. Sellers are able to obtain prompt feedback from the customers on product quality and take proactive remedial steps to improve product offerings. Technology also helps enable collaboration amongst sellers and their peers, allowing them to network, participate in industry events and online forums to jointly address challenges they face.

In this evolving tech-led world, training is the biggest enabler and seller-focussed skill building initiatives are critical to fill knowledge gaps and smooth the path. Online training is the obvious route but it is necessary to offer this in regional languages, and in multiple formats such as text, video and audio. In India, WhatsApp has emerged as a leading communication channel which can be leveraged by companies to explore new ways of communicating and building relationships with sellers.

Clearly, technology has positively impacted the lives of small business owners across India, helping them grow their business through wider market accessibility and enhanced pricing power, thanks to higher levels of awareness of competition, industry trends and customer expectations. The information age facilitated by technology has helped sellers reinvent themselves into agile and better-informed business partners, staying ahead of the curve to keep the growth engine going.

(The writer is VP, Seller Services, Amazon India)