Backed by technology and strong engagement metrics, Suchi Mukherjee’s LimeRoad.com wants to make every woman in the country a customer. With over 20,000 sellers on board and a strong community of women scrapbookers, the goal for the ecommerce brand is to create more than a million entrepreneurs on the platform in the next six months.SUCHI MUKHERJEE, CEO AND FOUNDER, LIMEROAD.COM
Me-time, as most of us call it, can be the most rewarding of moments, just like it happened for Suchi Mukherjee. When she was grabbing one such exclusive moment for herself after the birth of her second child, she found a piece of jewellery in a magazine which she wanted to feel and buy. Then, she realized two things. One, there was no consumer technology that made discovery of products easy and entertaining and two, there was no access to the vast array of products that were being manufactured and shipped out of India. This led to the birth of LimeRoad, an online women’s lifestyle platform, turning Mukherjee into a first-time entrepreneur. “The main endeavour of LimeRoad.com is to become a platform for women to not only explore and shop for products but also to share and express their individuality through scrapbooking, a personal space on LimeRoad that lets one’s creative instincts create a fashion look or assemble decor ideas,” shares Mukherjee.
The platform has three ecosystems that reinforce each other. The vendors who post products, scrapbookers who create unique user generated content using the products, thus solving the visual cognition problem people have in buying lifestyle related products, and the consumers. Funded by Tiger Global Management, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Matrix Partners India, LimeRoad operates on a capital light model with no inventory, and earns a commission from vendors for the products sold. With a good repeat business, it has seen 600 percent growth in its gross merchandise value in the last 12 months.
Journey so far
With the current team strength of 400 as against 50 three years back, when it was incorporated, LimeRoad.com has made significant inroads into the crowded e-commerce market. The company has built a lifestyle platform that differentiates it from the rest by focussing on user generated social visual content with hyper engagement as its key growth driver. In fact, over the last six months, its engagement metrics have reached new heights and the community posted up to three million new looks a month, averaging 100,000 a day. Additionally, the scrapbookers community has increased from 30, 000 to 75,000 in the last one year. “LimeRoad scrapbook is my way of getting out there from the boundaries my family has set for me. They won’t allow me to post pictures on Facebook. But this is my creativity,” says scrapbooker Prerana, a home maker in Jharkhand who has created 2,053 looks so far.
Mukherjee recalls an incident. “I was recently talking to a little girl who lives outside of Ranchi, and she said she made 2,000 scrapbooks on LimeRoad. I called her and said we will do an event in Patna, why don’t you come over and talk to a few journalists? She said my mother won’t let me go to Patna. LimeRoad is my way of extending my personality and making my mark in the world.”
Today, nearly 50 per cent of online shoppers are women in India, and shopping is no longer only an activity, rather a behavioural attribute. Eighty per cent of women say they recommend their purchase to other women, thus interaction and experience is what women look for while shopping. Almost 15 per cent of Indian women visit LimeRoad four to 10 times in a month and consumers repeat 84 times a year on the app with conversion rates to buying at per cent month on month. As a result, 85 per cent of the company’s orders come from organic traffic. “Over the last 12 months, we have grown 600 per cent in terms of gross merchandise value,” says she.
Sharing some more statistics, Mukherjee says, “The LimeRoad Mobile App has a 80 per cent organic user traffic, and almost 70 per cent of orders on LimeRoad are through the mobile app.”
“Great consumer brands are built by bringing together a tremendously passionate loyal base of customers, who love something fundamental about the product that is beyond simply discounted prices.”
The platform aims to provide unique products to its users for which the ecosystem may or may not have vendors who are professionally geared to handle the backend. Hence, it also has vendors who have no offline presence and 76 per cent of its vendors are exclusively on LimeRoad. “Through this platform, smaller unique sellers from across the country are getting discovered,” states Mukherjee. There was a surge since June 2015 and the number of seller reached 20,000 as against 2000 earlier. Mukherjee attributes this to the improvement in the technology interface for the sellers, which now allows them to start their own digital store in 60 seconds with their smartphone.
Customer acquisition strategy
Indian e-commerce today is mostly about discounted pricing, with the core consumer behaviour being “where can we get this the cheapest”. However, Mukherjee begs to disagree. “Great consumer brands are built by bringing together a tremendously passionate loyal base of customers who love something fundamental about the product that is beyond simply discounted prices,” she states. And, she and her team are on a mission to build a discovery platform where consumers come because they get to discover products at affordable prices. And, this discovery is best led through social channels. “Social commerce plays on the two fundamental shrines of human behaviour – one, if many others like it, and two, if your friends like it, you are more likely to want to see it,” observes she.
In the last three years, LimeRoad has received three rounds of funding accounting to US $50 million, the latest one being a Series C round of US $30 million from existing investors, Tiger Global Management, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Matrix Partners India. It plans to use these funds to expand its business. The company works on a focused approach to retain a prolific relationship with its stakeholders – the customers and the vendors. “We make sure that the vendors are able to establish stores of their own without having to rely on excessive retail costs, while at the same time having access to an army of scrapbookers who are essentially helping them make their products look gorgeous and thereby reach out to millions of potential buyers,” she explains. In other words, it’s an entirely symbiotic relationship between the vendor and the consumer.
Mukherjee has a vision of creating one million entrepreneurs in the country in next 12 months with the help of the new vendor app, growing user base and scrapbooking app. Her platform has users who are creating looks almost every day, and the new scrapbooking app is influencing young girls and fashion aspirants to create interesting looks to earn reward points. “These apps are changing the way people perceive fashion. It is empowering them to create and express their style sensibilities. Also, with the new vendor app, now creating an online store has become extremely simple,” shares she. Mukherjee is all set to scale her business to the next level with the goal of reaching out to every single woman in the country and covert her into a LimeRoad user.
My Personal Style
Recently, I was attending a town hall, which was organised for our Bengaluru Scrapbooking Community, where I had the pleasure of meeting the top 150 scrapbookers from the city. As usual, I wrapped up a couple of work meetings before attending the Town Hall and literally had no time even to glance at the mirror. I just walked in and greeted the crowd, and suddenly two teen girls walked up to me and said, “we are glad that you are so confident about yourself and your style, we were literally thinking of walking out of the door because we felt that we are terribly under dressed.” I guess somehow, I, as a person, and brand LimeRoad have been able to stand with our cause ‘Real Women Real Style – Democratising Fashion in Truest Sense’
Cracking the Ecommerce Segment
We need to ask ourselves these 3 questions and introspect, before we get going with our startup journey;
- What is the user problem you are solving; i.e whose life will get better by the product you will create?
- Are there enough people with this problem? i.e is the market large enough?
- Are you truly passionate about solving his/her problem? You need this one thing to sustain you through the lows, and make no mistake there will be many.
Once you have an answer to this, you need to:
- Start off with basics and device a plan to deal with teething issues. To begin with, find great people with the combination of skills and real can-do attitude.
- Sort out the complexities with basic infrastructure, including things as basic as reliable Internet, complex bank process, involved RoC processes was also a struggle.
- Learn to deal with your team. A happy team is the most productive team, for people even at the most senior levels.
- A strong backend is the crucial factor for any consumer led organization. Our endeavor is to provide unique products and for which the ecosystem may or may not be of vendors who are professionally geared for the backend. Partnering with them to ensure a sustained stream of products is an extremely challenging ongoing task.
- Prioritize your efforts to build a trustworthy and conducive relationship with your investors.