E-commerce giants are piggybacking on the government's Make in India initiative to get a foothold in rural markets and expand their merchant base.
Start-ups such as Paytm, Snapdeal, Shopclues and Askme have all started various projects under the scheme. As many as 60,000 handicraft sellers and Indian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been brought on to these portals in the past few months.
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"Supporting such schemes help e-commerce companies expand their merchant base as well as capture the rural market," said Amarjeet Singh, Partner - Tax, KPMG in India. "SMEs are making good products but funding remains a problem. E-commerce companies are solving this by helping with lending schemes."
Last year, start-ups tried to cash in on the Digital India initiative. This year the focus has been on Make in India. Paytm, which has been trying to promote its marketplace, plans to induct around 5,000 Indian manufacturers and sellers this year. The company has launched programmes such as Paytm Force and PaytmGoBig Partners to identify and train new sellers.
Sudhanshu Gupta, vice-president at Paytm, said: "Through our own drive of supporting Make in India products, we have been able to build a relationship with manufacturers from diverse backgrounds, ranging from manufacturers who supply to large global brands to self-help groups out of Maharashtra that provide income to 100 small households by selling their handicrafts/products online."
Companies are also getting into tie-ups with various ministries. Snapdeal, for example, has partnered with the National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to train small and medium businesses (SMBs) on digital marketing. "We are also working closely with manufacturers and brands to help them tailor their offerings to the Indian market on the basis of intelligence gathered through data analytics. We enable them to plan production cycles on the basis of predictive demand forecasts and customise their products to target specific consumer segments," said Rajnish Wahi, senior vice-president, corporate affairs and communications, Snapdeal.
Companies have even started Make in India-themed verticals to promote and add more sellers to their portals. "The basic premise of IndiMarket or erstwhile National Retail Heritage was to give consumers a traditional bazaar-like shopping experience. Keeping this in mind, IndiMarket has a large collection of authentic ethnic products," said Nitin Kochhar, vice-president-categories at Shopclues. AskMePay, the payment initiative by the AskMe group, launched AskmeFin, a scheme to help sellers get loans easily. Loans on offer range between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 crore and will be available for as little as 15 days or as long as six months. "In addition to this, we offer financing, marketing, logistics and payments to sellers on our portal," said Kiran Murthi, CEO, Askmebazaar.com.