Sanjeev Barnwal, Founder and CTO of internet commerce unicorn Meesho, spoke with Activity area about the company’s efforts to solve problems for its sellers and help their businesses grow using technology. Meesho had crossed 6 lakh seller registrations on our platform last month, seven times more than the company’s April 2021 count.
Can you give us an overview of the challenges Meesho sellers typically face?
Over 50% of vendors who start selling on Meesho are new to e-commerce, meaning they would otherwise sell offline. They started exploring online as a distribution channel for the first time with Meesho. This comes with its own set of interesting challenges like how we keep the experience very simple and how we help them overcome some basic difficulties like how to price products online. Most of our sellers are manufacturers and wholesalers, which means they wholesale in the offline market, so we need to help them find the right products, which they should list. So it’s basically the personality of the seller that we work with.
What technology solutions have you designed to help sellers?
From the initial integration, we made sure it was simple and fast. It takes less than 12 hours for sellers to be integrated on Meesho. We’ve always worked with both desktop and mobile compatible views for sellers. Recently, we also launched a separate section on the Meesho app for vendors to create their accounts, create listings, switch orders, etc. We use videos to help sellers learn how to deal with errors reported by the system, such as missing information or other issues. This is a self-service platform as we have a large number of vendors, and for each of them calling our customer support is not very scalable.
Once they start taking orders, we have a stack of tools to help them grow their business. The price recommendation is one of these tools. We use data science to compare similar products, similar categories and other factors to recommend the right price for their products to sellers. The second is inventory forecasting, which helps sellers know when to re-manufacture and when to restock. The third is that product recommendation based on expected product demand. This allows vendors to understand which 10 or 20 products from their product catalog they should list and focus on. Fourth, the feed algorithm, which ensures that every vendor gets the right exposure and creates a level playing field for new sellers, which then helps them succeed on our platform.
As you said, these sellers mostly sold offline. Does that mean you have to invest a lot in a human customer support team?
The beauty of our platform is that it is completely self-service. So, without the help of an account manager or a customer service person, sellers can go ahead and do all these processes. Some will encounter difficulties, and some questions, but they are in the minority. We have custom support channels where they can create a ticket. Then someone on our side would help them and guide them in the right direction. It can’t be a high-touch model. If you end up creating a product that has a steep learning curve. I think it’s hard to get adoption in our massive seller base. We try to solve problems through technology so that it becomes more self-service.
Over time, we will also integrate AI chatbots to help them solve their queries faster and in a much more automated way. These are things on the roadmap, but they also help them further improve their support experience.
Will the company consider going into video and live commerce?
We have experimented with live trading, and it has been around for 4-5 months now. We are seeing very good traction and many providers are using it. These are providers themselves who create videos, broadcast live and answer questions from their customers.
We help them with technology that creates the right application, which not only captures the video images, but also sends them to millions of users in an optimized format. Playing these live videos over unstable internet bandwidth is going to be difficult. So we focus on building the technology. We will not create video cards because it is not scalable.
Going forward, what are the tools on your technology roadmap?
The focus is on how we help them grow their business, beyond price and product recommendations. Overall, many sellers have questions about how they can double their sales, how can they appear higher in searches, or how can they make the description more accessible to buyers, etc.
Maybe a supplier does well in a particular type of shoe but doesn’t know they are doing well. Just maybe give this idea that you are doing well in this area but not in the other 4 shoes, so double that. We try to automate this kind of information because when you look at a supplier individually, you can still understand this information, but it is not scalable. We want to do this in an automated way, using AI, to get insights into all of the activity a seller has had over the past year. Combine it with trends of what’s going well in the category and what’s not. Then feedback is given in a way that sellers can consume and take action in a simple descriptive manner. Knowledge of suppliers will therefore be an area in which we will redouble our efforts.