We strongly believe that there is HUGE opportunity yet to be tapped by serving niche markets in India especially by way of leveraging the power of Internet, and TechMirchi.com, a Chennai based e-commerce startup seems to have understood that very well.
Follow our conversation below with Vaseem Thabrez, Founder of TechMirchi who transformed his hobby into a growing business.
1. What is TechMirchi.com in a nutshell?
Techmirchi.com is India's first online shopping portal dedicated for computers and technology related products for Indians.
2. Reasons you decided to launch a startup and the motivation behind developing a dot com? How did you get the thought?
India has an immense potential for E-commerce while it lacked a safe online shopping portal entirely dedicated for technology related products. Initial research on online forums showed a positive response which gave us the encouragement to 'go ahead' and start a new venture.
3. Who is your target audience/market? Aren't there already sites in India that provide such a service? Also, within the context of this question, what is it that makes your company unique amongst others offering similar services, if any? Why should someone choose you over another competing site? Any significant features we should know?
Companies and individuals looking for a safe online shopping experience for technology products are our priority audience. We are encouraging traditional offline buyers by giving them good service, fast delivery and online tech advice.
While every major portal in India have their shopping sites integrated to their portals, they sell everything right from chocolates to clothes mostly outsourced from third parties. While they do have a section for tech related components, customers don't have a lot of choice, the products are mostly outdated and the prices are too steep. We are trying hard to become a one stop discount shop with excellent service and thorough customer satisfaction.
TechMirchi.com definitely has an edge being a dedicated technology related online shopping mall. Computer enthusiasts would prefer buying from a dedicated/niche and an absolutely safe site rather than a generic shopping site. We care about our customers and most of our costumers come back as well as refer their friends.
4. How well is TechMirchi doing? Could we get some insights into revenues/profits? Any significant accomplishments?
TechMirchi.com is doing well and is on way to meet our expectations for this year. We wouldn't like to disclose our profits and revenues at this stage, but we can confidently say that we have done significant business in the last one year.
We feel acquiring customers as far as in Kashmir and the North Eastern Regions of India were our significant accomplishments. While many people tend to think that the metros is where the business is, it is surprising to note that many of our customers are infact tech enthusiasts from internal regions of India and this is because they realized they would save a lot of money buying online rather than traveling to the nearest city or metro.
5. As per a report, NewEgg.com was able to raise online sales to $1.3 Billion by just improving site usability. The point being, site usability does seem to play a major role in the revenues. In what areas do you think TechMirchi.com would need improvements/enhancements? Are there any in the pipeline?
Yes, site usability is one of the important factors we have kept in mind right from stage one of development of the portal. Our customers feel it's easy to navigate and buy what they want with relative ease. We also have a very simple yet efficient online shopping cart where the entire deal is very transparent . We haven't had a single issue so far with our site usability.
That said, as our portal evolves, we will be constantly adding more features, but as of now we are keeping it simple and easy to use.
6. Could you tell us more about yourself, your position & other key players/stake holders, if any? What were you all doing before starting this company & also your previous work experiences?
I (Vaseem Thabrez, CEO) have a Masters in Media Technology from Anna University, Chennai. I was also awarded India's Best System Builder in 2005 by AMD and CRN among 1500 entries all over India, with a cash prize of One Lakh (2200 USD Approx.) and a fully paid trip to Malaysia. I have been building customized computer systems right from my college days. What started out as a hobby is now a full fledged business.
Parvez Syed, My brother and Director - is an NRI living in Folsom, California working for Intel. He holds a M.S from Penn state University and is currently pursuing his MBA at UCLA.
TechMirchi.com is a result of my passion after college and ever since has been a combined effort of me and my brother.
7. How large is your team? Are all of you operations based in India or do you have overseas operations? Do you collaborate with overseas partners/suppliers?
We have a small and efficient team. We outsource most of our portal development jobs while we have an in-house team for Customer support and logistics. Our idea is to keep the overhead costs low to offer maximum value for our customers.
We don't have any overseas operations as of now as we are totally concentrating on India. We wish to collaborate with overseas partners and suppliers in the near future.
8. How is your startup being funded so far? Did you receive any other external funding? If not, do you plan on seeking external funding?
The entire funding so far has been internal. We plan to receive external funding through prospective venture capitalist firms from which we would be able to allocate more money for marketing and expansion.
9. Few of our readers indicated interest in learning how to go about taking an idea from concept to inception. So, could you please share with us your experiences. For example, did you encounter any initial hiccups? Could you please explain the process you followed that might help/inspire other future entrepreneurs planning to startup in different fields?
Many prospective Indian Entrepreneurs conceptualize well but soon tend to divert or lose interest. I would just advice them to be more focused through concept to inception. Think Big and start out soon or else there would be someone else to think in your lines and capture the limelight.
The number one hiccup for any online B2C venture in India is finance. Thus start out small, keep your overhead costs low and slowly develop. Offer maximum value possible to your customers.
10. What are the key technologies your site is built upon and why did you opt for them?
Our Site is built on ASP and Microsoft SQL Server which is the most stable and reliable platform, the entire site is coded from scratch including the shopping cart .While we could have opted for an open source platform, we didn't want to experiment at stage one.
11. Where do you plan to take TechMirchi.com going forward? How do you plan on accomplishing your goals?
TechMirchi's initial goal of reaching the gatekeepers (tech enthusiasts) is in progress. We plan to be the best (in terms of price, products and service) online tech shopping portal in India within the next 3 years. We are planning to market extensively to reach out to the entire online community in India.
12. What are some of the key challenges in your business and how do you plan on tackling them?
The most major challenge is marketing our concept for which we are working hard to tackle and also pouring in most of our profits. We are also trying our best to convince traditional offline buyers who just visit the site for verifying prices to actually buy the product.
13. In your experience, what has been the most effective way to market a business? Also, what do you think would act as a catalyst to drive startups (especially in India) towards success?
The most effective way to market a business is through satisfied customers. Once they get to trust you, they spread the word to like-minded people and the word spreads. Apart from this, we have found it's a lot more effective to market our concept online rather than offline. We prefer cost effective advertising like forums, blogs, and tech related sites and of course Google's adwords program.
14. What is your take on increasing number of startups in India?
It's a good sign that there is a positive trend in the number of startups. It shows that India has a got a huge knowledge base with innovative young minds.
15. Do you have any personal advice/suggestions for current/future entrepreneurs?
Keep your product/service unique. Start out small and aim big. Try to make people's life better with your concept.
16. On a personal front, who is your role model? Also, which websites do you read often??
My role model is NR Narayana Murthy, founder and chief mentor of Infosys.
I visit all tech related websites like AnandTech, TomsHardware, DigitalTrends, CNET etc.
17. How did being an entrepreneur affect your lifestyle? Do you get enough time for yourself/family?
I haven't sacrificed much being an entrepreneur. This is what I wanted and I am happy that I am doing something unique with a focused mind.
18. Our final question, one thing that you love the most?
Memories of the past and forthcoming success.
19. What is the question you would like to answer and still nobody asked you?
"How does it feel to acquire NewEgg.com?" (I know it's too far fetched, but still it might be possible.)
Well, we look forward to the day when we can change the title of this post to "Indian company TechMirchi.com to acquire U.S based NewEgg.com". Anything and everything is possible. Dare to dream, dream to achieve.