India has become a goldmine for the internet-based businesses in the last few years. With the availability of low cost data (as low as approx. Rs 50 for a 1GB data against the Rs400+ for US). The advent of internet has made 2 sectors in India boom exponentially – Fintech and E-commerce. While Fintech is a technology dominated sector, eCommerce is easily adoptable and has a huge scope in terms of local marketplaces which can be tapped with this.

As per the Kantar_icube_2020 report*, only 31% of the rural India is accessing the internet in 2021. This clearly means that there is scope for 69% of the population is untapped and is waiting to become internet savvy. With advent of JIO this day doesn’t seem to be far.

According to a IBEF report**, after the lockdown in 2020, a lot of people preferred ecommerce for their shopping needs and between 15-Oct-2020 to 15-Nov-2020, India recorded Rs 58000 Cr of Gross Sales on ecommerce platforms.  This was a 65% growth from the year 2019. To propel growth in the ecommerce sector, the government has proposed 100% FDI in this sector.

However the majority of the market in the ecommerce sector held by monopolies like Amazon and Flipkart. These players make it virtually impossible for any other players to enter the market and also make it impossible for the small business owners to compete on fair grounds. With lack of access to digital platforms, the small businesses succumb and eventually die out.

Changing Face of ECommerce in India

Having said this, there are some tech companies in India like dukaan.com which are trying to address the concern of small business owners with giving them the ability to digitize their stores. However, these companies are not able to help with “discovery” which is the biggest concern on the internet.

eSamudaay (www.eSamudaay.com) is one such tech SaaS based company which helps setting up of digital marketplaces, where the local merchants, sellers and producers can be onboarded. Since this is a digital marketplace and not just an online store, the discovery of the brands is much easier and keeps the customers engaged on virtual marketplace.

The products can then be sold to the end customers from this platform directly. The platform has been a live saver for many during the pandemic since its very low on investment and is very easy to setup. It takes less than Rs 4K a month to set up the digital infrastructure and a team of only 2 to get started.

Setting up a marketplace in the non-metros has been made very easy by eSamudaay with its business in a box concept. ”.  The box contains 4 tools – a web app for the business manager to manage his circle, an app for the merchants, an app for the delivery partners and of course an app for the consumers from which the goods can be ordered.

Local E-Commerce (L ECommerce) Now Has a Real Meaning

eSamudaay has started the digital marketplace circles across India. They are currently located in the states of Karnataka, UP, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur and Gujrat. The local business owners in these cities have been able to identify the need to own the digital marketplaces locally and not handover that business opportunity to the global players like Amazon.

Self-reliance is the key motivation factor among these budding entrepreneurs. Self-reliance is not just limited to financial freedom they say but is also about enabling their towns to fulfil the needs locally.

The Amazon and Flipkart type of solutions have been a decade old and have enabled many supporting businesses like logistics, warehousing. However these corporates come with their predatory attitude where the terms of the game are defined by them. This can prove to be fatal for the well being of the small businesses near you. The small businesses suffer when the good which are produced locally are not sold due to the influx of the goods from other cities.

The power ultimately lies with the sellers with bigger pockets since the advertising on Amazon pushes the non-locals brands up in seller queue. Home grown eSamudaay is an answer to this predatory attitude of the big corporations.

* Kantar ICUBE Report

** IBEF 2021 Report

When the co-founders of eSamudaay prepared the blueprint for driving digital swaraj amongst the vast majority of small businesses, little did they know how crucial the idea would become to rural entrepreneurship in India. Not until the team collaborated with like-minded initiatives late last year, did the team actually recognize the potential of creating producer circles. 

The initiative to build rural entrepreneurship with digital and technology intervention was piloted in Chamarajanagar, among the poorest of districts in Karnataka. The JSS Rural Incubation and Skill Development Centre (JSS RISDC) joined hands with us to scale up local business and generate additional employment in the region. 

The idea behind creating a producer network is to help create self-reliant communities that will then create sustainable economic growth, leading to a truly AtmaNirbhar Bharat. The focus of employment would be the youth and women in the district, resulting in a hub focusing on agri- products, food, health and wellness, textiles, home decor, and arts and crafts. 

The first outcome of this ambitious project is already visible as entrepreneurs and farmers in the region are producing chemical-free jaggery. This back-to-the-roots endeavour has resulted in the joint venture reaching out to more than 100 Aalemanes in the region. Most of them were using unsafe, unhygienic and labour intensive methods to make jaggery. 

As a first step, the JSS RISDC conducted a two-week workshop in April with these Aalemane operators and created an action plan on how to remove chemicals from the production process and create automation for better safety and hygiene. Moreover, these operators were taught to create product innovation as a means to attract the urban consumers.

Making Jaggery in Chamarajanagar

With the production getting off the blocks, the next step was to create a network of wholesalers and retailers who could procure from these small and marginal producers and deliver them to customers in big cities. eSamudaay also joined forces with SolutionBuggy, an AI-enabled tech platform, to develop the best practices and bring in experts to help jaggery producers innovate and sell their products to a wider and discerning audience. 

We are also involved with the producer circle to create effective go-to-market strategies with sample orders of 200 kg having already been dispatched to customers. Going forward, efforts would be made to include identification of more producer circles in other regions. 

  1. Shivashankar, CEO of JSS RISDC, says the Centre was empowering rural communities for the past two decades and its efforts included creation of local business for sustainable growth and self-reliance. "Our expertise and exposure in technology and rural development issues is what helps us bridge the digital gap and encourage entrepreneurship in rural areas."

What does one usually do after joining a top rung engineering college and getting certified as a Bachelor of Technology? Join a multinational company, with roots in Silicon Valley, and start coding with little or no idea of the problem for which the offshore team was building a solution. Well, I was no different from the rest and did exactly the same. 

Six years into this mundane life that was offset by a decent bank balance, I woke up to reality. That however gilt-edged the job was, it would be years before I would get to the point where one could define the impact of one's work. So, I decided to utilize my programming skills to make a difference to some people. My target was the small and medium enterprises in India. 

Entrepreneur Bug

Thus was born Foore, a customer messaging and engagement app designed to help MSMES convert website visitors into customers. A three-year entrepreneurial journey with this product as part of my tryst with entrepreneurship culminated when Anup Pai reached out with the eSamudaay opportunity. 

For me, this was just the opportunity that I sought to expand my scope of business as well as to broaden my perspective on how to facilitate ease of business to a wider audience. Today, I am in a space where my focus is on expanding the footprint by helping the small business employ more people, thus making a measurable impact in solving India's rising unemployment. 

Today I have set myself a goal of connecting with a100,000 coders and developers, all sitting in their own small room in a small city or town, working on code that would solve a local problem through use of technology. This is not like reading a product document and working on one part of a problem. 

Engaging with this large network of skilled techies and offering them earnings that could well be beyond what their starting salaries might be is what I have set for myself as an immediate goal.

When the country was in lockdown completely in March of 2020 and followed the rest of the world to combat Covid-19, I was in the throes of an intellectual saturation. Having fulfilled my obligations towards the acquirers of my first venture, and with some extra cash lying around in the bank, it was just the right time to put on the thinking cap. 

Over the next couple of months, as I engaged in conversations with my friends, family and the rest of the ecosystem that makes us who we are. However, the seeds of eSamudaay were sown probably a couple of months ago. It was just after New Year in 2020 and a few of us gathered on a terrace in rural Bangalore for a booze session. During the night, my alumni entrepreneurs shared their vision of what it means to be running an enterprise. 

The short video we created out of these conversations stayed with me and crystallized into an idea of how digital transformation could help people in smaller cities and towns to witness real economic growth at the grassroots. And then things began to move, as if powered by the energy of the universe. We registered eSamudaay in June, and suddenly folks, whom I didn't know or knew vaguely started connecting with the idea of democratising digital #DigitalSwaraj. 

From my perspective though, the story may have begun last year, but the narrative got stronger as the group got bigger and broader. Amidst all of this, my moments of silence during that daily run helped me reclaim lost knowledge. It was the awareness that entrepreneurship is itself the application of that knowledge - to venture into the unknown to create a future that does not mimic the past, while being ensconced in those fundamental truths defining universality. 

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