The latest company to join the unicorn club, Meesho, aims to build a single ecosystem to help SMBs
- Home-grown platform Meesho is the latest start-up to join the unicorn club after raising $300 million from Softbank Vision Fund 2.
- Founded in 2015, Meesho launched its first TVC in 2020 that aimed to celebrate financial independence of Indian women.
It is now planning to go bullish on marketing with new campaigns and collaborations to expand its reseller user base.
- Vidit Aatrey, Founder and CEO, Meesho walks us through the company’s journey from scratch, marketing goals for the year and shares his vision.
“Social commerce was already a popular concept at that time but the challenges such as limited access to supply, lack of logistics/ payment options, customer friendly policies etc, were also on the rise,” shared Aatrey.
Months went into experimenting with the idea, researching the market and getting the logistics right. They juggled between ideas until they perfected the core business proposition. Cut to today, Meesho has just raised $300 million in a new round of funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 on April 02. The startup has already joined the unicorn club. As per media reports, the new Series E round gives the five-year-old Bangalore-based company a valuation of $2.1 billion, up from about $600 million-$700 million in the 2019 Series D investment.
The social commerce platform claims to have over 13 million entrepreneurs, a majority of whom are women. It has helped them start their own online businesses with zero investment, bringing the benefits of e-commerce to over 45 million customers across the country.
Sharing why Aatrey started Meesho, he said, “‘Meesho’ stands for ‘meri shop’ or apni dukaan. Almost 9 out of every 10 individuals in India have a dream of starting his/her small business. Given the increasing number of self-employed, small business owners, gig workers in India it is no surprise that Indians have an enterprising mind. However, starting a business requires a lot of capital. India is not such a rich country. Most people do not have access to capital. These people who never had the opportunity to start a store came onto our platform and became entrepreneurs for the first time. One can come here, start his/her shop on WhatsApp, access anything from our supplier marketplace, and as per consumer orders, purchase is made from the marketplace.”
Meesho primarily connects sellers with customers through social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook. It supervises logistics, online payment and provides real-time updates.
Till date, the company has delivered orders from 100K+ registered suppliers to over 26,000 pin codes in more than 4,800 cities, helping generate over Rs 500 crore in income for entrepreneurs and serving customers in more than 4,500 Tier 2+ cities -- bringing e-commerce to Bharat.
As per a recent report by Deloitte, India’s e-commerce is expected to grow from $24 billion in 2017 to $84 billion in 2021.
Considering that India has about 60 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) currently, Meesho is just getting started. Aatrey said, “We have ~9M women entrepreneurs and India is roughly going to have more than 250M women who will be online by 2025. Given this understanding, we are just scratching the surfaces of enabling women to start their own business. With the growth that we have seen over the last year, we want to bring our value proposition to many aspiring women, and we see a lot of value in further communicating our value proposition. That said, we will consistently be communicating how Meesho can empower and enable women entrepreneurs in starting their home businesses.”
According to Aatrey, the social reselling market in India is estimated to be $6-7 billion (GMV) in size as of 2020. By 2025, the social commerce is expected to be ~$70B and total ecommerce to be $200 Bn as the number of online shoppers, especially from tier II cities and beyond, continues to rise. After the pandemic, Meesho has also seen an increased adoption rate in Bharat.
“Overall, more than 70% of our orders come from tier II+ towns. We have seen very good adoption in tier II+ towns during the pandemic: we have served 2000+ new tier 2+ towns since June and our order share from these towns has also increased from 67% earlier to 72% between July and December 2020,” said he.
Aatrey believes that the future of online shopping is social commerce and more and more retail outlets have started exploring this medium after the pandemic.
“I believe evolving technology is a wakeup call for everyone in business. It is imperative for all to realize the huge potential that digital has and ways to leverage it. The lockdown period came as a lesson for many of us. Many retailers in India resorted to selling products over WhatsApp and that shows how the retail market is also changing and moving towards digital. In fact, according to a retail website, today 85% of sellers using social commerce are small, offline retailers giving sharp competition to large organized sellers on e-commerce platforms. As per Bain Analysis, India has the highest number of internet users (572 million) globally, with substantial room for growth. So, the retail market has enough potential to leverage social commerce and bloom,” elaborated Aatrey.
Carving a niche beyond social commerce
Since a majority of its sellers and buyers are women, Meesho’s communication also centers around women empowerment. Its mission is to help women achieve financial independence. Its first TVC, conceptualised by DDB Mudra, focused on an unstated need of a woman, which is to claim what she rightfully deserves – her own identity. The film celebrated the unstoppable spirit of women who overcome all social and economic barriers with the line that captures the sentiment of 'Not just a homemaker, a Meesho Entrepreneur.'
Telling us more about the company's marketing proposition, Aatrey said, “We have more than 9 million resellers on our platform spread across 100 cities out of which 80% of them being women from smaller towns and cities. Social and cultural factors for years have kept this section of the society away from employment. Our strategy has always been to empower more and more people to fulfil their dream of becoming an entrepreneur, especially women, who due to social obligations sacrifice their dreams and fall behind in terms of financial independence. We wish to give them all a sense of self and accomplishment through our platform. Social media is our backbone and these entrepreneurs, our pillars of strength.”
Meesho is also fighting against e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart, who are ploughing billions of dollars and have been around for a while. Meesho’s rivals have on-boarded Bollywood celebrities and have a huge media presence.
“In the era of Amazon and Flipkart, we at Meesho are trying to build trust through social commerce. Our strategy has always been to empower more and more people to fulfil their dream. Our communication will remain around our USP- to help build entrepreneurs with zero capital. We will also find more channels this year to penetrate our value proposition further,” said Aatrey.
After the recent funding round, Meesho is aiming to build a single ecosystem that will enable all small businesses to grow faster.
“With the new round of funding, we are now focused on expanding our vision — from helping aspiring women entrepreneurs to creating Meesho as a single ecosystem that will enable all small businesses in India to succeed online. In the last one year, we have seen tremendous growth across small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking to move their businesses online. And with our new vision we will enable 100 million small businesses to start, succeed and lead their operations online with Meesho as their partner in their journey,” said Aatrey.
The introduction of smartphones and penetration of the internet and WhatsApp in particular has made the market size for social commerce grow larger, which is estimated to reach $70B USD in 2025. Meesho aims to leverage this demand and go bullish on marketing with new campaigns and collaborations with different partners to accelerate its user base of resellers on the platform.
“2021 has come with a new set of possibilities, opportunities, and challenges to tackle. We, at Meesho, are committed to our goal of letting anyone start a digital business with zero capital. Major focus area would be to enable increased adoption of Meesho’s platform across multiple categories which would be possible only when we are able to structurally reduce our prices for our customers. We also plan to leverage the digital ecosystem and unravel more benefits that it can offer for the betterment of our entrepreneurs and Meeho’s growth. We aim at surpassing all our achievements and recognitions from previous years and reach newer milestones. We are also looking at transforming the Meesho app for better experience for our entrepreneurs. With new built in features, we hope to enhance the look and feel of the app. ‘ Meeshoites’ are looking at the year with great hope, plans and execution methods,” shared Aatrey.