Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Best Practices for Selling on Ebay

When we first started selling online, we didnt start with a online website of our own. This was because it takes a lot if effort to actually build a website from scratch - the hosting, the technology, the SEO, the advertisements, the works. Also, we had very little idea about the challenges of selling online - the supply chain, the logistics, the inventory management, the customer service aspect of it. Ebay as a platform made perfect sense for us to launch our products online - apart from the fact that it was the biggest marketplace in India, the tight feedback system and inherent rewarding of good performance was a big draw. We have had a fairly reasonable experience with Ebay and we learnt quite a few small but important things along the way. Here are some of the important ones in case you are looking to sell on Ebay (especially India)

1) Feedback is Key : Good feedback is extremely important. Take that extra leap to get good feedback. Sometimes you may be at fault and sometimes you may run into an unreasonable customer - whatever the reason, try to get good feedback even if it means you lose money on one or two transactions

2) Ship fast : Ship as early as possible which is usually 1-2 days - the quicker you send it, the better it is. If you cant ship early due to inventory issues, think of de-listing such items

3) Good Photos : This is obvious - put up good, reliable photos. Dont zoom too much or make things seem larger than it is - the customer may buy the item but give you a bad feedback which is worse than not buying at all.

4) Good Description : One liners or very small descriptions are not very helpful. Customers want as much information as possible - about the item, size, material etc, especially since they cant really touch the product.

5) Over Communicate - Ebay sends notifications when an order is placed or shipped. However, if you send an email or call a customer, it is at worst an irritant and at best a customer who is assured and may come back for repeat customers.

6) Dont try to deal outside Ebay - There is an implicit trust that is set in the platform while setting up buyers with sellers. If you or the buyer breaks the trust and does the transaction outside, there is a good chance that one of you may not be happy and there would not be a neutral authority to sort it out.

7) If you make a mistake, admit it and correct it - e.g if the item is broken, talk to the customer and resend or refund the money.

8) Free Shipping - People hate to pay for shipping. Its a psychological thing - somebody needs to pay for the shipping and it has to be part of the cost but dont make it explicit and differentiate customers based on location.

Thats all for today. Do visit our Ebay store : http://stores.ebay.in/kraftinn

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hiring for your startup

I started KraftInn with very little capital and with help from family and friends. It has been an incredible journey and though I still dont have any fixed salary or income for myself, I have been able to hire six incredible people - five of them artisans and one of them a painter, a man of great jugaad and a great smile. Hiring is a great responsibility in itself especially when you are looking for people who have families to take care of, have a limited education and are not as spoilt for choices as graduates or engineers. Regardless of the struggles of the company and with a little help from family and friends, I tried my best and has been successful in paying for their salaries on time and provide for their accommodation - Some of them have never been out of their villages.

Now, we are at a phase, where I have started looking for talent of a different sort - creative people like designers, for accounting and customer service. We are based in a very small town, so it works both ways - its difficult to find talent and at the same time, there are people who find it difficult to find jobs.

I have come up with a few notes to figure out how to hire the right people. Some of them are :

1) Integrity : I would rather prefer an employee with limited talent and exceptional integrity rather than the other way round.

2) Relatives : I am a bit confused on this one. When you are very small as a company, it is incredibly difficult to attract talent so one way is to find people who are relatives and looking for work and work out a mutual benefit thing. I just think it may get a bit complicated so I have skipped on this one.

3) Friends : When you start up, you have a host of friends who encourage you and some of them may just be bored with their jobs and looking for that opportunity. Since you know them for long, you know traits about them and hidden talents which most other companies may not have found. Once I am ready to offer something substantial - a reasonable package or equity, this is definitely something that I look at.

4) Interviewing : I look out for resumes and interview people but this one is time taking and sometimes it takes a while to find the right candidate and that works out for everyone.

Let me know if you faced any of these. It will be cool to know what other startups, especially with low capital and a techno-functional businesses are doing this.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Five mistakes as an Entrepreneur

I have been an entrepreneur for the last three years. It has been a roller coaster ride and I have made some very common mistakes. I sometimes wish I didnt make them or somebody could have advised me. So just sharing if it is useful for you.

Mistake No 1: Getting into something I had no clue about

It is difficult to know about a business without doing it. However starting something without any groundwork without any expertise is a mistake. My first shot at entrepreneurship was a HR Consultancy. It is a business built on reputation and though I and my partners were able to arrange meetings with top HR managers, they didn't really trust us due to our lack of experience or the right qualifications for the business

Mistake No 2 : Not starting earlier

I had an inclination and opportunity to become an entrepreneur but I didn't start till I lost my job after the company I worked in closed down. I probably should have started 5-6 years earlier

Mistake No 3: Doing it for money

This is a bit counter intuitive but I believe one must be passionate about the business and when I tried my first business, I just wanted to make money and was not really passionate about the idea - that does not really work. It starts making sense when you really do what you like to do - there are low margin businesses and high margin businesses but what drives you day after day is the passion behind the idea

Mistake No 4: Thinking that marketing is free

For a long time, I believed that if I made something good, it will market itself for free. It does not work like that - no matter how small the budget, it is important to take your business to the right audience and that costs money

Mistake No 5 : Doing everything

No matter how smart you are, you will always need to pass some of the things to others. You cant do all by yourself. It is important to understand your core competence and let other people do things that they are good at - it may be a colleague or outsourced or maybe it can just wait.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Comparison of Courier Companies in India

As a company with an ecommerce front end, we work with various partners and one important partner is the courier company. We have worked with various courier companies and just wanted to share some findings. Obviously, which courier company is the best is a subject of debate and may vary based on location, price flexibility, quality of service requirements and so on.

A quick snapshot based on our experience :

We send a lot of things to remote parts of the country and India Post has by far the best reach. The price is also reasonable. However, unlike other courier companies, they dont really do doorstep delivery - this may be because Postmen in India have cycles and the traditional idea was probably to delivery letters not packages. Whatever be the reason, this is kind of non-negotiable in Ecommerce. You cannot expect customers to come to the Post office to collect their packages, unless they are in really far flung areas.

We have had a good relationship with First Flight. They are extremely competitive in two areas - Accessible and ready to get your business. Every Ecommerce business is a customer who will give them consistent revenue - They seem to understand that. The price is pretty good too. However, the deliveries are not as consistent as we expected them to be- Even 5% non-deliveries or late deliveries can kill your ecommerce business and this is one area that needs to be improved.

Bluedart in our experience has been extremely consistent-yes, consistent is the word. When you do a ecommerce business, it is important for you to guarantee delivery at a particular date - it may be 3 days it may 7 days, but you should be able to set expectations to the customer and Blue dart is fairly consistent. If it has to go to location x, it will take Y days and most of the time, it works like that. Price is slightly on the higher side but then sometimes you are ready to pay a premium for a service well done.

We also worked a bit with Fedex. Though service quality is excellent, they still have a lot of differential pricing which is difficult to understand - Too much variable pricing or location based variables results it practical difficulties for ecommerce companies. You want to predict with good accuracy your logistics cost - it should not be a surprise.

Conclusion : Regardless of the type of business, I guess it makes sense to choose more than one and negotiate for price and flexibility over a period of time. Also, it will be great if the courier companies start thinking of Ecommerce companies as customers :) - Its a great revenue stream and we are ready to give consistent revenue to the ones who give us good value for our money. Help us when we are small and we will be loyal as we grow bigger, I guess. Afterall, Courier companies will probably be the biggest winners in Ecommerce

Friday, September 6, 2013

Packaging of Lamps

Packaging is an important part of our job.
Anjan, our Packaging expert is among other things, 25 years old, father of three, has the toothiest smile in the world, a painter, collects water hyacinth leaves during the weekend, lives by the highway, chews betel nut all the time and has been integral to the KraftInn journey