Thursday 7 April 2016

Not selling on Alibaba yet? But it has pros that Indian marketplaces don’t!

Alibaba, the rags to riches story of the poor woodcutter who chances upon a cave of treasure appeals to adults and children alike. Somewhat similar is the story ofAlibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant that has taken the online world by storm.
Many Indian sellers are finding it to their advantage to be selling on Alibaba due to the global exposure.
At the start, it might be overwhelming to navigate around the site, with its cluttered appearance and ads all over the place. IOS has therefore come up with a simple guide on the how, why, and what of selling at Alibaba.

What are the pros?

  • Top on the list of reasons is the sheer popularity and reach of Alibaba. The company had the largest initial public offering (IPO) in the US when it went public in 2014, (which dropped subsequently), and a reach that extends to over 190 countries, Alibaba is right there when it comes to popularity.
  • The scale of operations is another reason why you should sell on Alibaba. It has a GMV of $269 billion as of 2014, at least twice that of Amazon’s estimated GMV of $ 100 billion. The company is now responsible for nearly 80% of the online sales in China.
  • You need not worry about language barriers, as Alibaba has sites for around fifteen languages including Hebrew, Korean, Arabic and Dutch.
  • You can pick the marketplace of your choice based on your budget. The company has Taobao for small sellers (free service), Alibaba for middle level businesses and Tmall for big brands.
  • It has AliPay, its own payment mode, which allows secure online transactions.

How to sign up

Signing up on Alibaba is quite a simple process. Let us look at how to get cracking.
  • Registration – The first obvious step is to create an account on Alibaba. This is as simple as creating an email id. You have to enter your mail id and create a password and open an account.
  • Select your product category – You then have to enter the name of your product and the category to which it belongs from the drop down.
Image courtesy: WikiHow
  • Product details – You have to add a brief description and images of your product. The model number, brand name etc goes here.
  • Company details – Give a brief intro to your company. You can also mention the year of establishment, number of employees, certifications if any, and some pictures if you like.
Your profile will look something like this to a buyer:
Image courtesy:
Image courtesy:
(Note the Gold Supplier badge on the top right corner of the page. This paid feature puts you a notch above non-paying sellers.)
  • Payment and shipping details – Select the preferred mode of payment, estimated time of delivery and packing details.
Once you have entered all the required details, click the ‘Submit’ button and await approval before you can start selling.

Sellers speak

So how does it feel to actually sell on Alibaba? According to Dhaval D Patel, the founder of Eshan Traders, a company that exports circuit breakers, switch gears, motors, power transmission suppliers and the like, feels that Alibaba’s popularity is its attractiveness.
“When we started our export selling with Alibaba around three years ago, it was the only available platform. Even today, our choices are limited.”
Patel says that the platform offers very little support to its sellers.
“All that they do is offer paid packages that verify the seller and give a badge based on the amount paid. A seller has to create the store from scratch.
There is a sellers’ forum where you can talk to other sellers and get help if you get stuck anywhere. Some sellers are quite helpful and guide you and pass on tips.”
The company also sells on IndiaMART, another B2B marketplace, which creates a seller catalogue and helps with creating the store.

Alibaba versus everyone else

  • Selling on Alibaba puts sellers on the map like no other. They get access to buyers across the world. The fact that it is a well known shopping destination should be used well.
  • This article points out the immense possibilities of products on Alibaba, which is unimaginable in an Indian marketplace. The most bizarre items up for sale include human hair, dome houses, chicken feather pluckers, and bullet proof vests. Interestingly these are sold by Indians.
  • Its sales numbers beat Amazon’s and eBay’s. In 2014, it stood at $420 billion, versus Amazon’s $74.4 billion (2013), and eBay’s $16 billion (2013). This is an indication of the sellers’ scope as well; considering that Alibaba is B2B. “On alibaba, I don’t have a high profit margin like selling on Amazon, but the numbers of sale are 2 times higher,” says Steve Greys, a seller at eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba.

Some handy tips

Patel has this to say to anyone wanting to sell on Alibaba,
“Be fully prepared with facts before you start selling; you cannot just jump into the water and try swimming. Do your homework well and find out which products are in demand, see if you can offer competitive rates; there are plenty of products that can be manufactured cheaper in India than in China. Study the market thoroughly before you choose a business. You must also be prepared to navigate your way around the site and figure the working by yourself, and not expect any help from the company.”
A few things to keep in mind:
  • Start in small scale. Even if you are an established seller, ensure you keep it low key till you find your footing.
  • Communicate in simple English. Not everyone in the global market is fluent in English.
  • Study your competition. Keep an eye on those who sell in the same domain.
  • Carry out extensive marketing. You will have to pay attention to advertisement and marketing as the site itself does not help much there.

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