Tuesday 14 March 2017

[Seller Interview] When ecommerce problems arise, share experiences & talk to other online sellers, says Shalini Singh

Shalini Singh
Many desire to make business a profession but only a few succeed at it. It takes passion, drive and a level head, says online seller Shalini Singh. Starting an enterprise was a life-long dream for her. After 16 years of corporate living, Shalini wanted to bring her dream to life. It was only 2 years ago that a friend of hers enlightened her about online selling. He had tried selling mobile phones online and was doing quite well for himself. Inspired by the results, Shalini decided to have a go at it too.
Indian Online Seller (IOS), spoke with the delightful business woman and uncovered her ecommerce experience. She feels online selling is not discriminatory towards women sellers and has loads of opportunities for anyone with the desire to start a retail business.
Here’s how ecommerce has empowered her and nurtured her entrepreneurship goals.

IOS: What do you sell online and how did you begin?

After a friend suggested online selling to me 2 years ago, I decided to use my knowledge and contacts from the appliance companies I used to work with. As a result of this, I could avail of kitchen and home appliances to sell online.
Currently, I sell kitchen and home appliances on many marketplaces like Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon, Shopclues, Home Punch, Paytm, Infibeam and many more. In the near future, I should have my very own store up and running as well.
My plan is to add more categories to my seller portfolio. I am an online distributor for three appliance brands and recently register my own brand. I intend on introducing and listing the same on different marketplaces soon.

IOS: What makes ecommerce worth your while?

Low overheads – An online business generally has lower overheads compared to offline business, translating into less financial commitment.
Cross border ecommerce – Ecommerce is also the easiest way to sell your goods globally.
Anyone can sell – Anyone can start selling after registering online.
Small investments – No big investment is required and no big infrastructure is required. You can start with a small investment from your home itself.

IOS: What does it feel like being a woman in ecommerce?

Anyone can start an online business. Gender has no role in this. I come from a service class family. None of them are into business but I always wanted to get into it. I feel running a business of my own gives me more freedom as women in spite of this being my job. I handle my online business independently without the need for help from my husband. All that is required is a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed.

IOS: What has helped you become a successful entrepreneur?

With online retail, I am my own boss. I can decide my working hours myself as per my comfort. I also support my family in terms of finances. 
Together with self-confidence, experience and the desire to succeed, I have managed to become a successful entrepreneur.

IOS: What are the challenges you face in ecommerce? Are there problems specific to women sellers?

I don’t think there have been any specific challenges when it comes to being a woman in ecommerce. This is the easiest way for women to reach the global market.
But when it comes to ecommerce challenges in general, I face the following –

#1 – Changing marketplaces policies

Take the example of Snapdeal. Earlier when we received any COD orders and if they were cancelled by the customer after we shipped them, Snapdeal would bear the charges. Now, they changed the policy. They impose all the logistic charges on sellers.
When we feel an order is fake or the address is not complete we cross check with the customer. If we find that the order is not genuine, we request Snapdeal to cancel the same from their side. However, they insist we dispatch the same and when the returns come they charge for logistics.  And, if we cancel the order from our end they charge us a penalty. We don’t have any choice either way.

#2 – High penalties even for wrong customer complaints

Sometimes, we receive wrong complaints from customers. If the customer didn’t like the product due to any reason or if he finds the same product at a lower price on another site he will make a fake complaint saying the product is not working properly and request for a refund. For these type of complaints, marketplaces charge heavy penalties plus shipping charges from the vendor even if the complaint is not genuine. 

#3 – High return

Approximately 20% of COD orders are cancelled by customers and we receive 7-8% RTO (returns to origin) in damaged conditions every month. It takes a lot of communication and patience to get claims against damaged goods. Also, we never get 100% claims for damages. Marketplaces ask for many supporting documents, pictures and videos to settle the claim. And, they only approve 30-60% of the claims. Sometimes, they may even reject the claim if not satisfied with the supporting documents. 

#4 – Tedious return policy

I am not at all satisfied with the Amazon return policy. They never help the seller to get products back from the customer. In some cases, when the customer is not happy with the product they just mail Amazon requesting refunds and Amazon complies without arranging RTO to the seller.
In some cases, the customer gets to keep both the product and the amount. We have lost many products this way on Amazon. In spite of many emails in this regard, there is no reply or solution from Amazon.

IOS: In spite of these challenges; do you still recommend ecommerce to other women?

Yes, of course, it will definitely give them the satisfaction that they can also do something besides taking care of their families. It will give them financial freedom too. 
One can start right at home. You can sell your products internationally without having any offline store. There are many service providers who can help you to start your online business and listing your products online on many marketplaces at very nominal prices. Even I helped one of my friend to sell her handmade jewellery online on different marketplaces and she is getting a good response now.
The only advice I have to offer is, “Be unique, take action, market yourself, be positive and believe in yourself, you will succeed.”
When it comes to gender mentality among online sellers there is none. In fact, we even have a group of online sellers both men and women. We discuss issues and problems faced while selling online and help each other by sharing our ideas and suggestions to grow better.

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