This Startup Gears Up to Disrupt India’s Foreign Dominated E-commerce Market

Disruptive Innovation in E-commerce by Digital Mall of Asia

Disruptive Innovation in E-commerce by Digital Mall of Asia
Mr Rishabh Mehra, MD & CEO, Digital Mall of Asia
Mr Rishabh Mehra, MD & CEO, Digital Mall of Asia

Digital Mall of Asia, a first of its kind project is an amalgamation of Real Estate and Digital space. This unique concept introduces DIGITAL MALLS with DIGITAL SHOPS which an individual can buy, sell and rent.

It brings together the best of offline and online worlds, the shopping experience of an offline mall where brands have dedicated shops and convenience of online shopping where we get unlimited selection and benefit of buying anytime, anywhere. Each mall in a city is different in spite of being the part of the same portal. It is developed on a scalable, robust, secure and reliable technology to manage an ecosystem of brands.The company Yokeasia Malls Private Limited was registered in December 2016 and the project Digital mall of Asia will be operational in 20 cities from Jan 2020 onwards. Mr. Rishabh Mehra, MD & CEO-Digital Mall of Asia. He is the only founder of Digital Mall of Asia

About the founders
Rishabh Mehra is the Managing Director and CEO of Digital Mall of Asia. As the MD and CEO, Rishabh is tasked with driving the development of this unique business along with accumulating customers from across the Asian landscape through an entirely customer-centric approach. Additionally, Rishabh is at the helm of furthering the vision of the Digital Mall of Asia and tapping its potential in reshaping the retail market of the continent. Rishabh has always had an empathetic outlook towards retailers struggling with heavy commissions charged by the marketplace, delays in settlements of cash payments which would result in working capital issues, many suppliers for the same category/brands, fake products, and product returns. He felt that the concept of ‘preferred supplier’ was killing the fundamental objective of a fair marketplace. Therefore, he came up with a unique concept of ‘digital malls’ and ‘digital shops’ wherein people can come to discover virtually anything that they wish to buy online. This would also serve as an opportunity for retailers as well as individuals to buy, sell and rent a digital shop in the retail format. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Rishabh:

Q. What is the problem you are trying to solve?
E-commerce has been widely successful in India, attaining significant growth in the last couple of years, especially in the wake of increasing internet and smartphone penetration. It is expected that the country’s e-commerce industry will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30 percent to reach US$ 200 billion by 2026.

The e-commerce giants, however, have not been very fair to the offline retailers who are charged with a high commission on their revenue, which often falls between 5 and 35 percent. To overcome this challenge, we have developed a unique concept of zero commission model, where we won’t charge any commission to the retailer, except the fixed monthly rent. This will enable them to sell products at the cheapest price possible, and use the saved amount in important growth prospects and focus on improving their profitability.

Following the marketplace model, we will give each retailer exclusive rights to sell a particular product category or brand in their respective city. This will consequently kill the artificial hyper-competitiveness, which is commonly found on several e-commerce platforms at present. We will also bring retailers to operate into a well-organized, reliable and transparent ecosystem while ensuring immediate payment settlements without hassles.

Retailers will be able to seamlessly integrate their offline inventories to our unique virtual space and have access to the strong local presence of physical retail stores for faster deliveries. The issue of fake goods and products will also be eliminated, as shoppers will be able to check the product first-hand before making the actual purchase. This will strengthen the overall trust and reliability between the seller and the buyer, which is currently a long-time miss in India’s e-commerce market.

Q. Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Demonetization, a well-received and laudable move by the government, came as a push to Indian businesses to switch to digital. However, in the middle of this digital disruption, I observed that several offline retailers were facing challenges such as heavy commissions charged by online marketplaces, delays in cash payment settlements, customers experiencing fake products, etc.

While doing my own research, I came across a report by AT Kearney and Google, estimating that the Indian e-commerce industry would be worth more than 100 billion USD by 2020. On the go, I also noticed other critical challenges hindering the country’s e-commerce business through a letter from All India Vendor Association to the PMO.

This barrage of issues and impediments in the e-commerce space made me realize that it’s high time to address them through innovation, and thus bring about a change for the greater good of the society. Hence, the unique concept of the Digital Mall of Asia was coined.

Q. Tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Our unique approach to offering a virtual mall ecosystem to consumers will give them a simulative shopping experience, which nobody has ever created. Thanks to the cutting-edge visual and sensory elements that made this a reality. We follow a very unique zero commission model that will enable retailers to operate without the burden of paying commission.

All they need to do now is, pay a fixed monthly rent and invest the saved money in other vital parts of the business, which otherwise would go into the pockets of e-commerce giants. Retailers can now have the power to sell products at the cheapest price possible, thereby improving the profitability of the business.

Through our offering, we will also be able to help customers that have been dealing with fake products. They will now have an option to check the product before making the payment. Plus, giving each retailer exclusive rights to sell a particular product category or brand in their respective city, will help eliminate the artificial hyper-competitiveness, which have been there since the entry of e-commerce players.

Digital Mall of Asia

Q. What is your USP?
Zero commission model is our unique innovation, wherein the retailer will only be liable to pay a fixed monthly rent to carry on their businesses without the need of fretting about paying a certain part of their revenues in the form of commission. From a customer’s perspective, shoppers will get to experience a first-of-its-kind virtual mall environment where they can virtually move through exclusive towers of digital retail shops, trial rooms, hypermarket, night clubs, food courts, and much more.

Q. What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have?
We started working on the concept in 2017 after demonetization. The All India Vendor Association had written a letter to the PMO mentioning the problems in the e-commerce industry. The only assumption was that if we could find a solution to these problems then we have a good chance of making a difference to the industry. We have solved all the problems and are all set to launch the final product in January 2020. Any customer who buys online is our ideal customer. We only want chronic returners to stay away from the platform. We already have over 1700 associations with various retailers and brands. We will start collecting the advance rentals from October onwards.

Q. What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Learning from others is imperative to success, but trusting your judgment is the key and it improves with experience. Ethics for us is most important and at times I have made a few mistakes initially identifying people for key roles but with a different mindset.

Q. How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium, etc.? Explain your thought process.
We have coined a unique approach – a zero commission model, which is very clear by its name that retailers will not be charged any commission except a fixed monthly rent.

Q. How did you get your first customer? (if any)
We got our first retailer through an article about the project in The Tribune Chandigarh.

Q. Please tell us about the investors (if any)
We don’t have a private equity investment in the company. We are backed by retail investors who have invested in digital shops by taking it on a 30 years long term lease basis.

Q. What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
It is the perfect blend of uniqueness and innovation that drives the soul of our startup. Our intention is to offer an immersive virtual environment to both retailers and shoppers where they can feel safe and happy to operate in terms of selling, shopping and earning. This concept is just the beginning of e-commerce disruption in India.

Apart from offering a unique immersive virtual environment to shoppers, we are planning to help them get rid of other challenges such as dealing with fake products and delayed product deliveries. We are giving them a platform where they can check the product first-hand before making the actual purchase and receive them faster than before.

I believe that addressing these issues will clear some of the major impediments that block India’s way towards turning completely digital. Concepts such as ours can play a significant role in helping India leverage its digital potential and bring transformation across e-commerce businesses like never before.

Q. Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in details:
The company has invested approximately 20 million since its inception and dedicated 7.5 million only for the development of the application and the web portal.

Q. What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? The uniqueness about your Startup.
The zero commission model is the most unique feature of DMA that will permanently cut off commissions being paid by retailers to e-commerce biggies that come around 5-35 percent of their revenues. Plus, we will give retailers exclusive rights to sell a particular product category or brand in their respective city, which is a great way to address artificial hyper-competitiveness. Moreover, we will provide a platform to shoppers where they can check the product first before making the final payment. This will significantly help quash the inflow of counterfeit products among shoppers.

Q. Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
As of now, I believe that Amazon and Flipkart rule the Indian e-commerce space. No doubt these players have given customers innovative offerings but they bring their own set of challenges. These e-commerce giants charge a high commission from retailers on selling products on their platform while eating up the business of offline retailers through heavy discounts and paybacks offered to online shoppers. In this journey, the customer too becomes prone to issues related to fake products and delayed deliveries of their orders.

To address these challenges, we have come out with a zero commission marketplace model that will let the retailers pay only a fixed amount of rent per month. Moreover, our virtual ecosystem will allow shoppers to check their product first and then make the final payment. This will eventually erase the challenge of dealing with fake goods and merchandise and mitigate delayed order deliveries.

Q. What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
We want to execute our plans in 20 Indian cities in the next 6 months and then take it to other Asian countries.

Q. What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Develop interest in any of the fields that ignites your inner curiosity. Make it your passion. Follow that with whole heart and soul. Dedicate yourself into that domain until you excel in it. Once achieved, move ahead with the flow and keep learning how to innovate to become better.

Thanks Rishabh. Best wishes.