m1-Order is a next-generation mobile ordering technology specially developed for neighbourhood merchants including retail shops, restaurants and enterprises. Tejinder Oberoi, Founder Director m1-Order, speaks to Progressive Grocer about how the mobile application can act as a tool of empowerment for both retailers and consumers by bringing them closer to each other and as a force multiplier for small traders who do not have the bandwidth to compete with ecommerce companies.
When and how was m1-Order conceived? What is unique about its concept?
Niraj and I are partners in multiple businesses, including IT services and chemicals trading. We have been working together since more than 15 years and have converted many of our ideas into successful ventures. m1-Order is one such idea that was conceived four years ago. On the one hand, we were developing world class solutions for our global customer base from our IT services company.
On the other, we were running our other trading businesses practically the old fashioned way. From this sprang the idea about using our capabilities in developing mobile applications to develop a solution for ordering, which can be used by any merchant.
m1-Order is a platform that allows a merchant to create his digital store and then promote it via social media like WhatsApp, Facebook, and email. For merchants who were used to getting orders from phone calls or walk-ins and who were unable to take advantage of the growing e-commerce possibilities, we provided a platform to take them to m-commerce.
We knew it was a good idea because firstly we could use it in our own business. Secondly, when we showed the prototypes to other merchants in different segments such as restaurants and grocers, we got a positive feedback about it. That’s the time we decided to offer the platform to merchants in all categories.
In India, online grocery market is still evolving. What scope does it offer to you? How many orders a day you are servicing daily and what are your projections for the future?
Various research reports place the Indian food and grocery market at 60% of the overall retail market. That is a significant chunk and truly if you look at neighborhood stores, you find a large number of them to be grocery stores. There are many e-commerce companies today that are vying for this market opportunity. We believe that if we offer a new business model which is pro-merchant, then we have a strong market proposition.
As of December 2015, we have over 3,000 stores on m1-Order across five cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. We are targeting to cover close to 20% of the food and grocery segment over the next 5-6 years.
You call yourself an online marketplace. So do you have your own warehouse facilities, inventory management and direct suppliers? Or are you more of an aggregator with a delivery-based model that connects stores with customers much like hyperlocal players?
m1-Order is an aggregator which connects buyers with their neighboring stores including grocers, restaurants and other stores. We just facilitate merchants to create their store on the app and promote their products to their customers and prospects using the app. We provide a dashboard to the merchants to receive orders and process them. The merchant takes full responsibility to deliver the orders; we do not own any warehouse or inventory.
What is your customer proposition, business model and how do you think it is suitable for scalability? Can you point out the business rationale and the economic viability perspective of your business, which you think will work out for you?
m1-Order’s catchphrase is “Changing the Way the World Orders”. Disrupting the e-commerce trends, we focus to pave a path by giving any seller a way to reach out to their customers through the mobile store and leverage social media like WhatsApp and Facebook to get more orders. So customers can easily purchase via the virtual marketplace. Moreover, customers have the flexibility to pay via payment gateways like Paytm or pay via cash on delivery.
Unlike many platforms which charge whopping commissions monthly, we charge a nominal flat fee for giving merchants new orders. This way when they receive business via m1-Order, it is a win-win situation for both of us. Most e-commerce players in the grocery segment, which take grocers online, demand a 8-15% margin. And over that they demand further discounts. In the grocery segment, margins are not that high. Therefore, m1-Order’s proposition of charging only Rs.5 per order is a great proposition for merchants.
Tell us about your current phase of development? Which are the product categories under Food & Grocery available at your marketplace?
Currently, we are operating in five cities in India – Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Under Food and Grocery, we are offering all categories of sellers.
How do you propose to encourage customer stickiness for your platform?
Most customers find it difficult to maintain multiple apps on their phones – one for restaurants, another for grocery, yet another for apparels, and so on. With m1-Order, a buyer finds all his neighbourhood stores on a single app. In addition, merchants will offer discounts and other promotional offers.
Technology is integral to modern retail, more so for m-commerce. How are you leveraging technology for your marketplace? Do you have a delivery model as well?
Technology is the heart of our offering. Using m1-Order, merchants can go online, have their own branded store and have a dashboard for processing orders. They receive orders through email and sms as well. We are providing the most modern tools to help merchants promote their products – including WhatsApp, Facebook, and email. We are also offering an innovative print commerce technology, which allows merchants to print QR codes on their business cards, product catalogs, menus and advertisements to get direct orders.
All order, payments and instructions are routed to the merchant directly. m1-Order does not take part in the process of product delivery. Margins, range of products, consistency of product availability and freshness would remain a challenge for online players dependent on physical stores for customer fulfilment.
How do you propose to overcome these challenges?
Merchants can easily access and manage their own m1-Order dashboards. They can easily edit the availability of the products and upload actual images of their products. m1-order provides merchants complete control over their mobile shop. Whenever a product is not available, the merchants can deactivate the product on the shop.
The app connects buyers with grocers. And the grocers publish only those products which are in their inventory.
For a grocery store, the prices of many products such as vegetables and fruits might change over the course of a single day. On m1-Order, the grocer can change the prices whenever needed and the same would reflect on the buyer’s mobile.
How do you view competition from offline retailers and other online players?
We are not competing directly with any e-commerce players. We are providing a technology platform for those retailers who wish to have a digital presence but cannot afford the charges of the national e-commerce portals. We are also targeting those retailers who wish to simply connect with their existing customers and not really reach out to a national audience which is especially true for a local grocery store.
In the case of other online players, the identity of the local retailer is hidden or at best in the background. This is what we want to change. Using m1-Order, when a buyer places an order, he or she knows the order will go to a specific grocery store like Vrindavan Grocery or Narayan Grocery, and not to m1-Order.
In addition, we are also offering a unique way to leverage print collaterals like catalogs, advertisement and even the ubiquitous business cards as a means to receive direct orders.
What are your marketing and promotional strategies?
We are doing a lot of field marketing activities with help from our field sales force. m1-Order runs on the hyperlocal store model hence we need to make sure the neighbourhood is aware of it! We run campaigns in neighbourhoods and help the stores to promote themselves. Apart from this, we have newspaper ads, radio slots in pipeline.
What are your expansion and growth plans? Which new places and locations you have on your radar?
We are planning to expand across other Tier-II and III cities of India within the next two years. We are targeting cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kochi and the list is endless.
Tell us about your outreach strategy and your benchmarks for maintaining quality service standards?
Our dedicated sales force team who are always on the move, help acquire merchants and provide them the training to use m1- Order. As far as quality is concerned we make sure the set benchmarks are maintained by the merchants, we deactivate nonperforming merchants. After all it’s a customer driven market we all are into! During enrollment we share welcome kits, visit them personally and give them hands-on training. They are taught how to promote their stores on m1-Order app, social media sharing of promotional offers, etc.