Autsun (stands for “Anything under the sun”) is an interesting online retailing site that is attempting to make online shopping experience pretty similar to offline shopping. For e.g. one can watch videos of the product, hear audio readings of books and get upclose with the product before making the buying decision.
The other interesting aspect of autsun is “U-make-the-store” concept, i.e. for products which aren’t available in Autsun site, one can order and set price for the product and Autsun will hunt the product for you; and will try to get the product at your ask price (i.e. on-demand retailing)
What’s really cool about Autsun is it’s targeting the Indian psyche of “touch-and-feel” by giving away a new experience in online shopping.
Here is a candid interview with Prabhat Garg, CEO/co-founder of Autsun. If you have questions related to Autsun products, please leave them in comments section.
How does U-make-the store process work? Is it a way to incentivise people to add products? How do you attempt to match the expected price? – Candidly speaking, this can be considered a hook to attract eyeballs, what would you say about that?
Prabhat Garg: First of all, let me try and assuage some of the skepticism around U-Make-The-Store™ service. From the very first day of the launch of this service, we have started receiving product requests. Some of these orders have already gone through the full cycle of UMTS (U-Make-The-Store), i.e. customer’s recommendation -> product sourcing by AUTSUN.COM -> addition of product to our catalog -> customer order -> fulfillment.
We’re proud to say that we now have customers on record that can vouch for our concept, service and delivery.
If you really think about it, U-Make-The-Store™ is not at all infeasible or complex, once you start to think about doing the best for the customer. Traditional sales models are push-based, i.e. the marketer has a product that he has to sell. When we go to buy something at a superstore, we get so overwhelmed sometimes by the number of products/choices that we tend to forget what we really need. Or it may happen that we know what we want – say I want a cell-phone but the store only stocks the most expensive brands. Now imagine a store where you can say: “Ok, I want a cell-phone, but I’m looking for brands with this exact budget.”
This is the flexibility that UMTS provides. There are thousands of products and hundreds of brands. We’re giving our customers the freedom to express their choices to us first hand. It’s a win-win situation. As a retailer, we get to sell what the customer wants, and the customer gets to buy exactly that and not a compromise. This is what we AUTSUN.COM has termed as ‘On-Demand Retail™’.
UMTS allows the customer to indicate a desired price for the product. It is about a responsible shopping experience. If a product is available in the market for say Rs.1000, I hardly think that a responsible shopper would recommend a price of Rs.100. Yes; she may recommend a price of Rs.800 or Rs.900. This adjustment to the market price may be justified and the customer deserves every penny worth saving on her hard-earned money, within reasonable bounds of market dynamics and while maintaining the standards of quality and delivery.
Please share a few details of your operations/supply chain.
Prabhat Garg: Supply chain is an extremely important aspect of our service. AUTSUN.COM currently has products in more than 10 major categories, more are to follow soon. True, the service was launched only recently, but we’ve been working on our supply chain network for the last 3 years. We’ve undergone a rigorous process of evaluating and forging business alliances. We have tough negotiators – some very smart people who handle the procurement and negotiations.
As a retail company, the mission of AUTSUN.COM is to make the experience of shopping online extremely rewarding, entertaining and fruitful – even better than going to a physical store and buying the stuff. We’re prepared to work at lower margins – and can do so because our infrastructure costs are much lower as compared to a physical store. We treat our business as a service-business and follow the value system of a service company.
What’s your take on the future growth of online retailing in India? What are the challenges you see in the market? Isn’t the Indian consumer psyche still a “touch-and-feel” one?
Prabhat Garg: Well, ecommerce is definitely set to grow across the world and India is no exception. Whereas earlier Indian market used to follow the European market which in turn followed the US market, today the Indian consumer has started short-circuiting the trends as the penetration of the Internet increases rapidly in India. It may not be surprising if we have the maximum number of online shoppers very soon. However, the overall size in terms of revenue leadership may still be a long way, though we have seen that micro-purchases like ring-tones are ringing in huge profits for telecom companies. Our subscriber/consumer base is phenomenal.
As far as the “touch-and-feel” psyche is concerned, I feel that there is always going to be a good number of people – whether in India or the West, who will always go by this philosophy and would be late adopters to the ecommerce way of doing things. However, the Internet is a deeper social phenomenon that is radically changing perceptions and behaviors.
Please share some info about the founding team.
We’re three founders, all experts in our fields.
Prabhat Garg, CEO: More than 9 years of marketing and technology consulting experience in international markets including India, Germany, Spain. He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from BITS Pilani and masters in business from MDI Gurgaon
Urvi Khanna, CCO & Product Designer: An experienced product designer and art director with more than 9 years of experience in handling creative responsibilities at some of India’s best multimedia communication companies, including India Today and Euro RSCG. An accomplished photographer of repute, Urvi has been featured in the press as one of India’s prominent women photographers. She has a graduate degree from College of Art Delhi.
Malavika Khanna, COO & Product Designer: Has over 45 years experience in manufacturing, marketing and design of lifestyle products. Previously she was GM Marketing at Central Cottage Industries Corporation of India, a public sector enterprise under Ministry of Textiles. Between 1980-96 she grew Cottage Industries into a trend setting multi-crore turnover company. She is an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad.
Between the three of us, we have experience in technology, experiential marketing and design, and retail.
Please share a few entrepreneurial experiences, and your tips to budding entrepreneurs
Prabhat Garg: I thoroughly enjoy the life of an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur in India is difficult since we’re only slowly seeing the infusion of venture and other forms of private capital. One can look at the West and say that there is so much that they have that we don’t have in India. But that is precisely what opens the doors of opportunities here. So many things that we don’t have imply so many more opportunities to avail of as an entrepreneur.
That’s the most exciting part, and we’re in really exciting times. I like dreaming of big, seemingly difficult ideas and then trying to put a plan in action to bring them closer to reality. The trick is to not worry about success or failure – what matters most is whether you’re having fun doing it or not. I believe that the fun bit is most important – if one is truly enjoying the process, then it will all work out.