From rock bottom, the only way is up- Sandeep Aggarwal, Shopclues & Droom founder
Courage does not always roar, sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow. The journey of Sandeep Aggarwal, founder of Indian ecommerce platforms, Shopclues and Droom, as heard at EEMAX Global conclave 2016 brings to mind this adage. Filled with twists and turns, it is a story of grit, innovation, dedication, and resilience, bound to be a source of inspiration for all who struggle with the daily crests and troughs of running a business.
Sandeep Aggarwal, who had been working as an internet analyst in the US, returned to India, where he foresaw an exclusive opportunity. The take off was not smooth, as a venture capital fund retracted its investment offer, so Sandeep had to dig up the capital from fourteen friends. Shopclues, was launched with a capital of 2 million dollars, at that time when the Indian ecommerce space was a 200 million dollars industry. Today ecommerce has grown into a value of 10 billion dollars and, Shopclues holds 4th position, where it rose from being 35th in a mere 15 months. Ghosts from the past struck unexpectedly as the insider trading furore in the US caught up with Aggarwal and Sandeep was detained in US by the FBI.
It is prior planning, an intense team bonding, strong from the core, and clear visions that kept Shopclues afloat at the time. While, Sanjay Sethi, who had earlier taken over as acting CEO in the absence of Sandeep, and Radhika Aggarwal, who was Chief Business Officer, handled the office and employees in Gurgaon, Sandeep quit his executive role, rather focusing on the strategic inputs and company goals, over phone from the US. “During day time I used to meet lawyers. And during night, which was day time in India, I used to run Shopclues,” recounted Sandeep. The case closed in 2014. Having put his first baby in secure hands, though, he was in no mood to sit back and instead directed his energies to build a new start-up, Droom, an online marketplace for used cars. Droom has been the fastest growing ecommerce company, with 1000 crores in gross value. “We have no direct competition, unlike with Shopclues, and there is no other platform which is showing such transparency and pricing, “ said Sandeep.
In a fireside chat, when Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Businessworld, asked him where India is headed, Sandeep stressed on the gap in adopting technology to complement ideas, that is slowing the growth in India. He sees that Internet has a great potential, as 40-45 percent of media time is now spent online rather than TV, Radio or print. Whereas in US, 20 percent of the marketing spends, i.e, around a whopping 60 billion dollars is devoted to online advertising and platforms like Facebook or Google, in India,it is still only 5 percent. India, as a country with large number of smartphone users, and a median age of twenty six, should adapt to the opportunity that is the digital revolution, he feels.
When it comes to events, technology demands a major role. There are online platforms like ticketmaster.com, eventbright.com that function in the US he cited. It is important to adapt, like the US Water Transportation industry did, when it transformed its fleet of ships into a profitable luxury cruise offering, with the advent of aeroplanes, or the US postal service, which integrated with ecommerce, to prosper when times of the snail mail were gone.
“Combine domain expertise with emerging technology to create differentiation. Underlying assets never disappear but technology may bring a temporary shift. Sooner you realize that and keep your game ready, the better,” he said in response when he was asked how event marketers could create differentiation in what they do. For event organizers, who are adept at handling last minute twists, entrepreneurship was only a matter of scale-up of ideas, and a determination to never give-up in any situation—was the mantra imparted by the illustrious speaker.
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