In today’s segment, we are bringing 1Click1Call.com, one of the promising e-retailers in office supplies for home and office. Founded only recently in 2011, Pankaj and Deepak took their e-marketplace endeavor to a success, and literally organized the industry of office supplies in India. There are three things they encouraged in their business – customer service, wider selection of products, and better prices.
In a brief interview with Devendra Singh of RetailBiz, while trying to understand what ticks for 1Click1Call.com, certain questions were placed to Deepak, and this is what he had to say –
Can you brief us about your business? It today’s competitive market, what makes it tick?
1Click1Call.com is a one-stop shop for office and school supplies – in fact going by our currently growing clientele, I would widen the scope to all institutional supplies. We started by being only focused on office supplies but over time we have widened our scope to office and school supplies. This is mainly because of number of incoming queries from schools and also how closely the complete product and supplier portfolio was common across supplies used in office, school and institutions such as hospitality, hospital, etc.
We are very similar to your local stationery supplier/wholesaler in terms of price, next day delivery and in having a range of products from unbranded, local brands, to value for money and luxury brands as well.
Where we are different is in our belief that fundamentally, technology and value added services have been missing in office supplies, which could really make lives of admin professionals easier and make them more effective in organizations. Considering how thinly staffed and stretched most admin teams are, there is scope for a fair, ethical office supplies provider, which not only manages office supplies but also add a bit of value around management reporting and inventory management so that admin staff can concentrate on more important things.
Our readers would like to know something about you and what made the partnership between you and Pankaj so strong…So can you brief us about your past?
Pankaj and I have been school friends since standard 8th. I went on to do graduation in Information technology from Delhi whereas Pankaj did his graduation in financial investment and analysis from Delhi University. I went to IMT Ghaziabad for MBA straight after graduation and after that worked for approx. 5 years in equity research and corporate finance consulting world. After that, I joined a small venture capital fund which was based out of UK but was now looking at entering India. I was evaluating investment opportunities in various spaces ranging from technology, real estate, e –commerce, media etc. I worked there for a year and then thought about taking the plunge into 1click1call. Pankaj worked for around 6-7 years after graduation in different investment banking and proprietary trading roles and then went for MBA from Asian Institute of Management- Philippines. After MBA, Pankaj worked for a year with Deutsche Bank in their trading desk role as an IT business analyst in Singapore. After returning from Singapore, he was leading a team of traders as a part of a P&L unit and heading that unit for a brokerage house. It was in September-October last year when we started working on 1click1call but quit our jobs to move on this full time at start of this year.
Every business has some challenges that often threaten to topple it down. What challenges did you two faced, when you started?
Talking about challenges, there are lots of them, especially for someone like us, who were really going after unchartered areas considering our past experiences. Some major ones are:
- Putting together a team who feels passionately and believes in what you are doing.
- How much and what stage you start investing in promotions/marketing/brand building?
- Testing out your business model with customers
Any suggestions that you would like to give to our readers or what worked in your favor here…
One generic suggestion that I can give is be agile – agility and flexibility is very important when it comes to hiring the right people – can’t go with a fixed profile in mind or think about operations, customer acquisition, or testing your business model. It’s ok to fail with a few things but you should be quick to correct course before it’s too late.
Since better prices is your promise to customer…we are interested to know what budget plans you kept on various aspects of your business for the first two years?
Firstly, we never planned budget for 2 years. It’s just too long a period to think about to be frank when you haven’t started anything and we knew all along that we will need to raise funds by end of first year-15 months as e-commerce is a capital (working and growth) intensive business. For first year, we had earmarked a budget of around 40L. However, we worked on the principles of rolling, budgeting, and forecasting, where we improve and fine tune these things at end of every month.
40 lakhs was divided into 18 lakhs for employee compensation, 10 lakhs for fixed cost investments, 7 lakhs for operations (shipping, logistics related, etc.) and 5 lakhs for limited online marketing.
Was any alteration made in this plan?
After 6 months we realized that online marketing was a head that required slightly more investment over next 6 months.
You are promising great customer support. Most e-retailers promise this. Can you give us some insight into understanding how your customer support is different?
Customer support strategy is the most crucial aspect, especially when like us your core offering in terms of product is a utility product and not an aspirational/lifestyle product. When I say customer support strategy, it does not mean how swanky English speaking your reps are or how advanced your systems are (it could be based on “cloud” but customers will blow it up in the air in a minute) but really how well your customer representatives (answering calls, online chat or answering e-mails) understand your business. If they are closely tied with business, they can provide better answers rather than scripted promises according to the question. We have ensured that the two customer support people we have, sit amongst us, understand business very well and not have any scripted answers. This might get difficult as we grow but we are sure there will be 4-5 such people in our team always who could be taking up difficult calls. Real life experience have been of all kinds – real nice customers who appreciate your offering and are even understanding enough to acknowledge that things will not be perfect in a new company. On the other hand, there are customers who will blast you sometime for reason and at times even without it. One advice I give to my customer representatives is that think how will you feel as a customer and what would you like to hear (apart from the obvious answer) as best answer.
It would be of great help if you share something on that note…
If someone asks it’s been 5 days and my package hasn’t reached yet, either you could say it will take 2-3 days and we have dispatched it or you could check with their tracking number online – parallel get on a call with courier representative and tell them exactly where it is, and why is it delayed. Also, if a certain product is out of stock – make sure you have couple of options ready for customer- shoot an e-mail when you are on a call and get a confirmation there and then.
Where do you see your business in the next 2 years?
Our target in next 2 years is to be the market leader in online B2C space throughout India when it comes to office and school supplies. On the B2B front, we want to be realistic and expand geographically to as many metros and tier-1 cities as possible and more importantly, become the market leader in Delhi/NCR and other important North India markets such as Chandigarh-Mohali, Jaipur etc.
Before we end this interview, any anecdotes about your business that our readers may find interesting?
We made our first sale minutes after we went live (we were almost testing the portal) which got us excited and nervous as it was a pretty expensive printer we had to ship to Agra. We did not even have a proper courier arrangement at that time but somehow got it delivered and were so relieved when we got a confirmation call from customer that he has received it.