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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Startup Saturday: Curated, quality goods on sale

Qtrove is not the first site to offer curated goods across a variety of sectors to an e-customer base that wants to flea-market shop online. E-giants might still do the bulk sales, however, if its the ‘Q’ factor you want, this trove has it

pune Updated: Jun 29, 2019 14:48 IST
Namita Shibad
Namita Shibad
Hindustan Times, Pune
Vinamra Pandiya, an IIT graduate in Chemical Engineering, and owner and founder of Qtrove, explains it, “good commerce”
Vinamra Pandiya, an IIT graduate in Chemical Engineering, and owner and founder of Qtrove, explains it, “good commerce”(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)

E-commerce, as the term implies, has moved the “business” of buying and selling online. What of g-commerce?; or as Vinamra Pandiya, an IIT graduate in Chemical Engineering, and owner and founder of Qtrove, explains it, “good commerce”.

It’s part of Qtrove’s brand appeal that Pandiya is working hard to establish - the sustainable factor in doing business online. But first, what is Qtrove.

Says Pandiya, “The online business is driven largely by discounts. So what a buyer gets is mostly discounted products. What if s/he wants something that is special? Something that is not available, because it is not discounted?”

In July 2016, Pandiya came up with the idea of Qtrove - a curated marketplace; cue the “what about Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal?”, question.

Says Pandiya, “ Today, shopping is reduced to a mere convenience. Customer is stuck with the ‘tyranny of choice’. There are so many platforms that offer the same brands with the only pull being the discounts and cash back. We wanted to bring the fun back to shopping in leisure where products displayed are unique, personally curated and sustainable, and where consumers buy them for that and the value of the product and not beause we are offering some discounts. Where products are not mass produced and have what we call the ‘Q Factor’. I felt that customers would love to own such products without discounts that are now becoming unsustainable. We want to build the Etsy of India.”

Etsy, also an e-tailer, is a public company with a market cap in excess of 7 billion $. It is a giant in the US and has recently entered India. 

Curate, rate, repeat was started with a mission to empower local entrepreneurs who are producing unique products in their vicinity. It aims to be a curated marketplace that exhibits and sells from small entrepreneurs across the country as well as share their stories through dedicated vendor pages across social media.

What did it take to curate products and find customers who would buy them?

Pandiya scouted local flea markets to find out products worthy of being on his platform. “We met the sellers in these small flea markets and asked them what was it they needed to grow beyond that market. When I started I had about 15 sellers and 35 products signed on,” says Pandiya.

Customer acquisition

Pandiya used social media, but got micro level influencers and bloggers to write about the proudcts on Qtrive. “We told stories. So if it was A2 Ghee we told them about the Gir cows from Gujarat; or for Himalayan Honey, then about the way honey was gathered. Quora helped us a lot.”

The biggest challenge, however, was not just to get people on to Qtrove, but to get them to be repeat buyers. “ Currently shoppers spend five minutes on an average on our website, but converting that shopper into a customer is a challenge. We are still in the PMF (product market fit) phase, but the results so far have been extremely encouraging,” claims Pandiya.

“To tackle this, we showcased products on our website with personalised photoshoots and video shoots so that exotic products can be shown in its true colours via superior visual imagery. We do marketing based on storytelling, celebrating communities, creating a democratic and two sided trusted marketplace is a continuous challenge which keeps us awake and motivated,” explains Pandiya.

“We are also using a judicious mix of print and digital properties to garner top of the mind recall for Qtrove when it comes to all things natural and sustainable which we use in our day to day lives.”

The ‘g’ in the Qtrove

Pandiyanow plans to expand and enter regional and personalised products. “For example, products like travel accessories, personalised stationery, keto and vegan products. Also, we aim to be the defacto standard for all things natural and sustainable in the next five years. We plan to intensify our sellers’ network and provide more curated products to our customers. We want to promote what is called g-commerce (good commerce),” Pandiya says.

Curated sellers on Qtrove:

“Qtrove gives me the place I deserve on the digital market shelf. Our product is special, hand made with recipes handed down the generations. I find Qtrove a great platform because it is here where I get repeat customers. What I like about this is that they will go out of the way to connect us with a customer who had a bad experience rather than leave them to rant on social media.

- Natasha Singh Gadgil, Tasha and Girl natural jams

“Qtrove is great for small scale manufacturers since we lack the wherewithal that say an Amazon will expect out of us. Fifty per cent of my business comes form Qtrove. When Ilaunched Regen Hair Follicle regenerator in February this year I did use social media, but did not get a good response. Qtrove helped me.”

- Cintamani Bhattacharya, founder, Vaidyam Healthcare, manufacturers of skin, hair and pain relief products

First Published: Jun 29, 2019 14:48 IST

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