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Six things to remember when starting an e-commerce venture Though thousands of e-commerce startups are launched every year, not many survive in long-term. So, what is it that they did not do right?

By Ashish Jhalani

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The entrepreneurial trend is at an all time high, and with e-commerce having emerged as a frontrunner - owing to the low entry barriers, little investment and high returns on investment - has become a popular choice for those who always wished to take the leap of faith and start their own venture.

India is amongst the fastest growing e-commerce markets in the world, having touched the $13 billion mark in 2014 and expected to cross $100 billion in 2021, owing to internet and smartphones penetrating deeper in its burgeoning population.

Not just that, the overall ecosystem, i.e, the government, RBI, and enablers in the form of accelerators, incubators etc. are to be credited for initiating measures to promote the entrepreneurial culture further, a direct result of which is the emergence of several new e-commerce startups.

Though thousands of e-commerce startups are launched every year, not many survive past the crucial first year. So, what is it that they did not do right? Here are some key points every e-commerce entrepreneur must keep in mind when starting the venture, so they are geared for success:

It is all about the idea and the way you proposition it: Look at it this way…A spark plug is to an engine, what an idea is to a start-up. Often the simplest of ideas are the most brilliant ones. If Jan Koum had searched for decades for a complex idea, we may never have seen WhatsApp.

Not all ideas may have that "eureka' factor about them, but ideas like selling groceries are, admit it, simply brilliant in this day and age. But that's just the first gear. Getting hold of a unique selling proposition to successfully market and launch it in the market that is already swimming with tens and thousands of great ideas is what requires some thought and some strategizing.

Creating a niche for yourself: Once you have the idea and strategies aligned, you should think about finding the right market for your products/services. Rather than being just another player in a row of shops (virtual of course), who are selling or doing the same thing, you should try to create a niche space for your brand. In other words, create a "best-in-class' kind of a brand image for whatever it is that you want to sell.

Focus on the right strategies: When your presence is purely online, the challenge lies in how to differentiate yourself from the endless competitors, so you stand out of the crowd and get noticed. That is where having a well-designed social media strategy can prove to be a huge advantage. Figuring out the right forums to connect with your target audience and creating effective content that leaves a lasting impact is often the key.

The rule book and the governing laws: Indian laws are said to have a somewhat stifling effect on start-ups. Rules such as showing at least two years of profit before being able to offer public shares, the exacting taxing structure, rules regarding registration of companies, procurement of licenses, adhering to compliances like separate registration for service tax, intellectual property issues, getting the certificate of incorporation - the list is endless. The long list of exacting standards and rules are not exactly start-up friendly and not having done your research beforehand can get you on the wrong side of law without you even realizing it.

Hawk eye on competitor strategies and customer feedback: Two things that will come in very handy for you are keeping an eye open for your competitors strategies and plans and an open mind for the feedback your customers give you. While the former acts in keeping you abreast with competitors, the latter helps you better your own standards every day and making your customers happy. A happy customer, after all, is a loyal customer and one who refers many others to you.

Building a relationship: Do not treat your customers as a one off case. Woo them with regular emails, messages, calls, etc. Keep the communication and the relationship going so that you can create a loyal customer base. And if and when any grievance arises, have a proper mechanism in place to resolve the grievance within a set timeframe let you not only lose a customer, but also avoid their wrath on social media, which is fairly common these days. Negative feedback can damage your brand beyond repair, if not handled well.

That's not all, if you wish to join the e-commerce bandwagon, there are even specialized institutes that have come up and offer comprehensive courses to empower you with the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise that go into making a successful e-commerce business, so you have a better chance at succeeding in the long run. The objective is to help you get things right the first time.

Evidently, you are no longer on your own if you have decided to set foot on this uncertain path. With the entire ecosystem being ever so supportive to help these ventures succeed, there really couldn't have been a better time to join the e-commerce wave. As an entrepreneur, you just need to make the most of it.

Ashish Jhalani

Angel Investor, Mentor & Founder, eTailing India & Co-founder, Indian School of eBusiness

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