It can’t be emphasised enough that the fledgling Indian startup ecosystem has a lot to learn from China. Validating this in action is the entry of video streaming commerce (aka live commerce) in India.
For the past three years, live commerce has been up and kicking in China. Horizontal marketplaces like Taobao and AliExpress along with Tencent have been betting big on the segment. Alibaba-owned Taobao has a feature called ‘Live’ where amateur celebrities sell products for retailers.
Similarly, another Alibaba subsidiary AliExpress launched a live commerce service called ‘AliExpress LIVE’. The Jack Ma-led group also invested $46 million in celebrity incubator Ruhan that teaches girls to blog, pose for photos and interact with fans or customers.
While the concept of live commerce has been gaining ground in China since early 2016, India hadn’t seen any startup working around live commerce until 2018. Now, it’s not the case anymore as the serial entrepreneur and co-founder of MakeMyTrip and TrulyMadly – Sachin Bhatia has launched a live commerce app – Bulbul targeted at a vernacular audience.
Entrackr has used the app that has a little over 1,000 downloads on Play Store at the moment. It allows amateur celebrities (essentially girls) to sell inventories through vernacular videos (primarily Hindi) ranging from 60 to 120 seconds. Currently, it offers products across four categories such as ‘beauty and cosmetic’, ‘health and gadgets’, ‘jewellery and bags’ as well as ‘home and kitchen’.
Users can buy (CoD only) simply through tapping on the cart icon and also share the video link to others through WhatsApp. Interestingly, Bulbul already has raised Rs 14.05 crore seed round led by 10XF (an investment arm of Sequoia Mauritius), Leo Capital, Sequoia Capital India Trust, Rajul Garg, and Mohana Krishna Lakham Raju.
According to RoC filing accessed by Entrackr, 10XF had injected Rs 10.46 crore while Leo Capital put in Rs 3.34 crore. Sequoia India Trust, Garg and Raju contributed a few lakhs each in Bulbul.
Entrackr’s sources emphasised that Sequoia India would be putting $3 million more in the Bhatia-led venture in the next two-three months. “Bulbul got a commitment of $5 million seed round. Sequoia would be pouring remaining $3 million soon in the recently launched venture,” said two sources aware with the contours of the deal.
Sources requested anonymity as they aren’t authorised to speak to the media.
Commenting on Entrackr‘s query, Bhatia said that it’s totally untrue. The numbers are way off.
Bulbul is the first company to evangelise live commerce over the Internet but the concept has been successfully executed by TV commerce firms including Naaptol, HomeShop18, ShopCJ, and cable TV network – Den in the past.
For India, after the explosion in Internet user base with the Jio movement, and the massive expansion in the reach of social media (including emerging local players- ShareChat, Vokal etc.), this is the most logical development if you look closely. No capitalist in the right mind would let go of the opportunity to use this reach to sell its product to these newfound demographics (aka Bharat).