Friday, January 18, 2013

Should you build a bazaar?

I just saw this ad on the front page of today's TOI. is a platform to open your online shop. It's a venture of the now quite famous e-commerce portal

Opening an online shop sounds easy. Sounds glamorous too (doesn't it?). And why not? E-com ventures are a talk of the town. Lotsa ads appearing on television. And for a long time, ever since I did my stint at (now, I felt the same.

We've been trying to set up Mississippi online. And it has been one mighty task. This, I say, in spite of the innumerable e-commerce sites which have come up in the recent years.

My context is setting up a small e-commerce enterprise. If one tries to set up an independent e-commerce site, unless one knows coding for the web, one needs to collaborate with some amazing coders. 'Amazing' needs qualification. Coders who really try to understand your ambitions, your products and the audience for your products. Difficult to meet such guys. More difficult considering the money one has in the pocket when starting a small enterprise.

Suppose you don't set up an independent site. Then? You oughta have amazing writing skills, great visual merchandising skills (especially photography and graphical skills). But you would say one can outsource all that. Then the guy who takes such an outsourced work should have a good understanding of the same things I discussed in the last paragraph. I am not sure writing beautifully (don't confuse it with using flowering words) about products is an easy task. Nor am I sure about visual merchandising.

Is that all? Even if using an already existing platform, getting used to using it efficiently takes a good time. Software is machine. It takes time to become adept at using the machine.

Lastly, you need an amazing ability of sitting-in-front-of-the-screen. For once, I don't possess that. And while I spend a good time on the laptop, I just find it extremely difficult to stay focussed on just one application/website/piece of software.

So build a bazaar? Actually, build a bazaar in literal terms is 'build a shop'. Bazaar means you have an audience. I'm afraid here that isn't the case. Even if has its audience and displays your products to that audience, for your shop to work, you need to be able to garner good attention.

And while you need all the skills mentioned above, you need exceptional skills to garner attention and convert it into 'trust' for your shop. That takes some doing.

My recommendation, garner attention and build trust, first. If need be, build skills to garner attention and to build trust. And then build a shop.