CityMall: Digitizing community commerce
This startup harnesses the power of community members in underserved areas to enable hyperlocal commerce
By Srinath Srinivasan
Consumers in small towns and villages in India are still underserved despite the rise of e-commerce platforms. CityMall buys products from local and popular brands. By making local leaders the interface between it and customers, using their social capital in their areas, CityMall aims to market the brands and enable last mile delivery of products within the community. “These people are generally well known in their communities and act as resellers of our products. We are helping them increase their household income by 40% right now. We take a small commission from the sales and charge these sellers for the advertisements they want to upload on our platform to increase their visibility,” says Angad Kikla, co-founder and CEO of CityMall.
The startup has raised $40 million and operates in over 20 districts in different states. “We basically try to match collective demand and supply. Large platforms with over hundreds of millions of users don’t cater to these communities in their local languages as well as low to medium spending capabilities,” says Kikla. The platform, however, has not begun to monetize the data it collects through analytics on both the consumer and supply side. In addition to meeting local demand, he tries to build an active community and raise awareness. “We try to create entrepreneurs. The most active person in an area encourages others to engage in active reselling in and around them. The community currently numbers about 10,000 people,” says Kikla.
The restoration of low-to-mid-tier suburban and rural communities has also helped bring visibility to brands that would otherwise be unknown. These brands also price the product based on the segment while growing the small industry ecosystem within and around them. “Many of us in urban areas would never have heard of some of these brands. They are hyper-local and know the pulse of the community. They also know how to cater to the price-sensitive rural population,” says Kikla .
According to him, the platform is growing by 35% month on month. Delivering the same level of customer experience as the platform grows and finding the right talent amidst the talent shortage following the Covid-19 pandemic are two major challenges it must overcome. “There is a whole talent war going on right now. Hiring engineering and product teams is currently a big challenge. We do not take this situation lightly,” says Kikla.
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