Store King rise : fast and furious

Lata Jain

There’s work, there’s fun, and then there’s the misconception that the two must be exclusive of one another. More and more people are blending the two together, turning their passion projects into hugely successful businesses.

Whether these transitions were carefully planned, or growth was an unexpected but happy surprise, one constant remains: Each success was created out of opportunity.

lata jain

Lata Jain

Meet 32 year old Sridhar Gundaiah, the unassuming man behind Store King, an assisted e-commerce platform that seeks to bring the digital marketplace to suburbs of India through kirana stores. Where did he fetch this “idea” from? When he started up in 2012, Gundaiah certainly did not expect to be selling condoms worth Rs 40-50 lakh every month to small-town Indians. He then tested the waters with cosmetics and mobile phones–products consonant with the aspirations of an emerging nation–and slowly stirred in a mix of niche lifestyle goods.

Sridhar Gundaiah sat in his office on the outskirts of Bangalore and wondered what to sell next. He now knew the market after studying the potential in the market. He already knew his customers: the 2.7 million small-town Indians. Surprisingly these people are connected to 10,000 e-commerce kiosks across the southern states. He had been selling them thousands of mobile phones every day, hundreds of jars of fairness creams, LED TVs and refrigerators, clothing and accessories. What would they want now? Solar lanterns or perhaps the latest in domestic technology.

He tried his luck on modern accessories of the rich and the aspiring younger generation-Mobiles and cosmetics. “On a whim, I designed a waterproof bag ahead of the monsoon, and ended up selling 90,000 pieces at Rs 500 a pop in the first week. It was overwhelming and it set me thinking about the impact I could make with an expanded network of stores,” says Gundaiah, who knows the taste of the cosmopolitans across the country. Lifestyle products are a fast-growing category, although mobile phones and electronics continue to be among the most sold items.

E-commerce has largely bypassed small towns and villages and failed the neo-middle-class living in these hybrid zones of developing India. A majority of them are unable to navigate the technological wilderness of shopping apps but they possess an IPhone. They may not read in English, have email IDs or smart phones. The idea was to start an e-commerce business. It was 2012 and the Indian e-commerce industry already had the start it required. But e-commerce was tricky. Competing with giants like Amazon, Snapdeal, Flipkart and other medium online sellers was going to be challenging and required a lot of money, unfortunately Sridhar did not have that much money.

Sridhar thought of doing something different. The idea was to offer the user interface of e-commerce platform in regional languages. “We have seen websites like Facebook offering to use it in regional languages, but for an e-commerce site, it was something different and it worked out the way it was thought to be.”

The platform offers to use Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu as a language and do transactions. The company has reached turnover of rupees 100 crore in just three years. They have plans to expand business in Madhya Pradesh too.

Sridhar has experimented with many business ideas including his location based services company Yulop, which was started in 2007. Sridhar holds a master’s degree in IT and Commerce from Greenwich University of London.

He became obsessed, started following everyone he could find who wrote about online business. He listened to and devoured everything he could find about building a business on the web. At the very least, Store King is a massive exercise in gathering market intelligence. At its best, it can change the topography of how things are sold in India.

“To handle stress, he depends on meditation. “It is important to keep fit, physically and mentally, to take on the rigours of modern life,” he says. The quintessential Indian, he is also into philanthropy on a small scale. “My family runs a free school in Bangalore and I am the one who ensures that there are funds to keep it running,” he says.

 And what is the secret of his success? “Believe in what you do and focus on local aspects,” he says. “As I always say, surviving is instinct but living takes guts.

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