Local sellers and businesses struggle with their sales often losing out to ecommerce players like Amazon or Flipkart, even though the only convenience they provide is with product discovery, availability, doorstep delivery and payments.
“I aimed to bridge the gap between local sellers and consumers by revolutionising how we used to shop before Amazon and Flipkart ever arrived, visiting multiple local shops to find the best price, and enable product discovery and availability,” says Devashish Goyal, Founder, OhLocal.
Gurugram-based OhLocal is an AI-enabled smart bidding platform that connects local buyers and sellers in real time. Founded in January 2021, OhLocal, an O2O marketplace, offers local buyers and local sellers an online marketplace platform to buy and sell products locally across categories like electronics, home appliances, mobile phones, laptops and others.
The startup is currently operational in four cities — Meerut, Noida, Gurugram, Ghaziabad — and plans to expand to 20 more cities by the end of the coming quarter.
“We are the first to introduce a flat fee model, helping sellers save up to 95 percent of margin compared to the exorbitant percentage fees common with other ecommerce retailers or any hyperlocal startups,” Devashish says.
The idea of OhLocal came to the founder’s mind in August last year after the lockdown was relaxed.
“I wanted to buy an air-conditioner and instinctively checked online, on Flipkart and Amazon. I was about to buy the AC but the challenge was that it would be delivered in two weeks. So, my parents asked me to check in the offline market. Stepping out of the house was not an option due to Covid-19 so I reached out to a few friends to check if they knew a seller of ACs in Meerut,” Devashish tells YourStory.
“I was very surprised to find out that the model I was buying online was not only two years old but also more expensive than options available in the offline market. The local vendor was also providing me with faster delivery, installation at a cheaper price, not to mention availability in case of any problem. No more waiting for customer care to resolve the issue,” he says.
This prompted Devashish to investigate the hypothesis with other products as well. He spent the next few weeks calling local vendors selling electronics and household appliances, and found that 93 percent of products were cheaper offline as compared to buying them online.
“OhLocal is mimicking the offline experience of a shopper on a digital platform. Keeping both the merchant and customer satisfied has been key to OhLocal’s product strategy. The bidding engine, alternate product suggestion by vendor, and no-margin business model makes it an ideal place for shoppers and merchants to meet,” he says.
Devashish is an engineering graduate from Shiv Nadar University and previously worked with Innovaccer, a health IT software company based out of the US. He has five-plus years of experience in working with startups.
According to Devashish, OhLocal is reversing the process of ecommerce, offering better prices and more effective product discovery and availability in the local market.
How does it work? A product is requested by a buyer, attached to the Amazon price of the product or the MRP. Artificial intelligence (AI) is used to select sellers who then bid, keeping the Amazon price as the benchmark, within 60 minutes.
“We are trying to revolutionise the actual in-store and shopping experience through a single interface where the buyer can get the prices from different local sellers, find the product from the OhLocal catalogue, and discover offers from the local sellers. Apart from offering their prices, sellers can also provide an alternate product, which usually happens when anyone visits a store. We are condensing 1-2 days’ shopping experience within 60 minutes, thus improving the consumer experience, reducing the hassle of hopping to different stores to get the best prices, and promoting local retail businesses,” he says.
OhLocal is not in direct competition with any other startups, Devashish says, but the indirect competition includes Dunzo (mainly in grocery delivery), Amazon, and Flipkart.
“All players have taken a western imported approach. But we are building a platform for India, which is a price-sensitive market. People like to go to different stores to get the best deal possible, and the OhLocal platform offers competitive prices from sellers,” Devashish says.
OhLocal is targeting three user groups:
- The user who is buying everything online due to convenience of product discovery, availability and doorstep delivery. With OhLocal, they are getting all this with faster delivery and better prices.
- The price-sensitive buyer going to multiple websites and shops in search of better prices. OhLocal lets buyers compare prices between online and three offline sellers from the comfort of their home.
- The offline buyer hoping to go to different stores for product discovery and better prices. “With OhLocal, buyers are getting three bids from different sellers along with offers and alternate product recommendations – the best of both worlds online and offline,” Devashish says.
The present and future
According to an IBEF report, offline retail accounts for 91 percent of the total retail market and is expected to still be 75 percent by 2026.
OhLocal aims to have a presence in 20+ cities (Tier I and II), and work with 1,000+ sellers across 20 cities. The startup, which has a team size of 12 members currently, aims to expand its team in the coming months and notch up one million users in the next year.
“We will be creating a business opportunity for our sellers of around Rs 45+ crore,” Devashish says. “We have generated GMV of Rs 2 crore till now.”
OhLocal recently raised Rs 1.1 crore in a pre-seed round led by India Accelerator, with participation from HNIs and marquee angels. The company plans to use the funds to strengthen product development, grow the merchant base, and expand rapidly in metros and non-metros.