‘The move to waive compulsory GST registration will be a tailwind, making millions of small businesses come online’
Meesho, an e-commerce platform that brought five lakh small businesses online, has said it would achieve break-even early next year. “We will be cash flow positive early next year,” Vidit Aatrey, Founder-Chief Executive Officer of Meesho, told BusinessLine.
“We have so far brought half-a-million small businesses online. What we have done so far is small considering that India is home for 60 million small businesses. Still a large distance to cover and a lot needs to be done,” he said.
Vidit asserted that small businesses will have to come online to survive and grow. As incomes are hit during and after the pandemic, consumers would look for efficient channels to get more value for their money.
Welcoming the GST Council’s move to waive compulsory registration norms for small businesses, he said this step would bring much-needed parity between offline and online businesses. “With an estimated five crore MSMEs currently unable to sell online due to compulsory GST requirements, this game-changing measure can be an enabler for millions of small units, including artisans, boutiques and mom-and-pop stores,” he said.
He felt that one of the biggest barriers for small businesses to come online is the GST issue. “The businesses that don’t have GST registration can sell offline, but they require it when they are online,” he said
“It is a big barrier. Once it is removed, it is a big tailwind. Every single kirana will come online,” he hoped.
How it makes money
Like Google and Facebook, Meesho doesn’t charge any fee from businesses or buyers. “Those who can afford to place ads on our platform, they advertise. For others, it continues to be a free platform,” he said
“Until now, companies would charge businesses a fee for enabling them to go online. Big brands can pay commissions, but small businesses can’t. Any commission that you might charge becomes a burden and barrier for them to come online,” he pointed out.
He says the company has made it easier for small businesses to come online by removing all possible hurdles.
“We built the easiest products – listing is easy and so is usage. Because of all this, several small players have come online. Our goal is very simple — how do we eventually get the entire small business economy in India online,” he says.
“We want to democratise e-commerce for these businesses and for a billion consumers who haven’t come online yet,” he said.
Big e-commerce players with deep pockets used to be the competition for small businesses, taking business away from them. “What we did is – we powered the small businesses. We were able to convince them that online is the future and that they should be there. Our aim is to bring all of them online and make them compete with the biggies,” he said.
The company has hired about 700 people in the last one year, taking the total to 2,100 employees.
On feeble investment flows
Asked about the feeble flow of investments into startups of late, he feels that it is a cycle. “We underwent a similar situation in 2015 when we started up. Funds were hard to come by, forcing several startups to shut shop,” he says.
According to him, this is a godsend for startups as they can hire former entrepreneurs themselves. “We hired 10 ex-entrepreneurs as our first employees,” he said.
Asking the startups not to lose heart when they meet with failure with their initial products, he related Meesho’s own story, where the first two products they launched in the first two years of their existence failed miserably.
“We then targeted the online native businesses that never had a physical store. It catches the imagination of women entrepreneurs that aspire to run small online businesses out of their homes,” he explained.
Published on June 30, 2022