ShopClues.com, the yet-to-be-launched horizontal e-commerce site co-founded by prominent ex-Wall Street analyst Sandeep Agarwal, has raised over $2 million in funding from international angel investors. The angel round of funding came from unnamed international investors who are serial entrepreneurs and early employees of some of the top Internet companies. Although the funding was closed in July this year, the whole funding exercise was kept under wraps and has been disclosed only now.
The founders also refused to divulge any further information regarding the funds, investors and directors. “All I can say is we are comfortably funded and have a good runway with a capital-efficient business model,” said Sandeep Aggarwal while speaking to Techcircle.in.
Aggarwal was previously a senior Internet and software analyst at Caris & Company, a San Francisco-based, research-driven boutique investment bank. Earlier this year, he, along with Sanjay Sethi (head of global product management at eBay) incorporated Clues Network Inc. in Silicon Valley – the company behind the e-commerce venture. Initially, Aggarwal invested over $0.25 million in the start-up and owns majority stake in the company.
Incidentally, Aggarwal was a keynote speaker at VCCircle’s second E-Commerce Forum, where he discussed overall Internet trends and the outlook in India. He also moderated a panel with the CEOs of three of the top six largest OTAs in India (Yatra, Via and Travelocity).
The website ShopClues.com was launched under a closed beta in November and has a limited programme offering. Unwilling to share the exact launch date for the website, Aggarwal said that it might happen in the next few weeks or within a month. The start-up employs 24 people across its offices in Silicon Valley, Gurgaon and Baroda.
ShopClues & Its Core Team
Contrary to rumours, the site is not a private sales site and will follow a horizontal sales model – similar to Homeshop18, Flipkart.com or Infibeam.com. “This is not a niche offering, nor is it an alternative e-commerce business like group buying or private sales. It is a horizontal play which, we think, is the right kind of play for India,” shared Aggarwal.
The core team includes Sanjay Sethi, who was previously managing merchant tools, fulfilment and payments at eBay Inc., and is now vice-president (products) at ShopClues. Mrinal Chatterjee, who was vice-president (products and services) at Contenix and also a founding member of the executive team at private sales site RowNine.com, has been roped in as vice-president – engineering. On the retail side, Radhika Aggarwal heads marketing and category management at ShopClues. Earlier, she ran a fashion blog in the USA with an audience in 53 countries. And prior to that, she was a merchandising and planning executive at Nordstrom in Seattle. ShopClues has also appointed Devesh Rai, head of distribution and marketing at Mail Today Newspapers Pvt Ltd, run by the India Today Group.
“We believe we have the strongest Internet team. We bring a very strong blueprint and 70 years of combined experience from Silicon Valley, retail and technology and fulfilment to the table,” said Aggarwal.
Leveraging Social Media
ShopClues.com has embarked upon an aggressive social media marketing strategy. Its reach-out programmes, conducted over the past two months, have drawn 14,642 fans to its Facebook page – without the site even being launched. The start-up created a contest on Facebook to crowd-source a tagline for the site and got more than 200 responses. The tagline has been finalised.
“Social media is a new discipline to engage and acquire customers. In India, it is a newer concept and we see a huge, upside potential to harness the social media. It enables us to have a niche audience and include them in our initiative. Social media will be the largest bucket to drive traffic and user engagement,” said Aggarwal.
The company is placing emphasis on online search, affiliate marketing and mobile marketing to woo users. “We don’t believe in fixed costs in marketing media, and will not do TV, radio or print ads. Our marketing spend will be significantly lower than other e-commerce companies, which typically spend Rs 150-1,200 to acquire a customer,” he said.