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Gujarat-based entrepreneur takes mobile business online to fight ecommerce giants

October 12, 2018

From investing Rs 20 lakh to clocking Rs 20-25 lakh online sales per day, this entrepreneur is looking to bridge the online-offline retail gap in mobile sales

Gujarat-based Sanjeev Bhatia (38) started his mobile retailing business in his early 20s. What led him to start a business this early? Bhatia says he finds his strength and toughness when all of a sudden, his father, who ran a successful textile business in Surat, met with an accident. He was also the sole breadwinner in the family.

"My father was paralysed waist down and could recover only after three years, post which he had to make a fresh start. He started with a juice shop."

Bhatia remembers going to his father’s juice shop after school to assist him.

He says, “We lost almost everything but we still led a happy life. That’s why we are not scared of these trade practices. We have already experienced the worst and it is not that bad.”

His journey from the juice shop to running a successful mobile business shows his struggle against odds, survival and eventual triumph.

A proud owner of 117 stores called the Bhatia’s Mobile, he says it has been 15 years in the business and he cannot pursue any other profession better. He never really felt the need to move his business online, he adds.

“We were fully engrossed in our mobile retail business and we always felt content to serve locally through our offline stores,” he adds.  

But the predatory pricing of many retail behemoths tripped many domestic retailers, and Bhatia resorted to put up a good fight.

“By 2015-16, I started feeling the heat of predatory pricing adopted by firms like Amazon and Flipkart. I felt the time was right to move online,” he says.

Bhatia launched www.onlymobiles.com in 2016 with an investment of Rs 20 lakh. The online retailer sells mobile phones, tablets and other related accessories.

Bhatia’s initial plan was to serve within Gujarat only. Once the company showcased its products and offers on the website, Bhatia says they started receiving calls from all across India.

“That was the moment when we realised we can cater to a bigger geography and thus, our online journey started,” says Bhatia.

The company’s pan-India operations further invited an investment of Rs 60 lakh in a phased manner. “The money was used to enhance our website and establish warehouses in Delhi, Chennai and Surat to give pan-India services,” says Bhatia.

Today, the company delivers products to top metros such as NCR, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, etc.

He says, Onlymobiles is completely self-financed and they do not intend to raise any capital from investors. Given their long presence in the market, they enjoy a decent amount of credit and credit-days from their suppliers. It has online sales worth Rs 20-25 lakh per day and caters to more than 15,000 pin codes across India.

While the online venture had a good start, standing out of the crowd was also important. Bhatia says,

“We provide 30 day price guarantee to our customers. If the price of the mobile drops in the market, we refund the balance amount. We also include YouTube reviews for each mobile on our website.”

Onlymobiles also claims to be India’s first ecommerce website that provides EMI without a credit card and has partnered with PayU to offer the same. Also, if a particular bank’s card offers a cashback or a discount, the company extends it to all other bank cards on its website.

He says, in order to extend its reach to more customers, Onlymobiles does not resort to any advertising. Instead, it believes in gaining an edge through a set of unique and never-heard-before offers. “We don’t burn money on advertisements. We make sure that if someone searches for us online, we are present. Rest is taken care of by our retailing experience and our offers,” adds Bhatia.

Online giants such as Amazon and Flipkart are his biggest competitors, says Bhatia. He adds,

“It has been a challenge to retain my customer base offline and expand it online, given these giants’ capability of pouring in money every now and then.”

Bhatia says, “I personally believe managing digital business is easier than managing physical retail shops. However, if we start using technology in offline stores, both will be equally fun.”

Bhatia wants to earn the BestBuy tag for pocket gadgets, especially mobiles in the future. He also plans to open retail stores outside Gujarat and further offline-online synergies in his business.

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