Considering shopify for your ecommerce startup in India? Don’t!

Shopify Review India

I was under the same dilemma a few months back on whether I should go with shopify or some other ecommerce platform (woo-commerce, opencart) for my startup satthwa.com. Having a fair bit knowledge of ecommerce stores both open-source and hosted platforms, I decided to go with shopify (against my better judgement) and now i regret it.

I have started quite a few ecommerce ventures before and i have used mostly used open source carts such as opencart and they have worked fairly well. If you are someone which has zero knowledge on how to start your ecommerce store then shopify might be where you start (though debatable) but if you are going to hire or want to do this yourself and have some knowledge, then using shopify can be a big & expensive mistake.

Starting up cost: It’s not cheap, you will be paying Rs.2000/month from the get go and apart from this, you have to pay 2% of the sales which you do. Even if you use your own payment gateway, you will need to pay commission to shopify and then you have to anyways pay transaction fee to the gateway provider. Why does shopify do charge per transaction? Compared to opencart, where you can install it on any server for less than Rs.500 a month and get going without any additional transaction charges. Keep in mind that Rs.2000 only get you the entry level features while on opencart, you get all advance features such as affiliates, order modification, gift cards etc. for FREE!

Average cart experience: It’s not like the checkout is better than other free carts our there, in my experience the conversion would not increase more than 1% overall, if at all. Once you receive an order, you cannot edit it, which is important as in India, you do get customers asking for order modification. GST tax system is a part of the cart but a simple thing such as an invoice is not provided with GST on it, for this you need to install an app which costs $10 a month.

Uptime issue: Shopify promises 99.98% uptime but in the past 2 months, I have faced 2-3 outages, ranging from 2 min to 20 min. This is above their promised SLA and we did not even get compensated for that. These days, if you host with a decent hosting company like Siteground (Aff. Link) where we host all our website, you get near 100% uptime with free SSL on all your website and a host of other free services for 1/3 the cost of shopify.

Paid Extensions: To run shopify like a professional store, you would need to install lot of apps, most of these apps are paid and range anywhere from $5 to $50 a month, this quickly adds if you are using even 3-4 decent apps. A good affiliate app would cost $20-$40 a month and that would also have restrictions on the number of affiliates you can create and would charge you more as the affiliates go up, something like this is inbuilt on other carts such a opencart. Even a simple app with which you can charge additional fee from your customer on COD order is a paid app. They do have a shopify own free version of this but the app is buggy and a lot of people have pointed out the bug but shopify refuses to have it fixed. (https://apps.shopify.com/advanced-cash-on-delivery , Rated 2.6/5)

Blogging feature: Or the lack of them, if you switch from wordpress to shopify blog, you will get a feeling as if you have gone back in time, when blog just started to popup. The features are so basic and is a shame compared to wordpress. Granted that shopify is not a blogging platform but these days a good blog is a must. Let me give you an example, imagine you are writing an article and that article should go to 2 categories, ecommerce & rants. You do not have any option to include this in both, you will need to choose either or. With respect to SEO feature, thats very basic as well. One would argue that you can always use wordpress as your blog and shopify for ecommerce, but then they be 2 different platforms. Imagine you add something to your cart and then happen to click on the blog article to read it, your cart is not transferred to the blog and you just lot a customer.

We have been using shopify for 3 months now, and till this day i think that i should have either gone with opencart or woo-commerce. I hope someone from the shopify team reads this article and taken note.

I would be happy to help anyone who is debating on what platform they should go with, in best interest… please comment with your question on this article and i will try my best to answer each query.

2 years of Satthwa celebrated with a new shampoo launch

Hard to believe that it was a little over 2 years back when I thought of selling the hair oil I had formulated and launched a new cosmetic brand – Satthwa. Within the last 2 years, we launched a few essential oils and jojoba oil but I always wanted to launch a shampoo which would complement our hair oil.

Once of the biggest challenge is this line of work is, finding the right manufacturing partner. This is one of the major reasons why I could not launch shampoo much before, another reason is that with every product which we launch, we want to be 100% sure of its efficacy. I see no point in launching products if they do not solve a problem. Over the years, people have started moving away from applying cosmetics for the sake of applying to applying to solve an issue.

In the case of shampoo, from day one, we recommended people use our hair oil with a sulfate / paraben free shampoo, which meant that when we launched our own shampoo, not only does it need to be SLS / paraben free but it also needs to have additional qualities which help your scalp and hair. The research on our shampoo, it literally took six months. We wanted to include some premium oils into the shampoo as well, Argan oil, Avocado Oil, Botanical Keratin etc, these all have restorative and healing properties for scalp. I have seen other brands launch 10 new products in 6 months time frame and here we were still researching on just one!

Never the less, we launched the Satthwa argan oil shampoo almost a month back and the feedback has been amazing on it. Not just our friends and family loved it but we got super unbiased feedback from the blogger community as well.

Just today when I was doing my usual research, I happened to come upon a website and was pleasantly surprised to see that our shampoo is has got the #1 spot for the best argan oil shampoos in India. Feels good to know that our hard work is paying off!

best argan oil shampoo in India

Unanswered questions on Paytm’s digital gold?

Digital Gold by Paytm

Been hearing a lot of advertisements on Paytm Digital Gold on radio in the last few days, possibly because of Akshay Tritiya. I decided to look at their scheme, more closely at their terms and conditions and there seem to be a couple very important questions which need to be addressed.

Question 1. Since a customer can buy digital gold which they can at any time redeem into real gold and have it delivered to them, what is the kind of ratios Paytm / MMTC would be maintaining for this.

E.g, If I buy 1 gram of digital gold, would Paytm instruct MMTC to keep 1 gram of real gold under my account in their vault or would they be keeping just a fraction? Now let’s assume 10,000 people buy 100 KG of digital gold collectively. Would MMTC be keeping 100 KG as deposit or would be be keeping just a % of the deposit.

This question is important because Gold is not an infinite resource, even government and banks long back moved to Fiat currency because they could no longer be able to keep the equivalent stock in gold. This questions becomes even more important when there is an emergency and people want to keep their assets close to them and all of a sudden a lot of people want to convert their digital gold into real gold… would Paytm / MMTC be able to supply the gold on time if at all?

Question 2: The second biggest question would be that if Paytm / MMTC are just keeping a fraction of your digital gold investment in real gold then what are they doing with the remaining money? Is it kept safe in an escrow account or do they have the permission to use it however they like.. e.g advertising a whole lot more to get even more digital gold customers?

Both the above questions are extremely important as this ensures or does not ensure the safety of your investment. Before you invest in such schemes, I would encourage you to read Paytm’s policy and other details.

Problems with Indian ecommerce marketplaces, especially Flipkart

If you have read my previous posts, you will know that I had initially signed up with Amazon.in to sell the Satthwa products but unfortunately after endless paperwork and nonsensical rules which Amazon follows (Only in India), I had to give up selling on Amazon.

Then I started selling on Flipkart and till a few days the experience had been good. Satthwa is a Silver level seller on Flipkart which means that we go good business, our returns are next to nothing, our products are loved by those who buy and we ship out almost the same day of the order. Our Metrics is topnotch.

So where is the problem? The problem arises when Flipkart does not think of the sellers as their “customers”. Technically in a marketplace model, we the sellers, sell to the end user and they are our customers. For market places which as Flipkart and Amazon, we the sellers are their customers. If this is the case then the same rules should apply to both set of customers, right? No! They don’t.

Let me elaborate. If a end user who just bought something from Flipkart calls their customer support, their query is handles on priority, customers can even cancel a product on the day it is to be delivered without any cost to them. Where as for a seller, Flipkart take their own sweet time to resolve a query.. if at all they manage to do that. Most of the time, they mark the tickers as resolved after a few days and the seller keeps waiting for the reply.

Today because of some “technical issue” (which is a fancy word for an idiot sitting in front of a computer) one of my listings was blocked and i have been on call since the morning.. whenever i requested to talk to a senior person, i was told they are not available…

My account has been assigned a account manager but what’s the point when the account manager phone always goes unanswered?

Sellers are the backbone for such online marketplaces and we also want to be treated with the same respect as would any customer.

Launching the 2nd product under brand Satthwa

Back in 2016, almost exactly around this time I was working on launching the Satthwa Premium Hair oil.

Since that was my very first product launch, I did not keep my expectations high, knowing very well that I was going to compete with the biggies in one of the most competitive categories.

It has now been a year since the launch, the sales and feedback Satthwa hair oil have got from the users has FAR exceeded my wildest dreams. I am very grateful for the same.

Within this one year, there were many times when I was told that in order for a brand to “succeed”, you need multiple products and though I think that this might be true to a certain extent, back then I did not want to divide my bandwidth by launching multiple products.

Launching multiple products and hoping that each generates enough sales to sustain the business is a bad idea in my opinion. I want all my products to be the star products in their respective category because so much learning and research goes into each.

I really don’t see the point of launching a run of the mill brand, there are plenty of those already.

Since the last few months, I have been researching on other products. Something which complements the hair oil as well. This got me to researching on Essential Oils and the first choice for the launch was Lavender Essential oil.

Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to any carrier oil helps in blood circulation on the scalp and apart from this, lavender oil has so many other benefits as well. Not to forget, this is an excellent oil for aromatherapy.

So without further ado, Satthwa Lavender Essential Oil has now been launched!