Welcome to the Google of e-commerce

Jul 14, 2013, 06:03 IST | Phorum Dalal

With the fear of using money or sharing data on the Internet gone, Indians are buying online like never before. eBay, for instance, sees 13 transactions every minute in India. Emboldened by this trend, aggregators such as Buyt.in, Policybazaar and Bookyourttable.com are now acting as umbrella sites where surfers can compare rates across multiple sites before choosing the best deal

A self-confessed online shopping addict, Arjun Jain, a 25-year-old software engineer, switched on his laptop to buy an eight GB pen drive in March this year. While clicking on several sites such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong and Ebay, he came across an advertisement of Buyt.in.

Curious, he clicked on the ad -- India’s largest shopping search engine -- and was directed to the website, where a search bar offered to end his hunt for that pen drive. But before that, it allowed him to compare rates from numerous shopping sites without hopping from one window to another.

Bookyourtable.com allows a user to make personal requests, look for offers running in restaurants in his / her vicinity and compare the discounts

“It was awesome. I didn’t need to open a million windows for one pen drive. I could compare models and prices on one single page,” the excited New Delhi-based resident tells us.

Buyt.in allows browsers to compare rates from numerous shopping sites without hopping from one window to another

Today, shopping online is not a lonely experience between you and your mouse. To make your experience as real as possible, websites post real-time updates on what are the top products other users are purchasing, how many people have picked up the product you are considering and to take it a step ahead, even lets you compare the price of a product across websites. Such are aggregator websites that hunt for your typed search on shopping websites and bring you the best of every website in one window.

In July last year, 26-year-olds Biswanath Patel, Yogesh Omar and Simranjeet Singh quit their corporate jobs to add finishing touches to Buyt.in, an aggregator website they had been working on for the past two years, along with their fourth partner and Sunil Jain, 45. “We have created a shopping search engine for online buyers,” New Delhi-based Patel tells us, adding that the technology of the search engine is created under Rocket Science Technology, one of the few tech startups to have received a national copyright on its technologies. In layman’s term, when a user types a query for a particular product in the search bar, an aggregator website crawls through various shopping websites and the auto-categorisation tool throws up products for the user to choose from. “Without leaving the comfort of one window, a shopper can see all the varieties available on all online stores,” explains Omar.

The portal has tied up with 2,000 stores and online market places. Within four months since the launch, Buyt.in boasts of a 2.5-million-product catalogue, 20,000 brands and 5,000 categories. “Once a user chooses a product, it takes him / her to the seller website for payment and delivery procedures. So, we, as an aggregator site, are only helping you make the right choice. We want to be the Google of e-commerce,” smiles Patel.

Insurance a click away
Five-year-old PolicyBazaar.com have kick started a rigorous marketing and advertising campaign in the past six months. “Today, the insurance companies have to make their products available online, with 13 per cent insurance buyers doing their initial queries on their mobile phones,” says Yashish Dahiya, co-founder and CEO of Policy Bazaar, who describes the e-commerce industry in India nascent and evolving. When they first launched in 2008, the company had one concept in mind: to create a vertical (one product) search for insurance. “There were 20 other players in this sector, but the concept of term insurance -- where a beneficiary gets money after a insurance holder’s death -- didn’t exist. We used to get 3000 queries per month and only 42 transactions. Today, we see 17,000 transactions per month out of 600,000 enquiries per month,” says Dahiya.

Food for thought
Last year, foodies in the country were served with BYT (bookyourtable.com), a dynamic content site that posts live content, real-time updates. “Apart from providing the menus of restaurants and taking orders, the site allows a user to make personal requests, look for offers running in restaurants in his / her vicinity, compare the discounts and even opt for a spot offer that a restaurant posts,” explains Sunil Kallerackal, director and founder, BYT. On the other hand, the site allows restaurants to push a spot offer and offer privileges, break even on their days targets by offering for example, 50 per cent off to the first customer who books a table etc.

Kallerackal began marketing the website in May, and has byt.com powering the upcoming Master chef and India restaurant summit. “No restaurant captures feedback. Byt.in helps them do just that - connect the customer to restaurants, and the restaurants to the dinning market place, upload inventory and provide latitude-longitude location,” says Kallerackal. In the past 18 months, the site has 5,00,000 subscribers.

According to Anil Joshi, president of Mumbai Angels, an angel investors network, aggregator sites are the Google, Yahoo or Rediff of e-commerce. “Their future depends on how popular they can make themselves. Flipkart.com started with books and expanded to a lot of products. It is easy for anyone to remember this brand, as it was the first one to offer online payment gateways, cash on delivery and made a mark with its efficient delivery system,” says Joshi.

We all want to roam around, see what we like, if there is a search engine that is doing it for us, why not? Joshi opines. “It was only a matter of time that comparative tools would emerge but it has to match the accuracy of a search engine like Google. By only crawling to other websites, it is not going to make money, as it needs a very strong business model.” In the next three years, we will have more option and better infrastructure, in terms of broadband connectivity.

Market place
Seconding this opinion, Mukul Bafana, co-founder and director of Jabong, a market place online shopping site, says aggregator sites are the evolution of how people want to shop. “Jabong is a market place horizontal site (more than one product) set up with 1,000 brands offering convenience, assortment and access. Online shoppers are of two types, those looking for a specific product and others who are in an exploratory mood. In both cases, it is important to have a proper search structure, search and suggestion site search, based on browsing behavior and recommendations. An aggregator site takes feeds from a portal and links to catalogue after tying up with shopping portals. They will survive only depending on business model. Tomorrow, if an aggregator becomes big, and sees a large customer bank, we would adopt their system and allow them to crawl our site.

For some online buyers, the change has already set in. After purchasing the pen drive, Jain, has since then purchased a T-shirt, books and even encouraged his friend to purchase a phone onBuyt.in. “It is very convenient and the execution time to display products from various sites is bare minimum,” concludes Jain. 

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