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Sulekha Opens New Offices; On Top Cities, e-Commerce, User-base


As a part of its strategy to expand its local commerce business, Sulekha.com, the Indian classifieds web-site which had also forayed into local deals, and property listings, has opened offices in Lucknow and Visakhapatnam,through which it will offer various local commerce services including local listings, Property and Cars & bikes to advertisers and customers. Speaking with MediaNama, Satya Prabhakar, Founder & CEO of Sulekha informed that the Lucknow office will be supervised by Sulekha’s Delhi headquarters, while operations in the Visakhapatnam office will be looked after by the Chennai office.

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He said that the need for local offices is increasing as the critical mass of the site’s userbase grows in tier-2 cities, and the company needs a point of interaction with local businesses who’re keen to touch base with their target customers in the region.

Sulekha has 14 offices across India – in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Chennai and 3 offices in New York, Toronto and Austin.  It also has individual representatives in some tier-2 and 3 cities.  The company has more than 1,300 employees across India. Sulekha claims to have 75,000+ businesses listed and offers services across 50+ cities.

- Top cities: Prabhakar informed that Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore were the top cities for Sulekha, in terms of business. In tier 2 cities, Ahmedabad,  Pune, Kolkata and Hyderabad were also doing well.

- On rebranding & marketing: The company had rebranded from a pure-play classifieds player to local commerce services provider, covering sub-domains like deals, travel, property, jobs and others. It had allocated a budget of Rs 5 crore during the first month of the launch. Prabhakar says that there’s been a positive impact but it’s hard to measure it in exact monetary terms. After the initial burst of the campaign, the company might do another round, sometime later.

- User base: Prabhakar claims that Sulekha gets 25- 27 million monthly visits and 8 million monthly unique visits, and that only 1%-2% of these users come from investments on SEM (Search Engine Marketing). He adds that the site has a dedicated NRI user-base and registers close to 1.5 million unique visitors from markets outside India.

- On making money: The company is profitable as far as the core operations are concerned, he informed.

- On classifieds sites like Quikr and OLX: Prabhakar does see these new classifieds sites as possible competition, but feels that the Sulekha has an advantage because of its strong fundamentals. He said that the company intends to spend a little more than what it did on marketing, in the coming year. On these sites spending a large part of their budget on marketing, he said that Sulekha had served more than 1 lakh small businesses and won’t spend $2 million on marketing.

- On e-commerce & daily deals businesses: He admitted that the deals business was not doing well for multiple reasons, including the quality of deals, and lack of differentiation. With regards to ecommerce, he refused to disclose the exact details about the contribution of the segment to the overall business, but said that the company, which is essentially a drop-ship player, would rank in the top 10, in terms of the number of ecommerce transactions. The company has a tie-up with BlueDart but has no plans of starting its own logistics services.

- On selling below MOP: Prabhakar said that since the company does not spend on customer acquisition, and doesn’t burn cash on marketing, it can offer lower prices, however, at times they’re in not direct and come in form of various coupons and deals. On being asked if OEMs object to that, he responded that most of the times the OEMs are advertisers on the site and the company works closely with OEMs for these offers.