CityMall is an Indian social e-commerce startup that exposes its users to the importance of the internet in e-commerce. E-commerce is a big deal in India. According to Privacy Shield, experts predict that the e-commerce market will grow to US$200 billion by 2026 from $48.5 billion as of 2018. With more people relying on e-commerce, it only makes sense to be acquainted with it, which is why CityMall exists. The platform was founded in 2019 by Angad Kikla and Naisheel Verdhan. It hopes to create India’s largest chain of virtual stores on WhatsApp. CityMall targets small towns and villages of Bharat. That is because, in most cases, people residing in villages and small towns do not have access to e-commerce tools, so the company will help them get them. Having learned what the company does, we can now discuss more about this company. In particular, we will focus on 20 things you may not have known about this company. Here are 20 things you may not have known about CityMall.
1. It Laid Off 191 Employees in Late March, 2022
The company made this decision right after acquiring a $75 million financing round. The company intended to use the funds to make structural changes across functions. CityMall claimed that the company had an evolving business model, so the layoff was the solution to grow the platform. The layoff impacted at least 30% of the startup’s workforce. Two months before the layoff, CityMall claimed it had over 500 employees.
2. CityMall Closed Its Series B Funding Round in 2021
In this round, the company received $22.5 million. According to Business Insider, this round cemented the company’s position as the third most funded startup in the nascent social commerce segment. General Catalyst and Jungle Ventures led this round, with participation from existing investors Accel, Elevation Capital (formerly known as SAIF Partners), and WaterBridge Ventures. With the funds, the company hoped to expand its logistics network.
3. A School Teacher Uses CityMall as a Side Hustle
Sunita Yadav, a school teacher in a village named Tint, was introduced to CityMall by a friend. She uses the digital platform to sell groceries to her friends and neighbors. According to Forbes India, the platform earns her about $192 per month. This is a decent amount for one job, so you can imagine how much she gets when she combines the earnings with her earnings from teaching. Her earnings came from commissions and incentives. Currently, she sells her groceries to 50 to 60 households and receives orders daily.
4. CityMall Has Incentives to Encourage You to Use It
In the previous entry, we noted that Sunita earned from incentives. These incentives are in the form of rewards based on the number of clients you introduce to the platform and the number of sales you close. In Sunita’s case, she was able to crack four levels which caused her to receive the “silver director” award.
5. CityMall Has Over 20,000 Community Leaders
Anyone who uses CityMall for business is considered a community leader, just like Sunita. The community leaders are based in eight smaller cities and towns: Bahadurgarh, Rewari, Jhajjar, Panipat, Pataudi, Sonipat, Dharuhera, and Rohtak. These community leaders aggregate orders from their communities. After that, CityMall ships products to them the following day. The community leaders can either deliver the goods to the end customers or let customers collect the goods from them.
6. CityMall is More Than a Platform for Selling Goods
Some community leaders use the application to sell their items, but you can get the most out of this platform. The application has a lot of data analytics that help them analyze the behavior of their customers. Through the data analytics, the community leader can see their top consumer or know a customer who is likely to abandon the platform. With such information, the community leader can develop strategies to retain customers.
7. CityMall Has an Application for End-Customers
Most people use WhatsApp to interact with community leaders. However, you can also use CityMall’s client application to place orders. The application has superior cataloging to WhatsApp, so most people have begun embracing the app to place orders. The client will be exposed to at least 3,000 products on the application. When you place an order with the app, you immediately get aggregated on the community’s leader app.
8. CityMall Was Initially Focused on Groceries
People cannot go without groceries for long, so they regularly purchase them. The CityMall founders likely focused exclusively on groceries due to their high demand. However, the founders soon discovered that there was a demand for other items, such as FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] products. Some items you can purchase from community leaders include electrical appliances, shoes, T-shirts, etc.
9. The Company Received a Series A Investment in 2020
That year, the company raised $3 million in seed funding from WaterBridge Ventures, Elevation Capital, and many other investors. Before raising this amount from seed funding, the company received a series A investment of $11 million. The series A event was led by Accel, Elevation Capital, and other investors. Angad and Naisheel hoped to use the funds to expand their operations to 20 to 25 smaller cities and towns. Their long-term goal is to operate in 400 cities.
10. CityMall Purchases Products From a Range of Sellers
Whether you work on a small farm or for a national brand, CityMall will purchase what they need from you. The company, however, faces a challenge in terms of logistics since most logistics providers do not operate in the small towns that CityMall focuses on. As a result, the company has plans to build its own logistics network, which will comprise hubs and warehouses. Meanwhile, the company has teamed up with truck owners and small fleets of tempos and commercial vehicles.
11. CityMall Received Series C Funds in 2022
The e-commerce platform raised $75 million in a Series C funding round led by Norwest Venture Partners. Angad mentioned that the funds would be used to strengthen its back-end technology and expand across categories and geographies. He planned to expand to 100 cities after 18 months. The intention was to penetrate newer states within India and venture into fashion and general merchandise.
12. The Company Intends to Offer Outplacement Assistance to Retrenched Workers
Retrenchments are not easy on anybody. You are usually left wondering when you will get your next job. Although you will receive a lump sum for the days worked, it is not hard to erase the pain of being jobless. Fortunately, when CityMall laid off their workers, they promised to assist them in getting jobs in other companies. For workers interested in the company’s help, they simply inform CityMall of their interest in their services.
13. CityMall Experienced Some Hiccups in the Beginning
With CityMall’s current success, you would be forgiven for assuming it was always successful. The first time it was established, the founders had difficulty attracting demand due to supply chain issues. To solve such issues, the founders decided to build a decentralized supply chain closer to the source and integrate its backend for dry staples.
14. CityMall Had Been Downloaded 100,000 Times by 2021
There are plenty of reasons why the app has been downloaded several times. First, the app is only 16 MB, so it is unlikely to take up so much space on your phone. Also, another notable feature of this app that made it highly downloaded was the daily discounts and new deals. Such offers are not common when you visit a physical shop. Lastly, the app makes it easy for you to ask for returns and refunds.
15. The App Has a Horoscope Feature
Astrology is prevalent in India. According to Business World, the horoscope market in the country is $10 billion. Naturally, CityMall founders found a way to appease the demographic by including the horoscope feature. The feature motivates the client to open the app daily since it posts daily horoscopes.
16. The Company’s App is Entirely in Hindi
English is more popular in urban India than in rural India. According to Live Mint, only 3% of the rural Indians admitted to being able to understand English. Since the app is aimed at rural folks, the founders decided to make the Hindi language the default one for this app. However, that does not mean that there are no plans to include English in the app. The founders decided to first focus on the rural demographic.
17. CityMall Gets Its Payments Directly From the Community Leaders
So far, CityMall receives most of its pay from community leaders in cash. However, India’s government-backed unified payments interface (UPI) is slowly becoming a popular mode of payment. Community leaders pay CityMall with the money they collect from individual end customers. However, there are instances when a client may be unable to pay the community leader. Fortunately for them, they can ask for credit facilities from community leaders. However, that depends on how lucky you are since community leaders are not obliged to offer credit facilities. If you are a new community leader, it would be best not to offer credit facilities until you are experienced enough.
18. CityMall Spends Much Less on Marketing
CityMall is yet to have a proper decentralized network, but the presence of community leaders more or less makes this company almost have one. The community leader has many responsibilities during the delivery stage. For instance, when a community leader delivers an item to a client, the community leader will automatically describe the product to them. Not only will they describe the product, but they will also ask the client to tell others about CityMall. Since the community leader is marketing the service, CityMall does not have to spend much on advertising. Remember, the community leader and CityMall stand to benefit. That explains why the community leader goes out of their way to market the app without asking for advertisement fees.
19. CityMall Was Not Adversely Affected by the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic
You now realize how devastating the pandemic was to most economies globally. To curb the spread of the virus, governments had to impose curfews or lockdowns. With few people visiting shops, the shops did not make as much money as they would typically do. This development eventually led most companies to interact online with their customers. However, the pandemic did not lead to the formation of CityMall’s business model. We earlier mentioned that it was started in 2019, meaning the disease was not active yet. Its business model requires people to order items online. Since there was no physical contact between people, the company could still operate normally. In fact, in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the company managed to increase its sales volume by 35%.
20. CityMall Made Sunita Famous in Her Locality
Sunita resides in Haryana. She revealed that women were not allowed to go out and work in Haryana. As a result, she focused on offering tuition to children within homes. Private tuitions were her primary source of income. However, against all odds, she managed to secure a job in a small private school in her locality. She teaches children all the way to Class 10. The teacher claimed that the app helped her create an identity for herself. By using the app, she was not working as a teacher. As a result, people got exposed to the marketing side of her. Eventually, her neighbors knew her as the marketer for the app. Due to her fame, she was able to win over clients easily. Besides being famous, the app also boosted her confidence, furthering her marketing skills.
At a time when e-commerce is gaining prominence in India, it makes sense why CityMall was established. Some people desire to order items online but lack the proper tools or are in a remote area. Thankfully, this app attempts to bridge the gap between the poor and rich by focusing on the Indian villages. If you are doing your business online, it makes sense to target as many demographics as possible to earn profit. Since that is what CityMall does, you cannot help but marvel at the founders for their excellent business sense.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee