There are more than 60 online marketplaces in India now, including large diverse ones like Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal. But new sites are still coming up. Especially niche plays catering to the unique requirements of specific domains. One such marketplace that launched just last month is Tolexo, which aims to be the go-to place for buyers of industrial and construction goods.
Books, clothes, and electronics; these we have become familiar with in places like Flipkart. Within these mass consumer facing categories, there are niche players like Zivame for lingerie or Urban Ladder for furniture. But heat guns, power cables, and janitorial tools on an online marketplace? That is a new one.
Tolexo already has over 50,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) in seven categories like industrial safety and engineering tools. More than 100 sellers of such things have registered with it and the list is growing fast. Brijesh Agrawal, cofounder of Tolexo, tells Tech in Asia.
The platform has been launched with limited categories and will further expand as we progress. The market size of the current categories itself is more than U$100 billion and the overall opportunity will increase manifold in the coming years.
Hitachi, for instance, which has engineering and construction businesses in India as its customers, has put out a whole range of its power tools on Tolexo. A buyer can compare the specifications and prices of those with similar products from six other manufacturers like Metabo, Makita, and Ralli Wolf.
Heavy duty buying sans negotiations
The people behind Tolexo, Brijesh Agrawal and Navneet Rai, are old hands in the ecommerce business. Agrawal is a cofounder of IndiaMart, one of the pioneers in business to business (B2B) marketplaces. The 18-year-old site, which began in a room in Mumbai, now has 40 offices across the country and offers a platform to 1.5 million suppliers. Rai cofounded online fashion store Inkfruit in 2007, which was acquired by Zovi last year.
Over the past couple of years, ecommerce in India has gone beyond matchmaking between buyers and sellers. “At IndiaMart, we have been closely watching the shift in their user behavior. Buyers are looking to place orders without negotiations for standard products and the sellers are getting ready to ship smaller quantities. We have been witnessing a consistent increase in comfort levels of users shopping online. This has had a positive rub-off on buyers looking to buy even industrial and construction products and supplies,” Agrawal tells Tech in Asia.
That’s how Tolexo was born as a subsidiary of Intel Capital-backed IndiaMart. A buyer on Tolexo can add a nuclear plant-ready face-mask (costing US$1,600) or a bunch of industrial drills to her shopping cart just as easily as we put books or clothes. Earlier, IndiaMart only connected businesses who then entered into contracts. But now buyers are willing to simply place orders online even for heavy duty stuff.
With the online marketplace model catching on in a big way in India, a number of players have come into the space to help sellers get online. Tolexo strikes a different note by moving away from the crowded electronics and clothes retailing to new categories.
Currently, the focus is on growing the merchant base and product assortment. “We are looking at growing the product catalog to over one million products over the next 12 months,” Agrawal says. The other priority is to reach buyers in locations across the length and breadth of India. IndiaMart’s large seller base will facilitate this.
The industrial, engineering, and construction segments are massive in India. And an improvement in business sentiment with a new government in power could mean a lot more investments in power projects, infrastructure, and the like. Tolexo’s online play in this huge market thus comes at an opportune time.
(Top image: Wikimedia Commons)Editing by Terence Lee
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