Untapped markets hold promise and peril. In the brave new world of eCommerce, and specifically B2B, this is especially true in India. With hundreds of millions of consumers poised to go mobile, the pickings should be easy for retailers looking to make a splash in eCommerce. Easier said than done, however, because they need a reliable supply chain that is only as strong as each of its links, and challenges can come in many forms in the course of everyday business, from tracking shipments to paying taxes to working with suppliers across different currencies.
Earlier this month, digital marketing solutions firm Lycos and Apollo International, a manufacturer and commodity trading firm, said they formed a joint venture to offer eCommerce services specifically targeted to the Indian market. Their eCommerce-as-a-Solution approach isn’t leaving out the nation’s blossoming B2B space, though.
The joint venture, to be known as Apollo Lycos Netcommerce, will help design and then create the online presence of brands globally, with an eye on digital media and marketing on Lycos’ part. But on the B2B end, logistics and inventory management features will come straight from Apollo’s core strengths.
The JV offers up just one recent example of the lure India holds for B2B, with greenfield opportunities in streamlining how companies do business with one another.
Indrranil Roy Choudhuri, who heads corporate communications at Apollo International, told PYMNTS that India holds particular promise for B2B companies looking to gain access to a nascent industry. Briefly touching on retail, there are a number of key trends driving increased adoption of eCommerce in general and in particular mobile payments — so much so that the industry could be worth as much as $50 billion eventually, up from $10 billion today.
When it comes to B2B, Apollo is handling a lot of the back-end heavy lifting of the joint venture with Lycos in an effort that the executive said would allow his company “an opportunity to participate in the global cross-border eCommerce logistics” industry. Though it is B2C that may grab headlines, B2B needs to be modernized to bring maximum efficiencies to suppliers and customers.
Through Apollo LogiSolutions, the company offers warehousing, customs processing and transport services to customers both in India and elsewhere. In reference to brands entering the Indian market for the first time, the key challenges lie with marketing strategy in general and pricing, which can offer challenges through payments across currencies, which in turn can affect the interactions between enterprises.
And then there is the ongoing challenge of doing business on a daily basis with new customers (many of whom, in India, said Choudhuri, prefer to pay in cash), tax regimes and even regulatory rules that govern foreign direct investments.
The most pressing technological needs, Choudhuri continued, tie in to integration with payment gateways across mobile devices and also inventory management, which in the case of the JV range across drop ship and stock ship models.
The Apollo/Lycos JV will span both B2C and B2B modes, with the latter service materializing in more efficient movement of goods and management of working capital, especially as they buy directly from one another. “We are a link between the principal company and the distributors and retailers by offering front-end solutions well-integrated with respective back-end enterprise resource planning,” said Choudhuri.
Offering an illustration of the steps that would govern an eCommerce transaction from soup to nuts across B2B, Choudhuri said that logistics would govern first pricing, or freight on board, which would be where goods are assembled and packaged, through transit, through reception and eventual delivery to the B2B chain’s end customer.
And, in the chain that links retailers to end customers, he said, “We can assist foreign brands in managing their challenges and can also help them find suitable supply chain partners in case that is required.”