The top 10 cities in India, by our estimates, have ~25K apartment complexes, housing ~15-18 Mn people. If you live in a gated apartment society, you would agree that society WhatsApp groups form an important part of the social fabric. Apart from general updates, there are groups for moms, dads, groceries, social work, etc. Right from charity to commerce, these groups act as great avenues of discovery and referrals of merchants and vendors. The volume of unstructured commerce and lead generation in these groups has always intrigued us. Pandemic and lockdowns have only strengthened this behavior. Often this commerce is driven by an enthusiastic group member, who discovers a new vendor and wants to share with the broader community.
Every city has many such high quality, consumer obsessed merchants, who want to create their independent brand identity but are usually limited by access to customers. While these makers are very skilled in their crafts and are ambitious and aware, they are not very proficient in generating and scaling demand. Many go through business-to-consumer (B2C) channels and generate demand through Instagram and Facebook, but are unable to do it efficiently. As a result, despite the lower realization, makers end up selling to business-to-business (B2B) channels like hotels and high-end restaurants. On large marketplaces, such makers are crowded out to later pages and are unable to communicate their brand stories. Such makers want a channel which allows them to build their brand identity and control their consumer experience. No channel today allows them to do so efficiently.
Interestingly, consumers are also often on the lookout for such high quality, trusted makers (particularly in categories like fresh fruits and vegetables, beauty, pet food, home and garden and food experiences). With no platform focusing on these, the avenues are limited and discovery is left to chance (social media channels or friend networks). Even after discovery, there is significant friction in accessing these vendors as they often need demand aggregation. Tracking and fulfilment often falls upon the consumer who referred the maker in the first place—making it highly onerous for them as well. Key pain points include the tedious task of maintaining multiple WhatsApp groups, the unreliability of vendors, inefficient payment channels and disorganized delivery services.
Ping is building a curated social ecommerce platform catering to the urban mass consumers. Its interactive app/platform was directly inspired by the many WhatsApp groups used by makers to sell directly to residents of apartment complexes. Apartment complexes are, in general, a great proxy for socio-economic homogeneity and high-demand density. On the demand side, Ping onboards the residents of apartment complexes, providing them with a destination to discover reliable high-quality makers. Makers can find similar consumers, engage with them, deliver bulk orders, gather feedback and over time build a brand. Further, they get access to logistics providers, payment integrations, storefront, and tools to market and communicate their brand. This allows makers to focus on what they do best and truly enjoy—work with their consumers and create distinctive offerings.
When we met Vartika, she had spent 6 weeks experimenting with this idea. Despite the short time, our customer calls indicated a lot of pull and love for the platform. Makers were relieved, thankful and delighted. Customers were referring makers and makers were referring apartment societies. It was also clear that Ping was catering to digitally savvy and highly discerning buyers and suppliers. Such a product will need to not only delight the consumers, but also balance it with maker experience. Vartika had already done that once, when she had built Uber Eats’ South India and Sri Lanka business (one of its best performing regions). Impressed by her vision and customer obsession, we offered her a term sheet within a week (while she was still thinking about incorporating the company 😊). We are super thrilled to partner with Ping as they build the social commerce platform for mass affluent consumers.
Investing in Zeni
Developing an AI-powered finance concierge for startups