The water pump retail industry is fairly unorganised in India. In the traditional retail model, farmers are forced to buy substandard pumps for irrigation at a higher cost. Launched a year ago, Pumpkart, an e-trading platform, provides a wide range of pumps at factory prices. The startup has received national and international recognitions. MOHD MUSTAQUIM reports
Inderjit, 37, a farmer from Dhilwan in Kapurthala district of Punjab, used to travel 22 km to the district headquarter to buy water pump to irrigate his two hectare paddy field. However, dissatisfied with the quality of pumps available with the retailers, he came back home. In a couple of days, Kartar Singh, his childhood friend who operates a Common Service Centre (CSC) told him that he could buy a water pump as per his preference at a competitive price even sitting at his home.
Inderjit went to Singh’s CSC and ordered a Kirloskar KDS-212+ Monoblock Pump (2HP) at Rs11,278 through an e-commerce platform, Pumpkart. He received the motor within five days and paid cash to the delivery person. It made his job hassle free.
Pumpkart is an online portal which provides an e-trading platform to the buyers and sellers of water pumps across the country. KS Bhatia, a Chandigarh-based trader who is into the water pump trading for past 18 years, founded Pumpkart one year ago which brought him fruitful results.
About his journey, he says, “I was always interested in making the buying of water pumps a hassle-free experience for the buyers across the nation. I also want to take water pump industry to new heights in coming five years.”
The journey so far has been quite rewarding for him. The portal has been praised by Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Digital India Meet in San Jose, California. Due to his innovation, Bhatia was also included in the ‘Top 25 Most Influential e-Commerce Professionals of India’ by Asian Retail Congress, ‘Top 20 e-Retailers 2014 in India’ by the Times of India, among various other recognitions.
The company has an alliance with the CSCs throughout India. Currently, around 100,000 CSCs are functioning at Panchayat level across the length and breadth of the country as online access point for the wide variety of both government and non-government e-services. Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE) are mainly responsible for running these CSCs. They play a crucial role in aggregating demand of e-retailers’ products at rural level. As per the partnership, Pumpkart is offering training sessions to the farmers and guiding them for making a right selection of the pumps at the CSCs. The company claims to provide irrigation pumps to the farmers at factory prices.
“Traditionally, the farmers are being forced to buy products at costly prices from small manufacturers. The downside of this trading is that the products are made locally with less efficiency and bear short life. Though, the pump life is around 10 years but the replacement is around two years in the agriculture sector. So, we have to change the mindset of the farmers that the replacement period of the water pump is more than 7 to 8 years,” Bhatia says.
Differentiating from traditional retail store
First and foremost, the retailers lack having variety of brands. There are hardly four to five brands available in the retail stores. On the other hand, Pumpkart offers more than 50 brands of pumps, both local and global. “We provide better services as well in the form of free home delivery, attractive prices, varied payment modes, prompt customer support services etc,” Bhatia claims.
Probably, one of the key elements is reliability. Nowadays, buyers are more concerned about the standing of the website in the market and then only they make a buying decision. Already in the industry for one year, the company has earned a respectable position. Adding to the reliability element, it also offers hassle-free return policies where the buyers have 24 hours to return the pump.
Due to lack of trust, there has been a reluctance among the buyers to shop from e-commerce platform, even in the urban areas. Thus, the company offers cash-on-delivery (COD) mode of payment option. Further, the products are also available on EMI.
Any machinery needs post sales services for efficiency and durability. Thus, Bhatia provides repair services through another online platform repairinindia.com to ill-functioning or damaged units since before launching of Pumpkart. Now, he is planning to integrate these services with Pumpkart.
Since the pump industry is fairly unorganised, the company has to face a number of challenges. Bhatia speaks on the issue, “We are really toiling hard to make it an organised sector. Buyers are still persistent with the standard buying from the brick and mortar stores and it will surely take some time when the perception of the buyers will be changed and they will come online.”
Though Pumpkart is providing all types of water pumps from household use small pumps to industrial and agricultural irrigation pumps but irrigation pumps are the key area where the company is giving special focus. Thus, the company thinks that the CSCs, formulated by the Indian Government to provide electronic delivery of services and products to the gram panchayat level, can play an important role in reaching out to the farmers.
As per its tie-up with CSCs, he offers them a commission for every shipment that comes to Pumpkart via them. “We also have plans to initiate a new business model with the VLEs. Under this, the VLEs will facilitate farmers post-sale services, free installation and maintenance for every pump. We will also be providing training to the VLEs regarding installation of the pumps in order to make the post product delivery services feasible,” Bhatia adds.
Speaking on the response from the farming community, Bhatia shares, “It is more than what we expected. More and more farmers have shown interest in buying agricultural pumps online and expressed a keen interest in learning more about online shopping.”
The company aims to offer all pump manufacturers and sellers a common platform. Pumpkart has plans to offer services and installation to the buyers at their respective places. If it can ease the hassles of farmers and reduce their farm input cost, these initiatives can have a gleaming future in India.