The story of Buyzaar: An online marketplace for the diaspora

By Indira Laisram
Gowri Chakravarthy

For Gowri Chakravarthy, becoming an e-commerce entrepreneur was born out of sheer frustration. It was in 2016 when she was desperately looking for an Indian outfit that she realised she had to drive almost 60 kms. And even after driving that far, the options were limited. The market for Indian attires and jewellery was small and immature in Melbourne, it was not as easy as going to Myers or Target. The experience would make her create Buyzaar, an online marketplace or bazaar for Indian goods with a zeal and an ambitiousness on how online shopping might evolve for the diaspora.

“I was really missing the whole shopping experience I have had back home in India,” says Gowri, who moved to Australia in 2007 from Hyderabad. “That’s when I started dreaming of bringing all small and home businesses under one roof in Australia to provide customers with one-stop shop buying experience. It was a concept which was in my head since 2016.”

The outcome was a first physical pop-up market in July 2016. The event took place at Point Cook Jamieson Way Community Centre where Gowri provided a common platform to more than 15 small businesses who came together to sell their products, services, merchandise et al. She states it was a very new concept. “I am also proud to say that I was the first person to start this platform in Australia for the diaspora.”

Of course, selling that idea and getting the confidence of the participants was not quite easy. Gowri says the first two marketplaces were provided for free to wring all the value out of it and also to test the waters. It was a learning curve for Gowri, who candidly admits, “There is no end to learning something new every day.”

In keeping with this consumer-oriented research and experience, Gowri found the right time to pivot online and launched last August before the pandemic. “Buyzaar is a pun for bazaar, it is a catchy and relatable word for all Indians,” says Gowri, who hopes to connect millions of Indian diaspora buyers and sellers particularly around Australia and New Zealand and create economic opportunity for all.

Gowri’s pitch to vendors and customers is that as online purchasing becomes more mainstream, this is the marketplace to go to and enjoy the privilege of accessing good deals while being so geographically distanced from India.

“When I launched, we had 50-plus vendors within a month, now I am going to touch 100,” says an elated Gowri. “From designer earrings to Raja Ravi Varma paintings, I want Buyzaar to be the Amazon for anyone interested in anything Indian. It’s like Amazon, here we are dealing with only goods and sellers.”

The site’s design looks less complicated than Amazon’s and takes you to the shopping categories of clothing and footwear, jewellery, health and beauty, home and garden, sports and fitness.

Having launched just a year ago, Gowri says the initial vendor interest is for clothing, home décor and jewellery. But there has been interest for groceries and food and it is all waiting to be launched soon.

Interestingly, Sendle, Australia’s first 100 per cent carbon neutral shipping service, has recognised Buyzaar as a growing and potential platform. “We have a separate landing page with them. So our vendors get access to premium shipping list, which is nothing but low shipping costs. At the same time, they can use Sendle for personal orders as well,” says Gowri, adding, “I believe in passing on the benefits to the vendors because my main objective remains, that they grow through Buyzaar and it is an overall benefit.”

Gowri’s thesis is that this is an acceptable trade-off savings for vendors and as shopping gravitates online with the obsession for fast shipping, it is also about social economics and having the privilege of accessing good deals.

So, what is Buyzaar’s revenue model? Gowri says, “For now, we charge four per cent commission on the sale, which is 40 cents for every 10 dollars, but there is no registration fee or limit on the number of products vendors can list. One of my basic intentions is to grow together.”

Gowri, who is an MBA graduate in Finance from Osmania University, India, and achieved ‘Best All Rounder’ in college along with many other academic awards under her belt, has worked in the Australian financial sector with many global companies. She quit working last March to devote full time to Buyzaar. Given her experience, she brings her salubrious effects to clients and the over 200 vendors. She is confident of taking the company to great heights.

For most of her career, Gowri has been driven to succeed. “I am getting very close to what I wanted. I started with a concept but, definitely, what I am doing now is the start of how I want to see it. I feel every step I am talking is drawing me closer to achieving my dream.”

Kiran, Gowri’s husband, attributes her success to the fact that she is a hard worker who puts in 12-13 hours a day. That apart, having been always involved in community activities, Gowri has used the opportunity to impact more people and looked at ways to utilise and bring all these market experiences to the fore.

Kiran, an IT professional, says he jumped in to help with the architecture of the technology platform and an app to navigate. “Whatever I explain in plain business language, he converts that language into technical terms for the teams to execute,” says Gowri.

Fortunately, it is her business instincts that have materialised her dreams. “I never regretted having resigned from my job. Yes, initially, I didn’t know where to start from, I had everything in my head but implementing them was a bit of a challenge. It was a lot of work putting everything onto paper and explaining that to my partner and getting his confidence into my idea. It’s been an interesting journey,” says Gowri.

Asked how she plans to reach the word on Buyzaar effectively and extensively, Gowri says, “Buyzaar has 20K followers on social media and a reach up to 150K through digital promotions,” adding, “Community engagements and encouraging events through sponsorships play a key role.”

Buyzaar built a concept to provide individual exclusive promotions for everyone who comes on board. The New year will also see a partnership with The Indian Sun where Buyzaar will come out with a digital supplement covering all aspects of Indian diaspora fashion.

Looking to the new year, Buyzaar has a few new, exciting initiatives lined up. “The market is going to expand to Sri Lanka, Fiji, Bangladesh and Pakistan who will be supporting and bringing their normal to premium brands,” emphasises Gowri.

Gowri also intends to use Qoin, Australia’s newest digital currency. Built on blockchain, Qoin offers merchants and consumers an innovative and secure alternative to connect and interact.

There is still work left to be done but for this inspiring woman entrepreneur, starting a niche business with dedication while still celebrating culture is the great thing about the digital age.

“I want to make Buyzaar the more established Amazon for the Indian diaspora,” reiterates Gowri.

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