In an exclusive interaction with DQ Channels, Rahul Gope, Co-Founder and CEO, Oyela shared his insights on the journey of Oyela, its vision, how it's aiding new entrepreneurs with social media automation, seed funding, and much more.
1. Throw some light on the journey of Oyela, highlighting key milestones and challenges.
Founded in 2021 by two IIT Bombay alumni - Rahul Gope and Anjan Kumar Patel, Oyela empowers emerging socially savvy businesses, product creators, and individual artists wanting to sell to their audience and grow their business. Through Oyela, businesses can easily set up and manage their digital storefronts. Our platform enables sellers to expand their businesses by equipping them with tools for enhanced collaboration, streamlining operations, and utilizing Instagram Automation to boost sales by leveraging their social influence. Over time, Oyela will also help them in building their supply chain. In other words, Oyela transforms its social media like Instagram into a hyper sales channel.
In the last 12 months, more than 20,000 Instagram stores have joined Oyela organically, many of whom have seen up to 2.5X growth in orders at ₹0 cost of new buyer acquisition. Oyela's growth has also been marked by technological innovation to foster entrepreneurship among the youth, particularly women, with 60% of the businesses on the platform being women-led. Furthermore, more than 13% of buyers who have bought from any store via the platform have started their stores on Oyela.
Additionally, recently, the company secured INR 144 million in the seed funding round led by Prime Venture Partners. Last year, the company secured INR 41 million in pre-seed funding from a consortium of investors that included Good Capital, Upsparks Capital, and Eximius Ventures.
2. What is the mission and vision that drives Oyela, and how do these principles shape the company's direction?
The inspiration behind founding the platform Oyela comes from my own experience as an entrepreneur. Alongside my parents, I created an online pearl boutique in my hometown - Andaman Islands. However, due to lack of discovery and other operational barriers, the venture closed down. Since then, the social commerce space has seen a rapid boom with many Millennials and Gen Z’s starting their own online business. Oyela was founded in 2021, with the vision to make the next generation ready for entrepreneurship and empower them to start and grow their own fashion and lifestyle businesses. In the next 5 years, Oyela’s mission is to create and empower 2 million social stores and thereby capture 1.6% of the e-commerce market and 9.5% of the social commerce market in India.
3. In what ways does Oyela empower Millennials and GenZs to venture into entrepreneurship? Please elaborate on the strategies or programs Oyela employs to support the success of young entrepreneurs.
We intervene at a pivotal point where small-scale social sellers often face challenges leading to the decision to exit their entrepreneurial ventures. This is typically due to a lack of orders and operational barriers. Oyela provides them with the resources, tools, and ecosystem to overcome these obstacles and scale up their businesses through the following:
Oyela enables cross-collaboration between different storefronts which allows them to endorse one another and further leverage each other’s social reach for enhanced discoverability.
Social Media Automation:
Oyela as a platform seamlessly integrates with the sellers’ Instagram business accounts. Through this integration, stores can export products as posts on Instagram, automate customer interactions, and collect orders seamlessly via Instagram DMs, Stories, and Comments. This results in increased orders, enhanced engagement, and a growing follower base for the stores.
AI system to identify and block fraudulent sellers/transactions:
For Indian buyers shopping online, especially through social media, trust is a crucial factor. Oyela builds the trust factor through transparent rating and reviews of the storefronts. Furthermore, Oyela protects its buyers through an AI system that it has built, which considers 14 behavioural and sales parameters of a seller to identify and block any potential fraudulent sellers/transactions. Thus, Oyela is edging close to becoming an ISO certification for social media-based stores.
Oyela offers advanced tools to optimize operations and logistics, simplifying the selling process and elevating the buyer experience. This leads to increased efficiency for sellers and provides buyers with a more personalized and seamless shopping experience.
4. How does Oyela utilize social media platforms, particularly Instagram, to enhance the reach for sellers?
Oyela is deeply integrated with Instagram’s APIs. Therefore, as a result, Oyela as a platform seamlessly integrates with the sellers’ Instagram business accounts. Through this integration, stores can export products as posts on Instagram, automate customer interactions, and collect orders seamlessly via Instagram DMs, Stories, and Comments. This results in increased orders, enhanced engagement, and a growing follower base for the stores.
Here’s how it works -
- Upload on Oyela and export products as posts on Instagram.
- Whenever a potential buyer comments on the Instagram post, a direct message (DM) is sent to them with the product link and instructions to purchase the selected product.
- On placing an order, a confirmation is sent to the consumer via Instagram.
5. Can you share details about Oyela's recent seed funding round?
Last month, the company secured INR 144 million in the seed funding round led by Prime Venture Partners. Last year, the company secured INR 41 million pre-seed funding from a consortium of investors that included Good Capital, Upsparks Capital, and Eximius Ventures.
6. What specific areas or initiatives will the funds from the seed round be allocated towards the further Oyela's growth and objectives?
With regards to Oyela’s future, emphasis shall be laid on continuous improvement in technology. As a team and platform, we are actively exploring upcoming innovations in the tech sector, including:
- Expanding Social Media Automation Tech to social media channels beyond Instagram. This shall allow sellers to expand their business, and automatically collect orders from other social media platforms like Pinterest, YouTube, Threads, Discord, etc.
- With the aim of make selling as simple as one click, Oyela shall work towards providing support in sourcing, supplying, and promoting collaboration with other emerging sellers so that they can initiate and build their own social media stores, and become financially independent.
- Enabling Cross-Border commerce for handmade products by local artisans.
- Further strengthening our AI system that identifies and blocks fraudulent sellers/transactions on the platform.
Solving for cataloguing with Generative AI: Emerging Teen/GenZ sellers are Passionpreneurs. However, they lack expertise in cataloguing (e.g. filling the relevant information about the product. E.g. style, size, colour, sleeve types, material, care instructions etc.). To solve this challenge, Oyela has built a Generative AI model which automatically identifies 10-12 attributes of a product by analysing the image. Thus, sellers only need to upload images, and the AI produces a high-quality catalogue with relevant information.
7. Could you share success stories of sellers who have benefited from Oyela's presence on social media?
Here are a couple of success stories:
In the middle of the pandemic (August 2020), Vitsi started Fresh Pick With Love as a part-time business. With a love for good quality clothing and an aspiration for pieces worn by influencers, Vitsi saw an opportunity in the market space to curate beautiful products and sell them at an affordable price to other women looking for similar products.
Soon her trendy collection started gaining traction and garnered her a loyal base of consumers. The expansion of her brand further inspired her fiancé to leave his job at an IT MNC, and together they turned their part-time business into their main source of income. Today, they are making over 1.5 Cr of business on Oyela. They have further expanded by opening their physical store in Bangalore. Visti & Tenzing shared that managing their orders became easy with the assistance of Oyela.
Pearlia.co by Ishika is another start-up that became highly successful. Ishika unfortunately had to take a break from her studies due to financial problems within her household. To make ends meet, and also become financially independent she started her own small business of handcrafted beaded jewelry. Today, she has about 3,000 orders through Oyela and is also financially responsible for her brother and her household. Ishika shared that Oyela provided her with a platform to grow her business. She stated that her customers can track their orders easily. At a young age, she established her business and earned financial freedom with the help of Oyela.