June 2015

Technology for e-commerce

Movement for Efficiency and Transparency (MET) recognises and rewards efficiency and transparency across all aspects of governance, corporate and social life in India, says Viresh Oberoi, CEO and MD, mjunction services, and founder, MET
Viresh Oberoi, CEO and managing director of one of India’s largest e-commerce companies mjunction services, speaks about the company’s remarkable journey

You had described mjunction as a company which is in the business of solving problems whenever and wherever commerce takes place. Can you elaborate?
I have often been asked the question: “What does mjunction do?” In the early 2000s, it was an easy question to answer, which was: “We sell steel online.” Today we are not only selling steel online but also iron ore, coal, idle and non-performing assets, tea, books, washing machines, jewellery, and on the drawing board we have timber, coffee, etc.

However, there is a certain ‘commonality’ which cuts across this diverse set of industries and sectors, which is why we say we are in the ‘business of solving problems’. The problems that we solve are those that exist by way of inefficiency and opaqueness every time commerce takes place between a buyer and a seller. With the innovative use of technology, we are able to solve these issues, thereby strengthening distribution networks and supply chains. With the help of IT and automation, we are able to ensure scalability and robustness, and in this way we contribute not only to the health of industry in general, but also increase its competitiveness and sustainability.

Some of the changes we bring about are transformational and have a significant impact on society -- by, on the one hand, eliminating jobs and older business models and on the other, by creating new livelihoods and building a requirement for new skills and new thinking.

From selling steel online to managing the recently concluded telecom spectrum auction -- how would you describe mjunction’s journey so far?
The last 13 years have been an adventure focused on use of technology for solving problems, and about ushering in transparency and efficiency where opaqueness and inefficiency thrived. We started with the steel industry and entered other industries in a phased manner. However, I believe that we have so far only scratched the surface. The recently concluded spectrum auction conducted by us, which fetched the Government of India Rs110,000 crore, is just one of the many feathers in our cap and I am sure there are many more to follow.

ejunction, an initiative by mjunction services, seeks to create self-sufficiency among underprivileged youth by providing them with training in basic computer skills. Viresh Oberoi, CEO and MD of mjunction services, speaks about the initiative
mjunction is a premier player in the B2B e-commerce sector. Are there any special plans for the consumer space in the future?
We entered the B2C space through www.straightline.in about six years ago. We have been rather cautious in our approach as we neither have deep pockets nor do we like to make losses to gain market share. Therefore, our strategy at this point of time for straightline is to run a loyalty programme (which lends itself to analytics, which in turn lends itself to more informed decision making) in both the B2B and B2C spaces and, when the timing is right, we will make our move.

Social media has given a major boost to the online industry. How do you look to leverage this medium?
We use social media in a number of ways. We have been able to use this media very successfully to attract talent to our organisation especially through LinkedIn.  We have also used social media to market and grow our B2B services. Also, the digital reach and the amplification of the Movement for Efficiency and Transparency (MET) initiative have taken place because of social media. For this Facebook and YouTube have been utilised extensively and successfully.

Case studies on innovative ideas which have been successfully executed and which  created value are now part of our internal ‘knowledge management portal’ and will soon be uploaded and shared on social media too.

How does mjunction differ from its peers in the industry?
Mjunction is different from its peers in very distinct ways:

It exists on both sides of the supply chain – the buy side and the sell side. On the sell side, both the seller (the big steel or coal company) and the buyer (small buyers of steel or coal) are our clients. On the buy side, that is the procurement side, once again both the buyer (the big company procuring goods and services) as well as the sellers (small vendors offering their goods and services) are our clients.

Mjunction tackled the huge issue of transparency in these two crucial national resources. For the seller, the influence of cartelised buying was minimised through the online bidding process where even the smallest of buyers can bid. For the buyer, even the smallest of suppliers found their way to the vendor database. It was a win-win situation for both. The large organisation got a wider and thus fairer supplier base, and the smallest of suppliers could sell their products online even from remote locations.

Mjunction is a ‘for profit and yet social’ company. Its biggest contribution to society has been the disintermediation of steel and coal supply chains. Coal is a crucial national resource, and steel is an important indicator of India’s economy. E-commerce did away with cartels and also removed unwanted intermediaries. It was fair play and justice for all, as all transactions became transparent. Transparency led to efficiency and unlocking of value, which was lost to middlemen till then.

How well is each of the platforms doing -- metaljunction.in, coaljunction, automotive (autojunction.in), consumer goods (straightline.in), finance (financejunction.in) and sourcing (buyjunction.in)?
Some of the highlights of our performance are:

  • metaljunction is mjunction's oldest business unit and runs the world's largest e-marketplace for steel.
  • Coaljunction, mjunction’s strategic business unit which pioneered the online sale of coal, has just stepped into its 10th year, and has sold 225 million tonne of coal through its platform, which makes it the largest e-marketplace for coal.
  • The sourcing and procurement e-platform saves costs and reduces procurement cycle time; goods and services worth Rs60,000 crore procured so far.
  • We have facilitated sale of idle assets worth more than Rs100,000 crore and e-waste worth more than Rs50 crore.
  • More than Rs33,000 crore finance has been disbursed to channel partners of our clients and to small buyers of coal and steel.
  • About 10 million kg of tea has been procured by tea junction.