Inside the incredible world of Droom, India’s 6th largest e-commerce company

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What does that mean? That’s me, pulling my chair closer to the glass table. Closer to him.

It is noisy inside. The wall fan is growling its mechanical, windy growl. Swinging, left and right. Right and left. There’s a television on in one corner of the room. It’s switching from one advertisement to another, with a smattering of shrill Hindi news in between.

At around, glass table nearby, two men sit chatting about a new automobile classifieds website. Their enthusiastic discussion is almost drowned out by the noise of traffic from the busy, dusty highway outside. It is late in the morning. The sun is beating down, and the temperature is 30 degrees but it feels like 35 or more. We are in a large, crowded town in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

The man gets up and switches off the fan. “Huh, what did you say?” he asks.

“What does that mean?” I repeated. “What do you mean by a funding company?”

“Okay. Let me explain this from the very beginning. We are a used car dealership. So, we sell cars offline. So, when customers come in and test drive and if they like a car, we sell them the car. We also sell cars online. On websites like Carwale and CarDekho and Olx and many others.

We have our listings, and if someone likes them, we sell. Now, the Droom salesperson came to us last year with a proposal. He said, ‘Why don’t you sell your cars on Droom?’ I was like, sir, why should I sell cars on your website?”

Hmm.

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“So, he said, all you have to do is list all the cars you have on Droom. So, create a login, password and list the cars. Then, whenever a car is sold, I will put a deal on the car, and for every car sold, Droom will give you money.”

I’m sorry. I still don’t get it.

He smiles benignly back at me.

“Let’s say I have listed all the cars that are there in my compound right now. And you come into this dealership to buy a car from me. Now, technically you are a walk-in customer. And I have sold the car to you. Now, I log into Droom. The company is basically saying, show it as if the transaction has happened through Droom. On Droom. So, the process is that I have to make an upfront payment to Droom. 2.5% of the car value. Let’s say the value of the car is Rs 5,00,000 ($6,880). So, I pay Rs 12,500 ($172) to the company using a credit card.

The company calls this a buyer commitment fee, to show that this is a genuine buyer. In some time, the company puts a deal on the car and then records that the car has been sold. The transaction was done. After that, I have to upload the changed registration certificate (RC) of the vehicle. Your [the seller’s] PAN card.

Just basic identification. That is once you get your RC, which takes about a month. Once I upload it, Droom credits 4, 5, even 6 to 8% of the car value to my bank account within one week. So I make a good Rs 20,000-35,000 ($275-480) on every car I sell.”

Conversation

You’ve got to be kidding me.

“No.”

How many cars have you sold like this?

“50 or more, I think.”

Wow. And what does Droom do in this whole process?

“Nothing. It gives money to do this, which is why I said it is a funding company.” And just like that, suddenly, the man starts gathering things from the drawers of the table. Round plastic coasters with Droom written on them in colorful letters. A keychain. Door stickers. “The company also gives gifts,” he adds, placing these on the table.

Why? Why would Droom do this?