Seven-year-old e-commerce unicorn Meesho might just become a prisoner of its own ambition. 

Right from its infancy, the now $5 billion firm had disrupted Indian e-commerce with its women-focused, reseller-led, and zero-commission model. But as it has moved to sell directly to consumers and away from its social-commerce roots, it has increasingly started stepping into the turf of behemoths like Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

Meesho, however, does not believe it fights on the same turf as the older, larger fish. By not charging sellers any commissions and allowing the sale of unbranded products on its platform, it believes that it continues to own and lead in a category of its own.  

The firm’s chief financial officer (CFO) Dhiresh Bansal says, its model of shunning ‘preferred sellers’ and its expertise on unbranded, low-priced products, especially apparel, represent strong moats. 

The company also wants to leverage things like employing third-party logistics, run mainly by firms like Delhivery and Shadowfax to be a major differentiator, claim Bansal and chief technology officer (CTO) Sanjeev Barnwal. It also believes it has the focus its larger rivals lack by selling just low-value products and working only with smaller or local sellers. “There is some benefit of focus, right? You can’t be everything to everyone,” says Bansal. 

Right from its infancy, Meesho has built a reputation and disrupted the market on the back of a strong reseller-led model. It is likely also the story upon which it has raised over a billion dollars from investment giants like SoftBank, B Capital Group, and Naspers-owned Prosus.

But with only a fraction of Meesho’s total sales coming from the reseller model, senior executives at Amazon and Flipkart believe Meesho is increasingly competing directly with them. 

The likes of Amazon and Flipkart are also aggressively moving towards small towns and villages as they hunt for growth markets, which further erases Meesho’s differentiation. The senior executives at Amazon and Flipkart declined to be identified as they are not authorised to comment on their competitors. 

Meesho is also hard at work trying to cut costs and resolve issues in core operations like damage to goods and high returns, former and current Meesho executives say. The firm has reduced the cash burn by over a third this year, but the work towards increasing efficiency continues, according to a Meesho spokesperson. 

Meanwhile, its attempts to improve monetisation—through steps like brand commissions and a subscription offering, according to people close to the firm—are pushing its business model closer to that of Amazon and Flipkart. 

Over the last year, as it moved to direct selling, Meesho faced many challenges in its original model. This included criticism criticism Entrackr Meesho resellers lose business and friends as the company goes direct Read more over financial ruin for its ‘resellers’—mostly women from Tier-2 towns and beyond, who drove almost all of its business till a year ago.