Friday, May 19, 2017

Review of 'Total Kannada' online store

This is a review of my recent online shopping experience with "Total Kannada". 8 years back I had written a brief review when it was in a different form. You can read that here.

Quick intro about 'Total Kannada'. It is owned by one Mr.Lakshmikanth who worked in Chicago earlier. Back then he ran his business from his home. He had a simple website selling Kannada books, Kannada movie VCDs, music CDs etc.

When I was searching for some Kannada books back then, I came across his website and had ordered some books, VCDs etc. He promptly sent them and in some cases when the Kannada books that I wanted were not locally available with him, he got them from his contacts in Bangalore and sent them to me. He charged reasonable prices, accepted online payments by PayPal, replied to queries promptly. Quite a positive experience overall.

A few years back, I came to know from media that he had relocated back to India. He opened a store called 'Total Kannada' in Bangalore solely focused on selling Kannada books, Kannada movies and other Kannada related items. Commendable initiative considering the competition, limited market. His innovative schemes like mobile Kannada bookshop etc. had garnered appreciation and media coverage. I was quite impressed by Mr.Lakshmikanth's yeoman service to Kannada. I wished and hoped for the success of 'Total Kannada' business.

I did not have any occasion or chance to do business with his India based store / online store till recently. Whenever I wanted to buy Kannada books I told my family or friends and they bought them for me and kept them at home. I read them when I went to India and brought them back along with me. Other books I normally bought from other online stores. In recent years I did not buy many paper books after finding e-books more convenient as they can be read on phone, tablet and e-book reader seamlessly and are easy to store.

Recently I wanted to buy a few Kannada books. First thing that came to mind was 'Total Kannada' store. So, I checked out their website. As you can see, it is quite professionally laid out. It easy to find what you want and shop. All information is easily available.

Normally I prefer Cash On Delivery (COD) method to buy books in India. I can order from here in USA and books get delivered to home in India and my folks pay the charges on delivery and get the books. That works really well as it is cheaper considering foreign transaction fees etc. if I pay from here.

Unfortunately 'Total Kannada' did not offer COD method. When major online retailers like FlipKart, Amazon are able to provide COD, I do not know why 'Total Kannada' is not able to  provide it. But, I noticed that they had VPP option. VPP is COD service offered by Indian Postal Service. I thought VPP should be good enough and decided to use it as my shopping method.

I selected 9 books that I wanted, chose VPP as the payment method and completed the transaction. Pretty straightforward and efficient.

I had given my father's phone number as the contact number. Soon he got a call from Total Kannada. First problem was VPP accepted only 3 books per package. So they had to send at least 3 separate packages for 9 books. Due to this they would incur additional shipping charges. So, they requested if my father could pay them online or send a check or a DD. That way they could send all 9 books via regular parcel service which is certainly more efficient and cost effective for them.

This became inconvenient now. I did not want to hassle my father. That's why I wanted some way to pay on delivery. But now there was no other way. VPP was going to be too expensive for them as they had to pay shipping on each package when they charged only Rs. 90 for overall shipping.

If I knew this before, I myself would have paid online upfront even if it costed a bit more due to foreign exchange fee and spared my father from having to deal with this hassle. He sent them a check by courier for the amount. It did not bother him much but I would have liked to avoid such hassle for him.

Once they received the check, they promptly shipped the books. No issues. They also kept my father updated by calling. Not necessary but appreciated.

2 books out of 9 were not available. There was no indication of their unavailability at the time of ordering. Other retailers clearly let you know which items are available and which are not. That way either you don't order what is not available or know in advance that you are ordering something that is not available. Here no such information. Another inconvenience.

They told me that they would search for the 2 unavailable books and get back to me. No info for a couple of days. After I inquired they said books not available. I suggested a few other books they could send in the place of unavailable books. Some how no response to that. Then I told them to send a check for the excess money that was paid for the 2 unavailable books. After a couple of e-mail followups they promptly sent the check.

I am writing about my experience in detail just so that they can consider fixing some of these pain points. I truly admire Mr.Lakshmikanth's venture and his passion for Kannada. He is a good person. I only wish the best for him and his business. Whether it was in the past or recently, he has been fair. Now that they have gone commercial I hope they can fix some of these glitches and provide better service.

Things to improve:

1) COD - Cash on delivery. If VPP is expensive for you, don't offer it. Offering it and then calling to request money is too inconvenient and does not look too professional.

2) Manage your inventory better. Be very clear about the availability.

3) Online shopping has to be hassle free and should not require intervention via e-mails, phone calls etc. This time too many e-mails and phone calls to sort out the purchase of just 9 books.

I will certainly remember 'Total Kananda' again next time I have to shop for Kannada books. I hope these issues will have been taken care by then.

Once again my compliments to Mr.Lakshmikanth and team. You guys are doing a good job.

'ಟೋಟಲ್ ಕನ್ನಡ' ಎಂಬ ತಾಣದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಇಂಗ್ಲೀಷಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಬರೆದಿದ್ದಕ್ಕೆ ಕ್ಷಮೆ ಇರಲಿ. ಸದ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ವೇಳೆಯ ಕೊಂಚ ಅಭಾವ.

ಬರೆಯಲು ಕನ್ನಡ, ತುರ್ತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಗೀಚಲು ಇಂಗ್ಲೀಷೇ ಲೇಸೆಂದ ಅಲ್ಪಜ್ಞ! :)


sunaath said...

ಉತ್ತಮ ಮಾಹಿತಿ. ಧನ್ಯವಾದಗಳು, ಮಹೇಶ.

Mahesh Hegade said...

Thanks Sunaath Sir.

ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

Very good review. Yes.. I had similar experience with totalkannada online shopping. A few books were not available with them, they called me and asked me to do NEFT money transfer. Anyhow I got the books properly. But yes, they need to improve. I feel their website is not so user-friendly also. Searching books in Kannada script is not possible. Anyhow, store is near to my house here in Bengaluru.. So, I visit there frequently and buy books.