Setting up an online store is easy and fast – if you’re tech-savvy.
But if you’re not, you’d have to look for a professional to do it for you, and while convenient, it takes time and money.
On the other hand, you could sell on marketplaces like Carousell or Qoo10 to test the market. But it poses an issue for people who want to develop their own brand or label eventually.
The current state of SMEs in Singapore looks discouraging too, as most SME owners seem reluctant to go digital because they do not have the know-how and the potential of their decades-old businesses.
So this Singapore-based startup aims to make the experience of setting up an online store painless and holistic, by providing all-rounded support for everyone using their e-commerce platform.
Setting Up Shopmatic
A year ago, we were given the opportunity to become e-commerce entrepreneurs ourselves.
We used Shoptiq, Singtel’s e-commerce solution for small businesses, and we took less than 30 minutes to set up shop.
Shoptiq is powered by Shopmatic, who is co-founded by Anurag Avula, Kris Chen, and Yen Ti Lim.
Anurag, who is CEO, had been in the corporate industry for more than 20 years doing banking, technology, online commerce, and payments in various organisations.
He has held senior roles at MasterCard, NCR, and Standard Chartered Bank. His latest stint was at PayPal, where he met his other Shopmatic co-founders.
“During the course of our work, we met many small businesses across the APAC region that wanted to sell online but did not have the means or wherewithal to set up their own e-commerce stores. This sparked the idea of Shopmatic,” he told me.
Speaking to the different merchants in their travels led them to realise there was a “huge gap in the market”.
By keeping in mind what was required for someone to help SMEs and individual entrepreneurs succeed in e-commerce in the easiest and quickest way, Anurag told me, was what gave them the edge, and helped them design the Shopmatic platform.
They launched Shopmatic with a vision to help SMEs and ‘solopreneurs’ bring their businesses online, specially for developing markets in the world.
“We invested in three things that have become game-changers for us in the e-commerce space. The first is a superior product, which is based on rich customer understanding and insights to meet all the pain points that merchants have,” he explained.
“The next thing we invested in was technology. We always knew that we cannot compromise on technology as this serves as the backbone of our product offering.”
Lastly, with the right resources, we were clear that we would also never compromise on hiring the right talent to spearhead and manage key functions.
He takes pride on the last point, crediting Shopmatic’s uniqueness in the industry to the quality of talent they have across all the markets Shopmatic operates in.
A Global Shophouse
“Set up a shop, automatically.”
That’s what Shopmatic means, Anurag told me.
“We believe that anyone can sell online and we make this promise come alive by ensuring that merchants are able to set up their e-commerce stores in the easiest and quickest of ways, almost automatically,” he added.
The platform is user-friendly and is built on a DIY model for entrepreneurs.
Basically, Shopmatic users rely less on technology as the platform localises its services for its respective markets and provides support with “dedicated e-commerce consultants”.
Now, with Shopmatic PRO, anyone can have an online store in just a matter of 15 minutes, including the payments and shipping integrated features.
The PRO subscription is priced at S$38 per month, or you can pick a 16 months plan for S$28 per month.
Their 12-month plan gives users three months free, their six months plan gives users one month free, and they all come with 15 days of free trial.
Shopmatic GO, their condensed mobile app version of the PRO, lets users set up an online store in less than three minutes.
Shopmatic was founded in December 2014 and with the help of Enterprise Singapore, a government agency that helps Singapore-based companies grow overseas, they launched into the Indian market a year later.
In an interview with Enterprise Singapore, Anurag said they acted as the “bridge” for Shopmatic.
He cited the instance where Shopmatic was “working to incorporate an entity in the United Arab Emirates” and Enterprise Singapore helped them “navigate the regulatory environment and to connect the firm with the UAE government”.
At that time, he had expected Shopmatic to be present in the Middle East by 2017, yet the launch has only just happened in late July this year. So I asked Anurag what the delay was about.
“We were in the developmental stage and we wanted to get the White Label product ready before launching in the Middle East. For us to enter any new market, we want to always wait for the right time and right partners,” he explained.
“I am indeed happy that we have gone live with the ‘go-online’ solution for Network International and we are able to help SMEs in the Middle East region to go digital. Partnering with the leading payment solutions provider in the region has been well worth the wait.”
Shopmatic now has over 170,000 customers with a presence in India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai.
It has white label partnership with Singtel and Network International – a major payments solutions provider in the Middle East and Africa region, and a strategic partnership with India’s leading private sector bank, HDFC Bank.
Since launching three years ago, they’ve had more than 300,000 downloads of the app to date, and more than 50,000 sellers leveraging the Shopmatic PRO and Shopmatic GO platforms, according to Anurag.
“India is a huge market and requires a lot of patience and deep pockets to reach the potential audiences across all parts of the country,” Anurag reflected.
“While it takes time, we are seeing great traction for Shopmatic in India. We are determined to help merchants and individual entrepreneurs create unique identities for themselves online – and our efforts are paying off.”
His determination stems from the potential of the talents of the regular Indian “aunty that makes pickle” and “retired uncle who can teach math really well”, he told e27.
He noted that they realised all SMEs everywhere in the world want to become successful but the differences are apparent according to the exposure to e-commerce these owners have.
“The Singapore market is more digitally aware than many other markets that we exist in today, but despite that, there is still a gap that exists,” he said.
“There is a multitude of individual entrepreneurs and SMEs wanting to sell online, and not knowing how to go about it in the best of ways – hence, a clear advantage for Shopmatic to bring its platform to the table and as a bridge.”
“In India, while there is a multitude of ‘sellers’, not all of them are online. We need to have more conversations around e-commerce and spend more time educating audiences on how to leverage the online world,” he added.
The businessman admitted that their decision to start out in a market like India first was “bold”.
But they believed strongly that if they could establish themselves in India, they would have an easier time entering any market.
“While we had the guts to move ahead, it took us six months of our license to come through in India while in Singapore, we set up our company in less than 10 minutes,” he recounted.
Another challenge they faced was “getting funding to fuel [their] ambitious growth plans”.
He shared that it had been time-consuming as they “barely closed a round” and were already out looking for the next round to support their next steps.
However, instead of seeing as a setback, Anurag thinks these are interesting lessons for him and the team.
Shopmatic has raised a Pre-Series A funding of $5.7 million and it was led by Singapore-based venture capital firm August Global Asset Management (formerly known as ACP) and Enterprise Singapore.
Anurag said it has been a “rewarding” experience for them expanding business beyond the shores of Singapore.
His advice to entrepreneurs who want to do that:
I would encourage all to foster an entrepreneurial spirit. The world has a lot to offer. Go ahead and explore new markets with an open mind. Find the right partners and take the right advice from industry experts.
Featured Image Credit: Team of Co-founders (left to right) Kris Chen, Chief Product Officer; Anurag Avula, Chief Executive Officer; Yen Ti Lim, Chief Operating Officer / Shopmatic