Shopping online has become ingrained as the way to get things done. That’s because people stay within the confines of their home these days as part of safe distancing measures and the default working arrangement was to work from home.
For many businesses, owning an e-commerce website is a necessity to keep sales coming in and to stay afloat.
That was the case for 31-year-old Derek Low when the pandemic caused him to shut his Bali hotel business in 2020. He found himself selling homemade cheesecakes online in Singapore to make ends meet.
While the UC Berkeley Computer Science graduate had the skillsets to create his own e-commerce platform to take orders, he realised other similar home-based businesses had difficulty doing the same.
Surprised that there was no existing e-commerce platform to help users quickly accept online orders without a mobile app or are not charging “high” fees and commissions, Derek and his fellow co-founder Lim Zhicong got together to build a one-stop ordering platform called Cococart in Aug 2020.
Today, Cococart supports more than 200,000 businesses across 80 countries, helping merchants accept upwards of 500,000 orders amounting to US$15 million.
The business is just getting started as it competes with global players, but the growth seen so far has been encouraging. For comparison, WooCommerce, the e-commerce plugin for WordPress, had an estimated 3.8 million merchants in 2021, while competitor Shopify had 1.7 million merchants globally across 175 countries in the same year.
“We built this platform to help other businesses accept online orders…With Cococart, they can set up a website with no learning curve,” said Derek, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cococart.
Derek said that Cococart’s selling point is that merchants can create a website to collect orders for their products online without the need for any coding experience.
The onboarding process is also not much of a hassle. The merchants just have to visit Cococart’s website and create a unique link for their business. After uploading their products, delivery, and payment methods, they can share their link and start accepting orders.
Every aspect of the online ordering process – from order management to mobile payment solutions – is settled by Cococart. For merchants, this avoids what Derek described as a “logistical headache”.
We let businesses focus on growing their sales and delighting their customers. We know it’s difficult enough to start a new business, and we want to help fellow business owners succeed by taking away the grunt work of running their business.– Derek Lim, co-founder and CEO of Cococart
We let businesses focus on growing their sales and delighting their customers. We know it’s difficult enough to start a new business, and we want to help fellow business owners succeed by taking away the grunt work of running their business.
He added that consumers these days expect to be able to quickly and easily order from their phones – which explains why Cococart has picked up steam in the past year.
In fact, the startup saw a “30 times growth in merchants and 46 times growth in customers” in 2021. Derek also attributed the growth in merchants on their platform to the increase in people starting their own side hustles online amid the pandemic.
“Like myself, many people who lost their jobs turned to side hustles online, which then became their main source of income…The pandemic created a new generation of independent business owners, and these businesses are the fastest-growing segment in e-commerce,” Derek said.
He cited INDOCIN – one of Cococart’s top merchants – as one such example.
The Indonesian eatery was a one-man show operating out of its own kitchen when it first joined the platform in 2020. Today, it has expanded into a team of 24 staff operating out of a commercial kitchen and a retail outlet.
While the Covid-19 situation is shifting towards becoming endemic, Derek believes that it’ll have no impact on Cococart’s ongoing growth. “People are much more used to ordering online because of the pandemic. Even as we enter an endemic, this habit won’t go away,” he said.
“In fact, with retail businesses opening, we’ve seen many of them using Cococart too. We’re now used by all types of businesses due to the flexibility of our product,” Derek claimed.
Cococart has plans to further expand its fully-remote team, which is spread across 10 countries. It has also been accepted into Y Combinator’s Summer 21 Batch — a startup accelerator that has produced the likes of Airbnb, Stripe, and Dropbox.
The co-founder added that the company’s goal is to serve the 200 million small businesses globally that rely on phone calls or WhatsApp messages to collect orders, which in his view takes up “so many hours of time which could be better spent growing the business”.
“There are still so many challenges in starting and running a business that we want to solve, from deliveries to supply chain to financing,” he said.
“Our goal is to define the next generation of commerce.”
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Feature Image Credit: Cococart
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