Everybody loves getting gifts. And startups love to give gifts to their power users. Over the years, t-shirts have become one of the most frequented gifts that startups give out. The sad part is, it is often hard to get a good quality t-shirt (how many of you received a startup t-shirt that has become a gone-case). The problem is for most startups there is no easy way of doing it without entanglement of dealing with local vendors.
You know you have been living in Silicon Valley for a little while, the moment you realize that 50% of your wardrobe is startup T-shirts.— Niko Bonatsos (@bonatsos) November 23, 2014
InkMonk calls itself a Santa Clause company, because the D in their company DNA stands for delighting ‘your customers and users’. If you are a SaaS company and have lots of paying customers whom you want to give t-shirts – at the same time you don’t want to manage a lot of vendors, packing a gift and writing a note and shipping it – InkMonk guys are the ones you need to reach out to.
Isaac John Wesley, the Founder of InkMonk (Imprimatur Printing Services) says, “We are building a full-stack marketing platform where you can print and drop ship. You may have a customer in Delhi, or in New York, we take care of printing, packing, and shipping cool swags to all customers everywhere in your name. Your customers will never know we exist.” The startup has already tied up with a lot of international courier services. They have already shipped to 27 different countries across the globe t-shirts, posters, postcards and stickers. Everything is done in India and shipped globally in a true spirit of Make-in-India.
Most traditional printers don’t care about small glitches during printing of the t-shirts. They just pack it and send it to customers. Isaac says, “We tightly control the production quality and have partnered with a few factories across India. The business is not actually labor intensive. If you think in a birds-eye view, it’s an organised business. InkMonk is solving the tech part of the very old analog merchandising business making it hassle free and accessible for businesses. Since we are a global player, every order we get is direct cash with really good margins.”
Isaac came from printing & designing background. He adds, “The current scale we can handle is 30,000 t-shirts a day. We know how to scale both the sides -- the API calls and logistics side.”
How does the API work?
Marketers or sellers will need to create merchandise through InkMonk interface which will go through a quick verification by the team. Once they manually confirm a design, merchandise can be created on-demand or stocked in bulk in InkMonk’s warehouse. A developer can plug & play the API the way he/she wants, this can be either selling in e-commerce store or giving away as customer rewards etc.
Isaac says, “We take care of the immense quality that people crave for. Using our API we’ll enable multiple products. Sellers want to sell t-shirts through their own websites. Eg, you’ve a Shopify website or you’ve an online store already. You just want an API to power your store that will take care of printing and fulfillment. Then you can use our service. We are building multiple products, keeping an API for printing. We are also building an event product, as in when signups happen you want to give them a t-shirt in the goodies kit. Anyone who can use us as a print vendor can use our API.”
StickyStamp was an MVP of InkMonk. The re-branded and expanded version InkMonk is birthed out of StickyStamp which has been running for the last 10 months. They are touching Rs. 15 lakhs in revenue. Isaac and his Co-founder Surya Sankar had bootstrapped StickyStamps in March 2014. Over this period of time they fulfilled over 3,500 print shipments, including stickers it will be around 5,000. They’ve not raised venture funding yet.
Full stack printing
As far as technology is concerned, InkMonk is using python and the front end is Angular JS. For payments they are using Paypal to serve US customers. Soon they’ll move to stripe. In India, they are using PayU gateway. Surya Sankar is an ex-Amazonian, who also used to work at McAfee. He handles the tech part of the business.
InkMonk is a B2B platform because they directly plug-in to your company interface. If you have your customers list in MailChimp, HubSpot, Moz, and Salesforce by a click of a button you can send everyone a t-shirt.
SaaS companies are ideal clients of InkMonk because they have very low personal interaction with their customers. Everything is software. Everything is online. Customers pay 5000 US dollars for SaaS Company, then they get thank you email. Isaac says, “It Is very wrong and robotic. That is why 90% of the customers who uses us are SaaS companies. They want to give something physical and personal.”
Printing e-commerce sites like Printo can print any orders, for example business cards letterhead, poster or postcards. On the other spectrum, Sourceeasy helps in manufacturing apparels not limited to t-shirts.
They’ll be launching commercial marketing merchandise called InkMonk sell – If you have a website and want to put a store behind it xyz.com/store, InkMonk will handle the backend, order, payment & delivery. “Most brands don’t want to sell in different places. We plug-in as an API that can sell t-shirts and posters on their website,” says Isaac.
Thoughts on marketplace
“We don’t want to be a marketplace because we’ve already seen downfalls in certain companies. Marketplace is a very different game. If I start a marketplace store and have this logistics backend, I might have a good profit and it’s a good game but the problem is handling copyright infringements on design. Deciding whether it is a fan art or is it a copyrighted design or whether SONY is uploading their photo, I don’t know who they are. I don’t want to keep controlling everyone. Companies like Zazzle, Caffepress in the US had all these problems. Users have uploaded infringing items and they have court cases now.”
A side note:
The company is quite responsive. While compiling this story I checked out the site Inkmonk.com and noticed their Olark plug-in for live customer support. I started to chat and got a response immediately. :-)
Then I introduced myself and did some of the interview via Olark. (This is my first time interviewing startup founder via his Olark). :D