Who amongst us does not remember a time in school, when the ‘lucky’ few with relatives abroad came back from a vacation with snazzy foreign-made water bottles, pencil pouches and backpacks? For many, the desire to be the proud owner of “Made in USA” merchandise probably lingered long after they graduated from school. While many went on to travel the world and fulfil that wish, for those who couldn’t, e-commerce has helped make their shopping dreams come true.
With the internet seeping into every aspect of our life, cross-border e-commerce today helps bring shopping destinations from thousands of miles away onto a single screen, and literally places them at your fingertips. Bengaluru-based Tiger54 Global Store from Ishaya Enterprises Pvt. Ltd is one such startup that makes it easier for people to shop for imported products online.
“We believe in a world without borders. Our mission is to connect people with products from around the world. We enable cross border e-commerce by offering popular products/brands from the US to Indian shoppers,” says Arundhati Dutta, Founder at Tiger 54. For the customer, it’s as easy as buying something from next door since Tiger 54 handles the international shipping, customs clearances, brokerages – ‘all the hard parts’, as Arundhati puts it.
They beta launched this service in August 2016, and so far have delivered over 8,000 orders across the length and breadth of the country. At present, they retail their catalogue, which carries over 10,000 popular products from the US, through Amazon India. These include a mix of lifestyle products, toys, apparel and décor items, of which the most popular categories are Home, Kitchen and Dining. Arundhati says they plan to add 45,000 more products in the near future, and customers will soon be able to access these products directly via their website as well.
Using technology and innovation to face challenges
Technology plays a principal role in their entire operations to enable as seamless an experience as possible for the customer, from the time he or she places the order to the time it is actually delivered. “Our primary focus has always been to help our customers receive their items from the US in the shortest time possible (seven working days), with live tracking and doorstep delivery. Our needs were very specific, and there is no readymade software for cross-border e-commerce. So we built everything from the ground up to run all our operations. This includes, among others, our own listing engine, inventory engine, supplier connect engine, order management engine, and customer connect engine. This proprietary technology is what sets us apart in terms of being able to scale up our operations,” she says.
For a young startup like them, it wasn’t easy to find the right balance, and that’s something they still need to deal with on a day-to-day basis, says Arundhati, who has a unique background in psychology and management consulting. “We face multiple challenges – of finding the right supplier partners with the choicest products, ensuring that international shipping doesn’t get delayed, and meeting all regulatory and compliance paperwork for smooth customs clearances. For each of these challenges, our response has been to build robust technology for maximum efficiency.”
The startup is bootstrapped and, according to Arundhati, any cash constraints they faced forced them to step up their innovation game. The result? “This year, we expect to touch $1 million in revenue while staying bootstrapped,” says the proud founder.
Building connections that last
Tiger 54 was part of the NASSCOM 10,000 Startups virtual incubatee programme designed to help growth-stage startups with their own workspaces scale up their business by connecting the company with a network of mentors, investors, accelerators, and industry veterans. “NASSCOM 10,000 Startups has helped support us and connected us with a broad network of peers, mentors, venture capitalists and investors. It has been wonderful to be associated with such a fantastic programme,” says Arundhati.
She says plans for the next six months include giving Indian shoppers an opportunity to shop for unique and innovative international products from geographies such as Japan, UK, EU and China, and broadening the selection of products they offer to over 100,000. They are already working on connecting more markets with India and building a product listing engine that will enable them to add lakhs of unique items to their catalogue within a short span of time.
Arundhati says fulfilment comes in the form of ‘thank you’ notes and appreciation from happy customers. “In our short journey of 24 months, we have served many remote pin codes and small towns like Chinsurah, Kekri, Nagercoil and several others. We read each and every feedback note we receive, and are always grateful for an opportunity to serve our customers.”
Nevertheless, she adds, “We still have a long way to go and we're still at Day 0. We see the cross-border e-commerce market in India growing at a very fast pace as cosmopolitan consumers demand unique products from other countries and are excited to be part of this landscape.”