How a 21-year-old entrepreneur built Surf2Ship, world’s first price comparison and cross-border shipping websiteSohini Mitter
Sri Lankan techie Ravidu Mario Weerakoon has created an integrated platform that lets you compare prices of local and international products, and get them shipped to your doorstep at low cost.
Online shopping is now a way of life. But, there are times when we can feel restricted. What if a certain e-tailer does not ship to our location? Or what if the product of our choice is unavailable on the e-tailer’s Indian store but can be bought from its global store? What if an item can be found only on an international shopping site?
As a shopper, that would be cause to think…because international shipping makes the purchase all that more expensive. This is where platforms like Surf2Ship come in.
Surf2Ship is a price comparison website and a cross-border logistics provider rolled into one. Essentially, it marries two product ideas, and claims to be the world’s first platform to do so. On Surf2Ship, shoppers can not only compare prices of products from over 50 international ecommerce sites, but also add products to cart, complete purchases, and get the products shipped to their doorstep from within a single integrated platform.
And all this, Surf2Ship claims, comes with “low-cost shipping”.
A 21-year-old and his one big idea
The Sri Lankan startup was founded by entrepreneur Ravidu Mario Weerakoon (21), who also serves as the Product Innovation Manager of Connect Lanka E-commerce Services.
Connect Lanka is a subsidiary of the Dart Global Group, a leading cross-border shipping and logistics solutions provider for the last 40 years. It is Dart Global’s vast logistics network that Surf2Ship plans to leverage to fulfill its deliveries across the world. The Colombo-headquartered startup has even raised (undisclosed) seed capital from Dart Global.
But, how did Surf2Ship come about in the life of a 21-year-old techie?
Founder Mario tells YourStory,
“It all started when I was introduced to affiliate marketing at the age of 18. I realised that there were various successful concepts in practice and price comparison was one. But, in Sri Lanka, there was no ONE website that offered price comparison for a range of products across local and international vendors. International shipping is also a big problem due to the inability of certain ecommerce websites to provide cross-border shipping. Hence, the concept of Surf2Ship was born.”
The founder asserts that Surf2Ship is a “first-of-its-kind” concept globally. No other platform “as of now” integrates price comparison and cross-border shipping even though they may offer both services separately.
“Price comparison (for instance, Google’s shopping comparison website) and cross-border shipping (like Aramex Shop & Ship) are both proven business models. However, the marriage of both these concepts to benefit both customers and the vendors is not something that exists elsewhere.”
Surf2Ship has even developed an algorithm so that shipping prices can be adjusted according to currency fluctuations in each global market, making the shopping process simpler for customers.
The startup’s journey so far
Surf2Ship, which began operations in July 2018, has partnered with 60 international vendors, including Amazon, Best Buy, eBay, Macy's, and a host of local Sri Lankan shopping sites, and serves up a selection of over 6,000 products across 20+ categories. The site has recorded over 30,000 visitors since July. “Within the next two years, we are aiming to reach up to 100,000 visitors per month,” Mario reveals.
Surf2Ship’s primary goal is to enable free and fair comparison of both international and local products, and offer customers the best deal. It is also urging Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to start selling globally, and is working on a set of tools to make the process smooth.
Even though Sri Lanka has a growing internet population, “the ecommerce logistics market isn’t mature compared to US, India and China”, Mario says.
He adds, “We see very little competition. Whilst there are companies (like Simplex Delivery) that have done an excellent job in improving ecommerce logistics, a lot more needs to be done.”
The business model
Surf2Ship’s earns an affiliate fee (mutually agreed upon with the ecommerce vendor) on a per-item basis. In addition, it generates revenues through cross-border shipping fulfilled by its partner Dart Global Logistics.
Mario says, “We had to look for a suitable [shipping] partner who wouldn’t have conflicting opinions on the price comparison concept. And, we successfully got Dart Global Logistics on board and began operations.”
The team and market expansion
At present, the startup consists of four members, but Mario is keen to hire more “enthusiastic youngsters who can think out of the box”. Its operations are presently restricted to Sri Lanka - a market with 6.7 million internet users - but it plans to expand to India - the hotbed of ecommerce - shortly.
“We are confident that Surf2Ship has huge potential in the ecommerce sector. We do have plans of expanding overseas for which we would require more capital. Once we are ready, we intend to expand operations through strategic partnerships. And we are hoping to get into India soon.”
If his LinkedIn bio - “I’m that person, once I say I’ll do something, I will make it happen” - is anything to go by, we have his word!