How Upriver helps brands stand out on ecommerce marketplaces

Gurugram-based Upriver uses data analytics and AI tools to grow a brand’s revenue on Indian and international marketplaces as well as through D2C channels.

How Upriver helps brands stand out on ecommerce marketplaces

Saturday December 17, 2022,

4 min Read

Ecommerce marketplaces are already crowded, with more brands joining the online commerce fray. To help brands stand above the rest, Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi and Mohit Jain founded Upriver, an online channel management and sales accelerator, in 2019. 

The Gurugram-based startup provides brands with end-to-end strategies, operations, marketing, and financial support. It offers sellers data-driven insights to enhance direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales and grow their revenue in both Indian and international marketplaces.

"Rather than trying and testing on their own, we serve as an extension of the brand team and come with deep knowledge of how marketplaces work and what the levers for growth are," Baqar Naqvi, CEO and Co-founder of Upriver, tells YourStory.

The inception

Baqar and Mohit were colleagues at a management consulting firm in Gurugram, working in client-facing roles to improve business efficiency as well as M&A.

“Most of the brands that we were working with had great products and good sales numbers through brick-and-mortar stores. But when it came to selling online, even some of the largest players were failing. On the other hand, digital-first brands were raking in great numbers, and marketplace sales were growing phenomenally,” says Baqar.

Recognising the gap, the founders started Upriver as a tech-enabled online sales accelerator.

Accelerating growth

Upriver offers tailored services, including strategy formulation and execution, as well as providing full ownership and management of online channels.

The startup’s account management services encompass onboarding new markets, launching D2C websites, listing and catalogue management, daily inventory and order management, advertising and promotion, customer retention, and more.

In October this year, Upriver also added financial services to its portfolio by collaborating with revenue-based financing companies including Indifi, Velocity, and Klub to offer short- to medium-term business loans ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 15 crore to ecommerce merchants.

Using tech for growth

To rank products higher on marketplaces, Upriver relies on tools including Helium 10, Perpetua, Sellerapp, Sellerlion, Adyogi, and Wigzo.

“Our ad campaigns are highly optimised with ROIs of 0.5X to 20X, depending on the category, product, and stage of growth,” Baqar asserts.

Upriver licences these tech tools and deploys them to improve sales and profitability for its clients. 

"Before onboarding a client, our team of research analysts estimates the category market size and does a brief competitor analysis. It also calculates unit economics. Based on the above, Upriver helps its clients evaluate the feasibility of going online, the channels (D2C, marketplaces, etc) they should focus on, and the investments and spending they should budget for 12 months," he explains.

The startup has worked for marketplaces including Amazon (India and other markets), Flipkart, Myntra, Nykaa, Ajio, 1MG, Smytten, Meesho, Namshi, Noon, Zalora, eBay, Etsy, and others.

It also works with modern online grocers such as Bigbasket and MilkBasket. The firm already has over 125 brands in its portfolio, including Reliance Brands, ITC, and Wipro Consumer Products. Its clients also include young D2C brands such as Suganda, Softspun, and others. The company also has a foot in international markets like the US, Canada, Japan, the Middle East, Nepal, and the EU.

Revenue model

Upriver charges a variable commission on net sales generated from online channels, depending on the expectations and growth forecast. The quantum depends on the scale of the business, product range, number of marketplaces, D2C, etc.

Currently, it has three revenue streams—marketplace management, D2C management, and financial services. Marketplace management generates 65% of the revenue, and D2C management the rest. The financial services stream is expected to contribute 5–7% of the overall revenue by the end of this fiscal year. 

In FY22, the startup generated $1 million in revenue—a 5X growth over the previous two years—and which it expects to triple this year.

Upriver recorded a gross merchandise value (GMV) of $10 million in the previous financial year. By the end of this financial year, it aspires to achieve $75 million in annualised GMV.

It has enabled more than 200 brands to sell online and scale up their revenues and manages more than Rs 30 crore in monthly GMV for its clients. 

Market and way ahead

According to Maximize Market Research (MMR), the Indian ecommerce market was valued at $39.33 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $343.90 billion in 2029, at a CAGR of 31.13% during 2022–2023.

The founders initially invested Rs 10 lakh from personal savings to bootstrap the startup.

Currently, the startup has a team of more than 75 spread across Gurugram, Bengaluru, and Dehradun, as well as in the US, and Dubai.

Upriver competes with the likes of Growisto, ANS Commerce, and GreenHonchos

Edited by Kanishk Singh