How these women entrepreneurs are simplifying cross border shipping for Indian SMBs, global sellers, and shoppers
Thirty-six-year-old Chethan Mishra is a Texas, US-based seller running an Indian women’s apparel business. For him, sourcing unique Indian products from cities like Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad has been a hassle for a long time now.
He says, he used to procure goods separately from various stores across India and then shipped them separately to the US, bearing exorbitant custom duties.
However, this changed three years ago when he discovered, a Bengaluru-based assisted retail marketplace that enables global shipping of products from India.
Founded by Nikkitha Shanker and Saira Hassan in 2017, Shoppre caters to both personal shoppers and small businesses across 140 countries.
Chethan says, with an Indian address, he can now place orders from any online store and can receive them as a consolidated package, which reduces shipping costs by at least 60 percent.
Similarly, Hong Kong-based Helena Chan sources sustainable Indo-western clothing and accessories to her shop. She has the items shipped from Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru via Shoppre.
“I procure goods from different parts of Southeast Asia, and it was never possible for me to access Indian markets. As I am not an Indian, making foreign payments was always challenging. Language and trust are another barrier,” says Helena, adding that these are now challenges of the past.
With more than 70,000 registrations, the startup claims to have processed 20,000 international orders and shipped goods worth Rs 14 crore in four years of operation.
Nikkitha holds bachelor’s in technology from NIT, Calicut, and has completed a data analytics programme from IIM Rohtak, while Saira has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from American University in Sharjah.
Growing up in the Middle East, school friends Nikkitha and Saira knew that getting Indian goods for the NRI community was always a challenge.
In 2017, the duo came together to start Shoppre with an aim to simplify cross border shipping from India to the rest of the world.
“Ecommerce in India is growing at a terrific pace with great technology and infrastructure, but major ecommerce platforms do not ship abroad. There is also a general tendency to not accept payments from abroad. So, we wanted to help global shoppers access Indian goods easily.”
How the platform works?
The startup’s shop and ship service provides global consumers, sellers, and resellers an easy access to Indian goods, while Shoppre’s logistics enables Indian SMBs to take their products global. It works with global sellers and Indian SMBs through B2B association and individual shoppers on B2C model.
“A year into the operation, we started getting requests from small businesses facing challenges regarding regulations, customs, and management to export. That is when we began working closely with small businesses,” Nikkitha says.
Shoppers also have free access to store their orders at Shoppre’s facility for 20 days. “A small seller saves around Rs 1 lakh,” she adds.
Out of 140 countries, most demands come from countries like the US (38 percent), UAE(10.5 percent), and Australia (6.8 percent), among others.
The startup was also among the top 3 startups at Goldman Sachs 10,000 women programme at IIM Bangalore and accelerated at Jio-GenNext by Reliance.
Shoppre's global customers
The market and challenges
Despite the challenges of coronavirus-induced lockdowns and border restrictions, Shoppre claims to have grown significantly in the pandemic year and has seen 150 percent growth in FY20-21.
The underlying reason is that restricted movement meant looking for online solutions to get Indian products. “People who earlier used to travel to get the products themselves or ask friends and relatives to send certain products have come to our platform,” Nikkitha says.
While there were logistics problems, transparent communication regarding any delays with the customers have worked in their favour.
Nikkitha and Saira say there is little competition in India, while companies like China’s Alibaba, and more recently, San Francisco-based Faire are two cross-border wholesale ecommerce platforms operating in the similar space.
To ensure smooth functioning, Shoppre’s team continuously looks at the changing custom and other regulations internationally.
The startup is building two different communities of Indian small businesses as well as global shoppers and sellers. For the founder duo, the next step is to look at how to connect the two and bring them on a single platform.
Nikkitha says the startup ecosystem in Bengaluru is especially supportive of women entrepreneurs and she has not faced any gender bias in her four-year-long journey.
One piece of advice she always offers is to never underestimate the power of Minimum Viable Product (MVP). “Break the core problem you are trying to solve and pilot it with existing infrastructure and build on it step by step. You can start on the day one of any conceiving any idea,” she adds.
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