The guest for this interview is mr. Vaibhav Dabhade, founder and CEO of Anchanto, a startup headquartered in Singapore, specialized in offering enterprises tailored softwares for their e-commerce in the Pacific Asia region.
In the Asian market e-commerce’s growth has been on the rise in the latest years, with a revenue expansion around 13% and a user penetration likely to jump from the current 53,3% to 68,2% by 2025, according to researches.
Anchanto was created in order to be a support for all the companies that intend to explore this massive market, creating Saas programs and guiding foreign companies through their expertise, thanks to their offices in 14 countries between Pacific Asia and Oceania.
Harvard Business School graduate Vaibhav Dabhade was one of the founders and is also the current CEO of the company, founded in 2011.
During its decade of operations Anchanto gathered a total of 27 milion dollars in funding, with 16 of them collected in a series C funding last October.
In this interview we will talk about expanding a business internationally, obtaining a partnership with household name companies, the future of e-commerce and more.
Questions for Vaibhav Dabhade
- Hello and welcome to our blog! Could you please introduce Anchanto to our readers and say a little more about the company?
- How did you come up with the idea of launching this startup?
- Anchanto has 9 offices scattered all around Asia. When did you decide to expand internationally?
- Have you experienced any particular problem trying to expand your business abroad?
- In your opinion, should a company maintain its identity and have the same business model and mentality in all countries or should it try to adapt to the environment in which it operates?
- Are you planning on expanding even further? Maybe outside of Asia?
- What advice would you give to a startup planning to expand abroad?
- You have just announced a partnership with Panasonic for their e-commerce in Asia. That’s an impressive result! Tell us more about this deal.
- Your core business revolves around e-commerce. How do you think the scenario will change in the coming years?
- If you could give just one piece of advice to an aspiring startup founder, what would it be?
- Hello and welcome to our blog! Could you please introduce Anchanto to our readers and say a little more about the company?
Hello, thank you for having me! As an introduction- Anchanto is a global B2B SaaS company headquartered in Singapore, with customers & operations across 14+ countries. Through our proprietary SaaS products and global partnerships, we enable Brands, Distributors, Retailers, eCommerce Service Providers, SMEs, 3PLs, and Warehousing Players to run more efficient, error-free, and coherent end-to-end eCommerce operations.
We currently serve a large customer base comprising of SMBs and global companies like L’Oreal, Panasonic, Nestle, Pos Malaysia, Valiram, Luxasia, DHL eCommerce, Asendia, GreatDeals eCommerce Corporation and many more.
Over the past years, I could say we focused on accompanying three main types of projects; enabling brands to implement their Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) strategy, supporting retailers and distributors develop Online-to-Offline (O2O) approaches, and transforming traditional B2B warehousing/Fulfillment companies into B2B and B2C eCommerce service providers.
With a philosophy to make eCommerce management, logistics, and cross-border trade simple for everyone through technology, we operate with offices & teams across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, India, Vietnam, South Korea, and Australia.
2. How did you come up with the idea of launching this startup?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, the passion for starting something of my own came to me at a very early age. Watching two generations successfully build and run brick-and-mortar logistics businesses, I developed a keen interest in logistics. Owing to my proclivity towards technology, I went on to study engineering, and thereafter completed executive education from Harvard to learn the intricacies of business and management.
Once I was ready to take the entrepreneurial plunges, I saw an opportunity to combine my passion for technology, logistics, and the emerging eCommerce space. This led to the inception of Anchanto – a SaaS technology company that helps businesses manage end-to-end eCommerce & logistics operations, and delivers an ‘enchanting experience to its customers through its proprietary SaaS platforms.’
3. Anchanto has 9 offices scattered all around Asia. When did you decide to expand internationally?
All our international expansions have been results of a strong product fit, increasing customer demands validated by sizeable prospects, and overall growing need for stability in a particular market. As Singapore and Malaysia share a lot of similarities, it happened to be the most natural selection for our first international market expansion. Singapore and Malaysia still represent the two largest eCommerce markets in Southeast Asia accounting for more than 50% of the online retail sales.
After Malaysia, we expanded to Indonesia and the Philippines and these markets nations happened to be our core markets for a while. Then, we went on to explore and expand to markets like Australia, South Korea, Thailand & Vietnam due to the growing need and demand for our technology.
4. Have you experienced any particular problem trying to expand your business abroad?
Honestly, we never faced any critical challenges while expanding to new markets.
But we did have some growing pains when we started hiring in Malaysia and Philippines. Due to lack of awareness and lack of clearly defined roles, we struggled to find the right people in the beginning.
But, gradually as our business grew, people started recognizing Anchanto, and we were able to build the right team and expand. All the more, our first hires and customers were some of our best endorsers. Our employees took the chance of talking about our solutions, our company, our goodwill wherever they found the window. This helped us improve our nexus not only for hiring but it got to our customers. Additionally, whenever our customers realized we were looking for human resources they always helped in every way.
Other challenges were more global in nature and were associated with the Laxity and complacency in the minds of traditional businesses to undergo transformation. But with our constant efforts (more recently due to the pandemic) these businesses were compelled to future-proof their operations and undergo change.
5. In your opinion, should a company maintain its identity and have the same business model and mentality in all countries or should it try to adapt to the environment in which it operates?
I think it is really important for companies to adapt to the local needs and challenges. Operating in a culturally diverse and complex market like Southeast Asia, we have realized the power of localization, and it has always been at the core of our offerings.
We understand that every market is different, each market has its own set of customer needs, and hence the approach to market cannot be the same. This is exactly why our products are flexible and adaptable to accommodate the varying needs of each market. We’ve always followed our customers’ feedback religiously, and this has helped us address market-specific challenges.
6. Are you planning on expanding even further? Maybe outside of Asia?
Yes, definitely. As the demand for our platforms continues to grow rapidly across markets, we have set ambitious growth expansion plans in the coming months. Our eyes will be turned towards Europe and the USA in the near future. But first and foremost, we want to strengthen our position further in our core Asian markets.
From starting her own online business to solving challenges for enterprise eCommerce companies globally, her journey came full circle with Anchanto. Check out Nithya’s exciting story!#TeamAnchantohttps://t.co/dvHa97L6Un— Anchanto (@anchantodotcom) September 8, 2020
7. What advice would you give to a startup planning to expand abroad?
I would say that you study the market thoroughly- know your customers’ needs, know your competitors, educate yourself with different laws & regulations, cultural and community differences and analyse your business environment.
After that, you can figure out the right time to enter the market and understand what challenges you might face.
This is when you should start asking all the right questions like
– Would our product satisfy strong market demand? Or do we need to actually have a budget to create a demand?
– What would be the acceptance of the product? And that too of a company with no local brand presence?
– What would be the proposition, if we target the market with the same product as we did in others?
– What would be the right messaging for the market? Do we need to localize or behave the know-it-all foreign brand?
– What would be the customer behavior towards our product, especially about the support and training after the customer subscribes to our platforms?
Once you have figured out the answers, you can define your strategy, dive right-in to set up your office, and start hiring the local workforce without further delay.
8. You have just announced a partnership with Panasonic for their e-commerce in Asia. That’s an impressive result! Tell us more about this deal.
As the retail space is going through profound changes, brands’ relationships with their customers are also constantly evolving. Hence, Panasonic felt the need to get closer to them, through a more Direct-To-Consumer (D2C) approach. Also, with the increasing demand for eCommerce, Panasonic wanted to make their products easily accessible to everyone.
Besides, Panasonic also aimed to unify its backend operations across countries, teams, and business units, and consolidate their inventory control. Our team identified the pain points for them and offered a solution to integrate the brand’s critical systems with Anchanto OMS, and that is how the partnership began. Panasonic will leverage our omnichannel Order Management System (OMS)- SelluSeller, to improve its eCommerce capabilities and have a single source of truth for real-time sales, inventory, and Product information for all online channels.
Through this partnership, we will help strengthen their foothold across the APAC region. Our technology will first be deployed in Singapore before rolling out in the rest of the SEA Markets.
With a strategic growth plan for 2021, Panasonic will rely on Anchanto’s technology to drive consumer engagement and enable the development of a unique experience for its customers, across multiple touchpoints, and along the whole customer journey.
The implementation of the SaaS system is aimed at bringing coherence to Panasonic’s business operations across different countries, models, and systems. In the longer term, the company is aiming at a 4x growth of its eCommerce revenue share through this strategic move.
We are honored and humbled to be working with Panasonic and enabling their long term omnichannel strategy.
9. Your core business revolves around e-commerce. How do you think the scenario will change in the coming years?
As we look at the future in the aftermath of the pandemic, one thing remains clear. Every traditional business will have to undergo digitization in order to eliminate the risk of being obsolete.
Brick & mortar stores may have lost their luster, but we are well aware they are not completely dead, and never will be. But with the parallel growing demand for eCommerce, we will witness a ‘New Retail’ in the coming months which will necessitate businesses to think ‘omnichannel’.
Hence all actors will soon have to start thinking about equipping themselves with the right technology and upgrade the value and experience they offer to their customers. As a result, even the logistics players will have to transform themselves to answer this new requirement coming from eCommerce players.
10. If you could give just one piece of advice to an aspiring startup founder, what would it be?
Entrepreneurship is a very very very difficult yet extremely fulfilling and rewarding job. Always do remember, one cannot be half-pregnant.
If you really want to go for it, just go for it without a ‘Plan B’. If you fail at what you are doing, keep trying variations but never ever let go once you start walking on this path. When you face the toughest challenges, only your willpower and determination can help you win them over and help you reach the success and glory.
We want to thank mr Dabhade for joning us on our website. Anchanto proved itself to be a succesful startup, that managed to build a strong presence on a vast market like Pacific Asia. It was very interesting to hear from him about all his secrets and tips to start an international business.
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