Snapchat’s former Bangladeshi CSO, Imran Khan, launches e-commerce venture to compete with the likes of Amazon

A new retail website, called Verishop, has gone live recently. And it goes head-to-head with mammoth platforms like Amazon. The brain behind this venture is the former Chief Strategic Officer of Snapchat, Imran Khan.

Why Verishop

Khan being present in the business arena for quite a while had observed some of the frustrations up-and-coming brands have expressed regarding existing sites that have counterfeit products or that hurt brand integrity. Verishop aims to change that and create an even and transparent platform for both buyers and sellers.

The business model of Verishop

Verishop actually buys the inventory directly from the brands. This step is to prevent having counterfeit goods on the site. Verishop hopes this differentiating factor will help build trust with consumers, too.

Is the big tech too big?

Globally companies like Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet etc. are ruling the world. It takes much audacity to come up with a business that has to compete largely with Amazon itself. However, Khan doesn’t feel that the big tech is too absolute. And with proper differentiation of their services, they can have a sustainable business.

“I think our vision is to be the best home for brands,” Khan said in an interview ahead of the launch of Verishop.

“Whenever the consumer is looking for branded products, we want to be their first destination. There is massive growth of direct-to-consumer brands.”

Verishop has launched with around 150 brands. Those include apparel makers Levi’s, AllSaints, DVF and Citizens of Humanity; home-goods retailer Boll & Branch; make-up company Lily Lolo and skin-care line Kora Organics.

An offer too good

Verishop offers free, two-day shipping with no minimum purchase, free returns and a 24/7 customer-service portal on the web. That means you can buy anything even worth 10 Dollars, and still can get free shipping! This new feature is something that most customers had been waiting for.

There are 2 main shopping sections, Tastemakers and Responsible Shop. Between these two, Tastemakers is solely targetted towards influencers. 

In this daunting attempt, let’s hope Imran Khan makes a difference to the world of e-commerce, as he has done in case of Snapchat. A reminder for the readers, this is the same Imran Khan whose BTV debate went viral on Facebook this year!

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This week in Tech 2: No sequel joke

Welcome again to tech roundup/highlights/whatever you would like to call it. We might make this a weekly thing, but we’re not sure if we can top week 1. Or if we want to top week 1.

Disclaimer: If there’s something interesting in technology happening outside Bangladesh and we haven’t covered it yet, we might do so in this segment. We left off last week on the note of decommissions. The Government sanctioned decommissioning of almost 3 million SIMs. The first storm of the season took it upon itself to decommission telecommunication and internet services in many areas. How thoughtful.

Oh and also people fought over Facebook reacts. That last one doesn’t have the same ring to it after the first mention. This week is much more sober and cheerful in comparison. Let’s take a look.

Rajshahi E-commerce Fair attracts youngsters

The daylong E-commerce and post fair took place on April 6th at Lakshmipur general post office auditorium in Rajshahi. The central discussion was about the convenience of using the E-commerce platform to launch startups with minimum capital. Many investors, entrepreneurs and visitors attended the fair. The 4th industrial revolution and the concept of businesses shifting to online platforms were also topics of discussion.

The most eye-catching aspect of the fair was the majority of the attendees being young people. This signals the growing situational awareness in Bangladeshi youngsters regarding startups and moneymaking strategies.

The most eye-catching aspect of the fair was the majority of the attendees being young people. This signals the growing situational awareness in Bangladeshi youngsters regarding startups and moneymaking strategies.

Repto is going to Silicon Valley

Education platform Repto has won the “eGeneration Presents Startup World Cup 2019, Bangladesh” competition. They will now be proceeding to the final round in Silicon Valley. The event was arranged by Fenox Venture Capital and eGeneration Ltd in Bangladesh for the first time. The competition awards the best regional tech-based startup the opportunity to present at the final round. The ten finalists presented their startup ideas at RTV Bengal Studios, where Repto won the opportunity to take their case all the way to Silicon Valley and win a million dollars.

From the initial 86 applicants, 10 were selected, all of whom Repto outlasted to win. 39 regional champions along with Repto will present in the final round. It will take place on 17th May.

“Say no to Fortnite”- Prince Harry

Well Hallelujah.

The Duke of Sussex has a problem with the popular battle royal game. In his speech at West London Young Men’s Christian Association, Prince Harry likened Fortnite addiction to alcohol and drug addiction. He stated that the game is designed to inspire addiction in players, and that parents should strive to familiarize their children to the world outside the internet.

Relevant information in this regard is similar battle royal game PUBG being banned for children under 13 years of age in China. Recently India has also banned PUBG for primary school students.

Bottom line is important people have an opinion of such games that isn’t favorable. It might have something to do with the problem known as “Kids these days” syndrome. But there is a very real aspect to the complaints.

Don’t look at us, we hate the game because it’s bad. If you want to play it go knock yourself out.

Oh wait, someone else already did.

That’s all for this week. Goodbye. 

ShopHobe – a new approach to local e-commerce

A team of developers tap away at their workstations. Seated in a brightly colored but cluttered room are a group of entrepreneurs. Creatives who are trying to put their mark on Bangladesh’s e-commerce industry. The clutter in the room mirrors the challenges facing the sector. The local e-commerce industry started booming a proper ecosystem around 2012. However, more than a decade later, the industry faces foreign competition, difficulties with logistics and generally on a rocky road to innovation. The name on the bright yellow wall behind the developers—ShopHobe.

Office aesthetics aside, ShopHobe promises a clutter-free online shopping experience. The current online experience is filled with insufferable ads. Social media algorithms track that one time you searched for “beard oil” and will bombard you with posts featuring fuzzy hipsters for all eternity—till you give in and buy the damn thing. The lack of clutter a big deal.  Other e-commerce sites like Bikroy.com tend to give in to the temptation of ad money.  Filling up search results with sponsored ads. The degrees of intrusiveness depends on how much the sponsors paid. For lack of a better revenue model. ShopHobe tries to do things a little differently.

The idea

“The idea formulated from a rooftop hangout session between friends. One friend, Shafayet, pointed out the huge number of ‘Facebook entrepreneurs’—people selling all kinds of things through social media—and how they don’t have a concrete platform to operate out of. None of us liked the experience of shopping on social media either, and we thought we could make things better for both the buyer and the seller,” says Naseef Fatemi, founder, and CEO of ShopHobe.

Lanky, long-haired and easy-going, Naseef’s persona and appearance easily fit the stereotype of an engineer trying to field a viable tech startup from a corner of Banani. E-commerce is risky territory—Naseef and his band of developers and marketers know that. However, having faith in an idea can make all the difference in the success of a business; faith is something they have quite a lot of at ShopHobe.

How it works

On a surface level, the model seems fairly simple. However, if you go deeper, you start to see the organizational balance that makes the model work. ShopHobe first pitches to prospective sellers—giving them an overview of the front-end layout, the back-end stock management system, the delivery services and the weekly payment system to the sellers. ShopHobe then builds and customizes the online shop for the vendor, which is handed over to the seller upon completion. There are two pricing plans (for now)—base and promotion. The base plan sets the price for ShopHobe’s services according to the weight of each product sold through the “shop”, while promotion adds a commission on each product. Sellers who opt for the promotion plan get their products featured on the landing page of the site and app.  The sellers also great social media visibility for the shop and its products.

Customer-centric decisions

“We have made it a point to understand what the sellers and the customers want from an e-commerce platform and worked towards building a product that reflects that. Our operations started in November 2017, and since then we’ve spent a significant portion of our efforts on R&D. We’re not a traditional e-commerce site and we don’t want to be—our aim was always to be a WordPress equivalent of the e-commerce industry and help entrepreneurs build their brand and their website. As a result, our branding presence on our clients’ websites are low—we don’t want to take anything away from the brands that we’re working with,” continues Naseef.

ShopHobe currently hosts over 250 retailers on the platform, with more coming on board. True to the tagline “E-commerce Made Easy”, ShopHobe is actively focusing on streamlining their shopping, delivery and payment services, often in unison with their partnered businesses and start-ups.

While the Bangladeshi e-commerce industry has been set back by a lack of innovative ideas, newer outfits like ShopHobe and Shopify are trying to make it work by targeting more intricate revenue models. Whether it works or not is still up for debate.