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 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.

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