Interview with Mr Zeeshan N. Ahmed – Founder, Grow Online Pvt. Ltd., takes a look at how mobile has transformed the retail industry.
Zeeshan is a business professional, and an enthusiast of various corporate dynamics. Having achieved a Masters degree in Marketing and learnt skillsets of various spectrums of ‘Disciplined Entrepreneurship’ & ‘Mobile App Experiences’ from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To ignite rural eCommerce in Pakistan, he has also certified in ‘Entrepreneur- ship in Emerging Economies’ from HBS.
Zeeshan is awarded and placed in the ceremony book as one of the ‘100 Best Performing CEOs of Pakistan 2017’ at 14th CEO Summit Asia.
His journey as an entrepreneur begins with Benchmark Advertising in 2004. Today, the agency has evolved into Benchmark Pakistan Group having multiple independent & successful business units. He served various national & multinational blue chip brands from diversified industries whereas; retail fashion always remains his constant fixation. He got the knack of ‘Retail Fashion eCommerce’ from Ecommerce Academy Square, NY.
TeamGO, under his headship spent 18 months in research and development of GO’mobishop, unique mCommerce Platform allowing retail businesses launch their native apps just in a few hours with zero development cost.
PAGE: FOR READERS, NOT INTRODUCED TO MCOMMERCE, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM ABOUT IT AND YOUR LATEST VENTURE FOR THIS INDUSTRY?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: Thank you Ali & PAGE for inviting me here.
GO is an independent, next-gen retail-focused, eCommerce and mCommerce technology company – we are a group of ‘disciplined’ entrepreneurs, marketers and innovators, united by our love & passion to empower economy of Pakistan by supporting small and rural communities.
mCommerce defined as the exchange of goods, services, information, money and/or anything else with some worth between two or more parties. Earlier customers would go and spend hours travelling and browsing different stores, now they can just stay in their sofa, use their portable device and orders are delivered to them. This entire shift of retail towards Internet; created an online retail industry called eCommerce. MCommerce (mobile commerce) is representing a branch of this industry referring to usage of mobile phones, wearables, and tablets to buy and sell goods or services online.
PAGE: WHAT IS THE MCOMMERCE REVOLUTION?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: We believe that the revolution of mCommerce is the evolution of the people of Pakistan. mCommerce revolution can be defined as the mobile commerce movement under which one country and its retail flourish. The same movement creates a large number of micro-entrepreneurs that is very important, especially in developing countries for the sake of creating jobs.
Ecommerce considered as the fastest growing industry of all times, globally and mobile Commerce is going double the pace of ecommerce this year with 31pc growth in 2017. Mobile technologies have emerged as a primary engine for economic growth for S. Korea, the US, and many other countries, considering the fact that there is no one-off recipe and all have followed their own unique path to success.
For 2017 the number of mobile phone users worldwide is forecasted to reach 4.77 billion. Thus, came the development of mobile shopping apps and people slowly started using their mobile phones to purchase, sell and order different goods and services. A lot of people were skeptic about this concept, but mCommerce became the fastest growing shopping platform around the world, revolutionizing online shopping and developing economies in third world countries. Entrepreneurship is helping communities rebuild themselves into better and more prosperous societies.
PAGE: CAN YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF THE IMPACT MCOMMERCE HAS MADE IN ONE OF THE COUNTRIES?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: Well, there are many out there and Taobao is my favorite case study and the actual inspiration of our mCommerce startup GO’mobishop, showcases the potential of mCommerce on a global and local scale, Taobao.com is a platform founded in 2003 by Jack Ma – founder of Alibaba.com with a goal of beating the global leader – eBay and helping smaller merchants grow their business. With a growing middle class and Internet connectivity, Alibaba launched Taobao driven by a desire to establish a significant market share and the opportunity to boost local commerce of smaller villages and communities by connecting Chinese consumers and sellers online via their mobile devices.
Given that multiple challenges existed in regards to adaptation of the market to modern technologies, its first goal was focused on creating trust by educating the market and on building the missing infrastructure. Basically, Alibaba recognized that smaller merchants around China were struggling to sell their services locally, so it decided to help them establish online presence by helping them to sell their goods or services in China and beyond; in a matter of hours. With the right execution, this created enormous value for people around China, pushed smaller merchants to generate wealth and turned Chine into global economic force. Today, 80% of Taobao villages are connected to global markets through smart phones and China has taken 600 million people out of poverty through online trading.
PAGE: TELL US ABOUT GO’MOBISHOP:
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: Grow Online was established with a Vision to help the next wave of entrepreneurs and SMEs start their online ventures with their own name at an amazingly low cost without acquiring any technical skills. Go’mobishop is bootstrapped by its sibling business units without accessing any private or public funds.
GO’mobishop is a unique disruptive mCommerce platform, which helps retail businesses make their full-featured native mobile apps at 1% of the average market cost, online at www.gomobishop.com Mobishop is the result of 18-20 months of extensive market research coupled with numerous pilot studies done to identify the institutional voids and pain points by commercially driven, highly qualified and ‘disciplined’ entrepreneures having knee-deep domain expertise.
There is a long list of features catering to almost every single retail business category but what makes go’mobishop truly novel and innovative are ‘GoUnified Cart and ‘GoStore Browser’ exclusively designed to provide a whole new experience for both brand-owners and their customers.
Instead of installing dozens of shopping apps that require you to initiate multiple purchases, GOMOBISHOP helps make the process easier. You can install multiple apps within this great software and you will be able to purchase items using a single, Smart Unified Cart.
The great thing here is that this cart remains the same regardless of what app you use. This means you can add to it, close the app and move on to a new one. It’s an incredible experience and one that does bring in front some outstanding results because of that.
PAGE: ARE THERE ANY CHALLENGES PRESENT WITHIN THE CONCEPT OF MOBILE APPS?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: The only real challenge present is that users hate installing multiple mobile apps and navigating between them in order to find what they need, and on the merchants’ side, they see apps as expensive opportunity. We recognized this early at GoMobiShop, hence create a platform where merchants can launch an app absolutely for no cost into an ecosystem of leading brands and users can browse multiple stores and apps without a necessity to download and install multiple apps. Development was challenging, but after we received incredible feedback from both merchants and customers, it was worth a while and we are very excited about the growth and development within this industry.
PAGE: SOUNDS AMAZING. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR MERCHANTS?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: mCommerce allow merchants to establish an online presence, grow their business across the country and beyond, earn higher sales margins and lower their costs, all of this in a matter of hours. I do have to mention that it is of a crucial value that merchants select the right platform and technology provider in order to prosper as online sellers.
Generally, full-featured native app takes at least 4-6 months in designing and development and costs Rs 1.5 – 2.5 million plus 50k-100k per month fee charge by developers for managing, marketing, etc. Whereas, at mobishop, your app will be published within a week to publish, costs zero to develop and only Rs. 3,000/- monthly rental will be enough to start your own online business. We have taken risk out of starting online selling and simplified as one who use smart phone can manage his mobile app from separate partner app. mobishop is complete solution and not limited to technology enablement platform. Go’merchants will have a team behind them, taking care of operation, delivery, customer service and everything and letting you just focus on sales and your product.
PAGE: WHY SHOULD MERCHANTS SELL THEIR MERCHANDISE VIA MOBISHOP PLATFORM AND NOT FAMOUS MARKETPLACES?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: This is like comparing apples and oranges that is practically not possible. Let’s start with knowing golden apple.
For a better understanding of the readers, Selling via marketplace is like a shopping mall (mobishop) where ‘Brand A’ (merchant) product is available at Carrefour (marketplace) and ‘Brand A’ (merchant) has its own outlet (mobile app) in a mall. It is always better to use both options at the same time like brand’s own outlet in a mall and also available in hyper-mart (marketplace) as well. Take it as an additional revenue stream rather than replacement of existing sales channel.
Some of the benefits of using mobishop or any platform (PF) are higher gross margins, merchants are sole owner at platform – one of the suppliers of marketplace (MP), PF empowers merchants to grow – MP empowers itself, PF gives you Customers and MP gives you Orders, you can test different strategies and find the best way to turn your business into a leading brand at PF and issues related to growth, exposure and promotion of your values. At MP, merchant doesn’t know who is buying the products so they have no data of their customers. PF lets merchants carry their own brand style – follow the brand guidelines of the MP, Platform connects buyers and sellers to make transaction they are not retailers like marketplace nor carry merchandises or maintain warehouse(s) – MP are retailers like Amazon sell almost 50% of their own products and rest of their merchants, etc.
PAGE: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE MCOMMERCE REVOLUTION FOR PAKISTAN?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: Mobile technologies have emerged as a primary engine for economic growth for many countries like China, S. Korea, the US, considering the fact that there is no one-off recipe to success and they all have to pave their own unique path to succeed. In my humble opinion, the only reason why our country is still not part of the major scale of development is the “Lack of Adaptive Education”. mCommerce revolution is giving Pakistani people the opportunity to start and grow their businesses in Pakistan and beyond, Still, we need to invest more resources in entrepreneurship and technology, educate people and create policies that will motivate people to start online businesses and generate wealth for their families and communities.
PAGE: THAT IS AMAZING, BUT IS PAKISTAN READY FOR THE MCOMMERCE REVOLUTION?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: Yes, and mCommerce revolution is already here. The numbers are clear, showing around 68pc online orders in Pakistan made via mobile devices, we have double the internet speed compare to India, Pakistan economy is witnessed a growth of 5.3pc during 2016-17 the highest in a decade. After 9 years, the Pakistan Stock Exchange has been upgraded to emerging market status by MSCI, which I believe revive interest of foreign investors, Pakistan named the top performing market of 2016 in Asia with a 46pc return, Pakistan’s e-commerce sector is doubling in size every year, registering CAGR of over 100%. The industry analysts predict this trend will continue during the next three to five years. Many studies also predict that the eCommerce industry in Pakistan will be a $10 billion market in 5 years. Though still in the 12% range, the broadband penetration is the real driver for the recent growth in eCommerce. Adding more than one million new users to its mobile Internet base every month. This sector has also piqued the interest of the foreign investors. If you look at mCommerce as the industry catering over 100 millennial in Pakistan. There are many more numbers, studies and facts indicating the values and validating the opportunity, but I will let you witness the power of mCommerce on your own – actions and results are the best example.
Retail sector can be adapted very quickly, all you need is a mobile phone and a platform like GoMobiShop to foster the mCommerce revolution and create value for merchants. If you are a merchant, this is your opportunity to make it big.
PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE PAKISTAN AFTER THE INFLUENCE OF THE MCOMMERCE REVOLUTION?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: I already see Pakistan as one of the most beautiful countries in the world with so much potential, hardworking people and young talents that we need to support, and most importantly, recognize the right opportunity and develop our country into a global economy force. Right with the support of the government and investments in the local industry, mCommerce revolution is the ideal opportunity for us to accomplish majority of these goals, hence it is an opportunity for sellers to establish valuable ventures and create jobs. Without taking the entire Pakistan into consideration, let me just repeat this one more time, mCommerce can grow the local economy and turn 72% of rural Pakistan into a booming segment of economy by giving small entrepreneurs the opportunity to sell their goods and services to millions of people on a daily basis without any hassle or major investments. Thus, after the influence of the mCommerce revolution and the market adapting to its value, I see Pakistan as a modern country representing the values of prosperity, equality and hard work to the entire world.
PAGE: WHERE DO YOU SEE MCOMMERCE REVOLUTION DEVELOPING IN TEN YEARS?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: I believe that mCommerce revolution will take over the world in 10 years, becoming the primary shopping channel, expanding to other access points like VR headsets. Major brands around the world are considering mobile as primary channel for their digital front.
Therefore, the same shift will soon make an impact in developing countries like Pakistan as well, allowing merchants who join the mCommerce revolution to control the market and build shopping empires. People should not be afraid or resistant towards change, this is an incredible opportunity for both merchants and our economy to prosper, to create jobs and to develop relevant industries.
PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR MERCHANTS JOINING THE MCOMMERCE REVOLUTION?
ZEESHAN N. AHMED: In my opinion, the most important thing and advice I can give you is “select the right technology provider” that is compatible with future trends and technologies. Everyone can launch a mobile app today, but selecting the right technology provider is crucial for your success. It will determine and affect your stability, brand reliability, promotional strategies, market expansion, customer acquisition etc. Moreover, markets are quickly growing and changing, therefore, it is necessary to have a service provider Afterwards, all you have to do is invest your time and resources in great products, visual representation and creative offers for your customers.
Founder & CEO
Grow Online (Pvt.)Limited