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PriyoShop’s Slower But Steady Growth Path: An Interview With Asikul Alam Khan

Launched back in 2012, PriyoShop.com is one of the earliest players in Bangladesh’s growing ecommerce industry. Despite the volatile nature of the industry and huge competition, PriyoShop.com has been able to maintain a sustainable growth over the years. It has remained in the business and continued to grow while many of its contemporaries shut the door.

Future Startup’s Rahatil Ashekan recently reached out to Asikul Alam Khan, Founder and CEO of PriyoShop.com, to know about his journey, how PriyoShop is doing now, how it has maintained a steady growth over the years, how it targets and retains customers, and struggles of building a company and the future plan. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Future Startup: If you could please tell us how PriyoShop.com started.

Asikul Alam Khan_Potrait
Asikul Alam Khan_Potrait

Asikul Alam Khan: I first came to the world business in the year 2006. I was just a freshman at Jagannath University when we started an initiative called Student-wish.com, a couple of my friends and I joined together to build a team. That was how I got into this business thing.

Later, when we completed our graduation in 2010, we got our trade license and started Splendor IT. At Splendor IT, we took a number of freelancing jobs both in Bangladesh and from abroad. We developed a couple of pretty famous websites in Bangladesh, like Jewel Aich and Tomy Mia's website. We provided software services to several companies as well.

That year, we also helped build ecommerce sites for a few of our international clients. That is when we thought about doing something similar in Bangladesh. We realized that there is a problem around shopping in Dhaka. Time is a pretty serious concern in Dhaka. Traffic jam is only going to get worse unless we have some sort of effective interventions. Moreover, shopping is time-consuming and not for many people who live in perpetual time scarcity. So, we thought ecommerce could be a very useful solution.

But, we did not have the capacity and resources to start an ecommerce site at that time. But we did not give up. We kept gathering more knowledge and worked harder to build an even stronger team. Long story short, after much toil, we managed to put together the website in 2012. We formally launched it at an ecommerce fair on February 7, 2013, after our post-graduation.

FS: What is PriyoShop.com now? How much have you evolved?

Asikul Alam: When we started PriyoShop we had very few ecommerce companies doing warehousing and logistics, most of the ecommerce companies were deal sites. We, along with Biponi.com, started the ecommerce platform with logistics service. We also started to warehouse products at our place so that customers can get their products whenever they order.

We started with very little resources. But we have been extremely passionate about our work and resilient as a team. We have worked extremely hard in the past years. During our early days, we were only a 3-member team in a 600 sq. ft. office. Today, we have grown to a 30-member team and 7,000 sq.ft. office space.

PriyoShop web
PriyoShop web

FS: PriyoShop.com is one of the earliest ecommerce companies in the market. While many of your contemporary companies shut the door, you have sustained and done well. What are the reasons behind?

Asikul Alam: Understanding your customer is the key. You have to deliver those products that your customers want. You have to make sure that you ensure best service possible and your customers are happy with your service.
We have adopted this strategy from the very beginning. We work hard to maintain excellent product quality and timely delivery. We store products in our own warehouses. As a result, we can process customer transactions whenever needed and we can do it faster.

The main advantage of having your own logistics system is that you will find it very useful for stock management and it gives you a certain level of control that you wouldn’t get otherwise. Moreover, with the assistance of our own logistics system, we are able to provide personalized services to our customers. In return, we have got a loyal customer-base that provides us a sustainable amount of transactions every day without any significant promotional effort on our part.

FS: Who are your target customers? How do you reach out to your target customers? What are the strategies you use to attract more customers?

Asikul Alam: We target the people between the age of 18 and 35 who generally do online shopping. We largely focus on retention. We make sure our customers are happy and come back later. We also re-market to our old customers who are already familiar with shopping on PriyoShop.com.

Besides, we do campaigns all the time and try to attract new customers by giving exciting offers. We are the first one to introduce online BaishakhiMela in 2013. Since then, we organize online BaishakhiMela and Eid Festival every year.

FS: How is your growth so far? Can you give our readers some figures like the number of daily users, deliveries to gauge the growth?

Asikul Alam: We deliver 250 to 300 orders daily, both inside and outside of Dhaka. At the times of festivals, this amount ranges around 500 per day. We maintain a unit order system in our company. It means we put a lot of importance on the convenience of our individual customers.

The basic difference between us and many other marketplaces who don’t maintain unit-order system is that if a customer orders three different products, they deliver them separately because the products are outsourced from different vendors. But we accumulate all the orders placed by a particular customer and deliver them together.

FS: How do you ensure consistent growth while also maintaining bottom-line of your company?

Asikul Alam: To maintain the consistency, you need to look at your data, analyze, and understand. We always try to identify what the customers want and get back to them with the solution. We look for building long-term relationships with our customers.

If someone purchases something from our site in, say, July and doesn't come back to us within the next 1/2 months, we contact with him/her and try to know whether something went wrong. Another thing we are considering in the recent times is marketing innovation. We are trying to come up with new and different types of campaigns which will be more effective and personalized.

FS: How PriyoShop is funded? Have you raised any investment?

Asikul Alam: Me and my wife have been putting in money from our own pockets. We did not raise any outside fund yet. The investments till now have only been my wife's and mine. But, we have already started talking to venture capital firms about investments. Hopefully, we plan to raise an investment round within the next quarter.

The ecommerce is an investment heavy business. It is hard to grow without a considerable amount of investments. PriyoShop.com has come to a point where our business is sustainable now, but we need investment if we want to maintain the growth and go further. We want to invest heavily in quality development, logistics improvement, and sourcing. If we can invest in these three areas, we will be able to take us to the next level.

FS: There is a growing competition in the ecommerce space, how do you plan to tackle it?

Asikul Alam: We don't take interest in competition and we don't consider it as a threat. As new ecommerce platforms emerge, we believe more and more people will opt for online shopping. That is a good news for the overall industry.

The challenge is not acquiring customers but retaining them. If Amazon enters Bangladeshi market, it will create new customers. But, if we can provide quality service, people will come to us.

FS: What are your plans for the future?

Asikul Alam: PriyoShop.com is one of the pioneers in the ecommerce industry in Bangladesh. We plan to find better ways to make sure that we provide best of quality and service to our customers. While doing so, we aim to build a sustainable brand in this space.

Note: Interview by Rahatil Ashekan | Image by PriyoShop

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