In 2014, Biplob G Rahul and his company were working on an automation software project for a local logistics company. It was before the current ecommerce boom in the country. It was an interesting project. But not all interesting projects end well. The project fell apart in the middle because that logistics company rendered it unimportant.
Although it was pretty early days, ecommerce was already showing the sign of promise. Biplob and his team noticed the movement in the market. So instead of killing the project, Biplob decided to turn it into a logistics company. eCourier, an ecommerce focused logistics startup, was born. It grew quite fast.
eCourier had its advantages. The market was a green field. Biplob had (still has it) his call center business before eCourier called Soft Call serving ecommerce companies at that time. It made the entry to the market easy. It was selling one more service, a necessary one in that, to the same customers of logistics business. First two years, eCourier did great serving hundreds of customers.
The market also grew with more ecommerce players entering the market and an increasing number of people shopping online. New logistics companies entered the market to serve a growing ecommerce industry between 2015 and 2016. A rather unwitting competition ensued.
“We became relatively silent in terms of hunting customers aggressively and fighting the price war that started towards the end of 2016,” says Biplob G Rahul. “Instead we focused on building the business, establishing processes in the company and serving our existing customers well. We stayed out of the price war.”
eCourier also made some mistakes during its heydays between 2014 and 2016. These are the mistakes that many fast-growing startups make. Prioritizing revenue over the process. Taking customer service for granted. Faltering in customer experience. “We made some mistakes when handling the responsibilities our customers bestowed upon us. At one point, we were overbooked. We took orders beyond our capacity to deliver.” The result was a lot of disappointed customers.
The new market reality and its own challenges forced eCourier to take a hard look into its own operation and reflect. “We took entire 2017 to rebuild ourselves,” says Biplob.
During this period, however, eCourier continued its growth journey but largely focused on building its internal organizational strength. It has invested in building a winning culture. In developing process and system to ensure better customer service. It has expanded its large item delivery business it calls LPU - increased the number of the delivery van to 12. It has entered into the fulfillment business. Expanded its coverage through franchisee and booking agent model. These are interesting developments.
Logistics is an important space. It has been seeing consistent growth. The competition in the logistics space has also grown in the past few years. New players like Pathao, Paperfly, Biddyut and a host of others have entered the market. More recently ride-hailing player like Shohoz has also entered the market. In the coming years, competition is likely to get tougher. As the opportunity grows in the space, more serious players are likely to enter the market. How eCourier plans to fend off competition? Can it pull off? At the same time, how big is the current market for ecommerce delivery in the country?
We set out to find out answers to these questions in our recent conversation with Biplob G Rahul to learn what’s going on at one of the earliest ecommerce logistics company in the country. This is our second interview with Mr. Biplob. He has a fascinating perspective on the industry. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did.