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Shopping Inside the Box!

ShopBox is a startup with a specific mission; to bring the world of online retail within the reach of small to medium businesses. At ShopBox, they understand the barriers encountered by individuals who have tried to set up an online store and are determined to help such emerging businesses get established, and to become successful in their ventures by making the process simple and affordable.

 

Their innovative solutions have helped offer online retailers easy-to-use and affordable packages. ShopBox has been in development since mid-2013 and started off as a phone call between two friends, which grew to five close friends who put in their own time and savings to develop the concept and share it with others who have experienced the same difficulties in selling online.

 

TechAdvisor.lk met with Ryan Jayawardena (COO) and Farthab Feisal (CEO) to discuss the ins and outs of their business and the future of ShopBox. The rest of the team includes CMO Robert Sandrasagara, CFO Sabir Esufali and chief business development officer Richard Sandrasagara.

 

Q.

In a nutshell, tell me a little about your company and what you do?

 

Ryan.

Well, in a nutshell Shopbox is an online platform that offers a complete solution to small businesses.

 

Feisal.

It’s a solution for small businesses to affordable and effectively set up an online store.

 

Q.

Where did the idea come from. What was your inspiration?

 

Feisal/Ryan.

When Shopbox was launched in August 2014, we just wanted to do something worthwhile that really made a difference instead of a usual nine to five job. The idea stemmed from a plan to start up an online handicraft store that snowballed into what we now do. When we started doing the research, we realized how costly and difficult it was to get an online store up and running and seized the opportunity to offer up a solution instead.

 

Q.

What are some of the strengths you feel your company has that you feel has brought you thus far?

 

Feisal/Ryan.

We’d have to say that it’s our team that’s our greatest strength. We have a wealth of knowledge within the group and a bunch of amazing people who have the passion to really drive a business.

 

Q.

What are the key company milestones for the next 6-12 months that need to be achieved?

 

Ryan.

At the moment we are looking at new features to support the merchant further, but for now, it’s all a little hush, hush!

 

Feisal.

We are concentrating on taking small steps that impact the business steadily and surely.

 

Q.

How big a part has technology played in your business vs. creative thinking?

 

Feisal.

I have to say, I believe that creative thinking plays a bigger part in this business as it’s not just about technology, it’s about how you design it, package the concept and make it user friendly.

 

Q.

How do you feel ShopBox has impacted people?

 

Ryan.

We’ve provided an affordable option for merchants. With us, they have support to cost-effectively sell goods online and we even help them manage it. We have helped equal the playing field a little for smaller businesses.

 

Feisal.

We’ve created something that really works for businesses that are conscious of the investment involved with getting online and we’ve helped the merchants to do this with minimal risk.

 

Q.

What other industries do you see as a potential market?

 

Ryan/Feisal.

Apart from the retail side of things that we presently offer, we see a market in supporting events. We are just breaking into it with the Colombo Fashion Week, I Love Una and the Live Trinco Festivals. Here, events can use our online platform sell tickets and merchandise.

 

Q.

What do you think is one of the key characteristics startups in Sri Lanka don’t have?

 

Ryan.

I feel that there are a lot of social barriers when it comes to individuals trying to think out-of-the-box and do something different and that mindset needs to change across all generations.

 

Feisal.

I see a lack of foresight. A lot of startups don’t look at the bigger picture and think global.

 

Q.

Where do you see the company in five years?

 

Feisal.

We definitely see the company going international starting with other developing countries in the region.

 

Q.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

 

Ryan/Feisal.

The right team! Any hurdle can be overcome with the right team on board.

 

Q.

Was there anyone who inspired you to manage the company the way you do?

 

Feisal.

No one in particular, but Richard Branson’s story of how he started Virgin Records from a phone booth is a great story to keep in mind when starting a business. It’s a reminder to try, maybe fail but not give up on the dream.

 

Q.

What keeps you up at night?

 

Ryan/Feisal.

ShopBox board meetings. They are often conducted at odd hours and on whatsapp!

 

Q.

What’s the best part of your day?

 

Ryan.

I’d say it’s when somebody mentions that they noticed us and they check out what we have created.

 

Feisal.

KPI’s!!

 

Q.

How would your best friend describe you?

 

Ryan.

My best friend? Well, I’m sure he’d have a lot of things to say about me as we’ve known each other since Kindergarten. Throughout our friendship I’ve been described as friendly, empathetic, smart and helpful. I shall intentionally leave out some of the harsher descriptions in the interest of keeping my answer short but if there was one phrase to describe my negative attributes, I’m sure he’d say I’m too much of a perfectionist sometimes.

 

Feisal.

That’s a tough one, but from what I’ve heard. I’m a good listener and spontaneous in most decisions.

 

Q.

Who is your favorite super hero and why?

 

Ryan.

Not been too much of a fan of the classic comic book super heroes, but if I had to answer I would say Batman because his greatest superpower is his intelligence and conviction to overcome insurmountable odds. Also, sometimes the Hulk, because let’s face it, the rage we experience when driving on Sri Lankan roads just makes us want to “smash” certain errant motorists.

 

Feisal.

Embarrassing! Probably go with Tony Stark. Easy enough: brains, wit and not to mention wealth.

 

Q.

What would you tell as 15-year old version of yourself?

 

Ryan.

I’d warn him of the dangers of naivety.

 

Feisal.

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