#inspiringstories@Awfis: Bringing the essence of India closer to you - ShopHop

Inspiring Stories

29 July 2016

#inspiringstories@Awfis: Bringing the essence of India closer to you - ShopHop

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

#inspiringstories@Awfis is an initiative by Awfis Editorial Team to showcase the brilliant business ideas and the journey of our startup member community.

The smell of the fresh mango chutney, the crisp green beans, those bright bell peppers, and the aroma of the organic tea are just few of the things that make your mouth water. We live in a world where organic, fresh and homegrown foods sound like a fairytale.

It is amidst this, that ShopHop brings its USP. ShopHop is a curated marketplace of the finest natural, artisanal and homegrown brands from across India. They pride themselves in sourcing the most innovative brands from homes, kitchens, farms and markets across the country and in showcasing these brands to consumers. At the heart of their mission is the desire to build a new community centered on food and wellness. They are providing budding artisans and food entrepreneurs across the country with a holistic platform to showcase their talents and products and their customers with an entirely new discovery based experience.

ShopHop was founded by a small, yet an ambitious team comprising of Anirban Poddar, Dhruv Jhaveri, Amer Ahmad and Pramod Kokare. Anirban is the Founder & brainchild behind ShopHop. Dhruv handles partnerships and business development. Amer looks after operations and business strategy while Pramod is the in-house SEO expert.

ShopHop-Team-blog-image
Team ShopHop

It was in the fall semester of 2012 when Anirban Poddar took some time off from Columbia and was taken up by how large and fragmented the unorganized retail market in India was. Anirban says, “We tried to bring 15-20 of the most popular local stores in South Mumbai online and helped them digitize their operations while opening them up to the entire Indian market through our portal. That said – this was more of a pet project that I looked at on weekends and in my spare time without the constant attention and focus that it deserved.”

When he returned in July 2015, they decided to pivot the model with hyper local, proving to be a very thin margin business with heavy dependence on logistics infrastructure. As a frequent visitor of farmer’s markets and food exhibitions, Anirban noticed a huge untapped market for food entrepreneurs. Many of these individuals and hobbyists were making incredible food items but lacked the platform and branding/business know-how to build sustainable businesses from their talents. They realized that the industry needed help, and thus they began an online community that was as immersive as the farmers’ market experiences.

Building the food entrepreneurs’ network required a lot of research and sourcing at farmers’ markets and exhibitions. They connected and built a whole network of food entrepreneurs who further helped them with vendors.  Various food entrepreneurs also contacted them and got in touch directly with Shop Hop.

ShopHop mainly looks for brands that are either natural or artisanal. All their products are organic, sustain-ably produced, or made entirely of natural ingredients with no artificial additives or preservatives often found in mass-produced brands. Their products are handpicked by ShopHop’s sourcing team and offer funky twists on traditional recipes, span across an array of ethnic foods or are made with unique (even patented!) methods of production. Not only does it have to be of top quality, but it should also have an interesting story that people can believe in.

Being an entrepreneur at 23 comes with a host of challenges that require a lot of rapid learning. That said, two of the major challenges directly associated with ShopHop have been awareness and logistics.

Anirban says, “It takes time to educate customers about unique and innovative new food brands and why they make for a greater purchase decision.  They are in some ways changing behaviors here and that takes investment and time.” He adds, “The second but greater hassle has definitely been logistics and deliveries. This is a major operational challenge across the country and after several months of attempting to fulfill this on our own we decided to outsource logistics to a third party provider. However, we continue to handle pick-ups to ensure quality control and oversight and this comes with a number of its own challenges.”

With a vision to become the go-to platform for food entrepreneurs to build sustainable growth, PAN-India brands and for customers to discover the most exciting and innovative packaged food products, Anirban believes that there is a greater design and everything happens for a reason.  The goal to reach 300 brands in Mumbai by mid-2017 and a target of 120 crore GMV by December 2017 shows that ShopHop is the one to look out for!

We think that Anirban’s entrepreneurial journey is motivational and we are proud to have such inspiring stories building in our centres!

This is an inspiration to all of us to start our dream venture by taking a single step. Take your first step by hiring a co-working office space Churchgate, Mumbai or Connaught Place, New Delhi and write your success story here.

This story is based on the interview of Mr. Anirban Poddar, Founder – Shop Hop by Awfis Editorial Team.

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5 Tips to Improve Brand Communication During COVID-19

Inspiring Stories

24 August 2020

5 Tips to Improve Brand Communication During COVID-19

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Changing times call for changing communication strategies. Marketers and brand owners are inhibited by the way the global pandemic is impacting their businesses. And yet, it is more important than ever to generate appropriate, relevant, and original ideas to stay connected to your audience and drive the right message.

Brand communication in the times of Covid-19 needs to be more creative, ingenious, and strategic to ensure that you are heard as is your audience. Unless you are running a business that only caters to high-priority needs, it’s time to rethink your communication strategy and make it more effective.

Expand your social outreach

If you were using social media to connect with your audience, then this is the perfect time to go all guns blazing on such platforms to stay connected with your customers/clients. Make the most of interactive content, instant updates, trending news, while you throw in a little bit of entertaining content. Be in the know while you make your audience feel included in your business at all times, whether or not you are operating in full capacity. This helps with brand awareness for new customers and makes existing ones stay connected to your brand.

Boost your customer service remotely

Most businesses have shifted their services and support online. The switch, from face-to-face interaction to going remote and digital, calls for a big change in operations and servicing strategies. Invest more in apps, email marketing, chat support, or WhatsApp marketing, to communicate, so your audience never loses out on updates. Prepare your service teams to connect with customers online and make sure they always have a good experience with the right communication style and channel.

Be informative

These times call for generating awareness and educating your audience on what they can or cannot do. Informing them about preventive measures, best practices, and how they can manage their work and life will build customer loyalty, trust, and make them feel cared for, which will go a long way in establishing a solid communication system even in the future.

Be creative but relevant

In uncertain circumstances like these, brands need to be more understanding of their audience. Be creative but careful of what message you deliver and how. It is important to be empathetic yet relevant to people’s needs without instilling or indulging in their fears. In a crisis, all people seek is support. Even if you need to drive sales, the messaging needs to be tactful, and yet, it cannot come across as insensitive or opportunistic, or it could appear to be a hardcore sales strategy without the humane factor in it.

Invest in paid ads

With businesses mostly online, this is the best time to get the attention of your “always online” audience. Invest in paid advertising and other paid digital campaigns to attract more traffic and generate conversions. With CPC (cost per click) rates being lower, it gives marketers more opportunities to invest in paid ads and make the most of the gap created by those leaving the competition.

Summing Up…

When times are tough, everything you do can either make or break your brand. You can neither walk on eggshells nor make it business as usual. It’s a fine line to draw and walk so you can sustain your business while boosting (or at least maintaining) the brand image.  Being focused on your audience’s needs, being realistic yet compassionate, can remarkably boost your brand communication and keep you connected to your audience or reach the right people.

How can Small Businesses Survive and Thrive During this Pandemic?

Inspiring Stories

21 August 2020

How can Small Businesses Survive and Thrive During this Pandemic?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

In any scenario of a global economic downturn, it is mostly the small businesses that take the hardest hit. The current pandemic of COVID-19 is no different. For the last few months, small and medium enterprises have been grappling for sustenance, some stopping their services altogether, while others are pushing through to keep their operations going. Issues like lower cash flow, minimized clientele/customer base, and managing costs have forced many businesses to rethink their existence. But the key to survival is all about finding ways out of roadblocks, isn’t it?

So, what can these businesses do to survive and sustain the pandemic and continue to thrive? As experts and thought leaders believe, there are a few tried and tested ways that these enterprises could adopt to stay alive and kicking!

1.  Be agile

The agility of processes and functions is one of the keys to stay ahead of the game today. More so now, when businesses need to adapt and adjust to the challenging market circumstances and tweak their operations to suit the immediate needs of the business, as well as of their customers. From digitalizing systems to incorporating newer services, or setting up a solid WFH/remote working system, it is time to transform the way you work and serve people.

2.  Tap into opportunities

With every challenge, comes hidden opportunities. Depending on what product or service you offer, you can include options like flexible payment methods, high-priority goods, round-the-clock customer support, and always stay connected to people who matter to your business. It goes a long way in strengthening your business contacts.

3.  Be present online

Being digital-first has now become essential. If you are in the retail business or have a brick-and-mortar store, now is the time to take it online and expand your customer base. This way, you can keep it running even during the lockdown. It might need some initial investment, but the infrastructure costs will definitely be lesser than a physical store and will be more sustainable in the long run. If you already have an online-based business, expand your reach using social media, paid ads, and boosting your SEO exercises to drive more traffic.

4.  Invest in your employees

Businesses that hold onto their human resources despite all odds are the ones who keep surviving. By investing in your bottom line, you not only get their support and help retain them but also ensure increased productivity. This is the time to train your people, help them upgrade their skills, and explore different roles, so they also grow while helping you sustain. For instance, let your sales teams learn about marketing and other operations, while you provide necessary technologies and flexibility of the work environment.

5.  Get financial aid

Governments and financial institutions are coming together in these times to support small and medium businesses with small-term aids and loans. Stay updated on how they can help you manage costs, invest smart, and move your capital around while helping you prepare for financial exigencies.

With the above practices, also consider these:

When moving your costs around, take into account the financial standings of your suppliers, vendors, or customers, and be supportive to your community.

Stay away from panicking on sudden market shifts and making hasty decisions. Always rely on available data and analyze your next strategy.

Do not try to game the market or its situations. Stocking up on inventory and reselling at a higher price might seem profitable right now but will not be a sustainable or an ethical measure in the long run.

Like everything else, this pandemic and its effects will not last forever. As long as you can adapt and keep sailing, holding onto every resource, you can sustain, survive, and rise above any crisis!

How the lockdown taught us collaboration & other management lessons

Inspiring Stories

07 July 2020

How the lockdown taught us collaboration & other management lessons

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Unlock 1 has seen many get back to their office spaces and adapt to the new normal of masks and social distancing. It’s a good time to reflect on the many lessons we’ve learnt during the lockdown and how we can apply it to our corporate lives. Sometimes, all it takes for change to take effect is the lack of choice. As we grappled with being locked at home, we geared up to learn new skills, find new ways of entertainment and we collectively managed to remote work effectively. Here’s a look at some lessons we can take back to work with us:

Are we all Digital yet?

Somewhere between forgetting to switch on the mute button and switching off the camera, we all grew up to be digital. The world before the lockdown was divided between the Digital Natives and the Digital not-quite-there-yet. What stopped us from adopting technology which existed to make our lives simpler and help us work more efficiently? And yet, how come when it came to personal usage, we easily figured out Firestick/Chromecast streaming and the latest cell phones? Learning happens out of interest or necessity; and at a company level the interest must trickle top down. The leadership team and managers need to bring in a culture of systemic learning and that begins with them upskilling to lead by example. This serves a dual purpose – one that accepts not knowing everything is normal and second that it’s never too late to learn.

The Key Takeout: For organisations to innovate and evolve, there needs to be a culture of learning. The ‘why fix it if it ain’t broke’ philosophy is the biggest roadblock to innovation.  

Workload equals loads of work?

It’s fascinating how we seamlessly divided house tasks based on innate ability – the younger ones for physically-intense housecleaning, the ones who knew cooking took up kitchen work and the rest did dishes and groceries. Some people rotated duties but each family found its own rhythm. Each person was accountable for their work, knew the others’ tasks and trusted them to do it. Of course, things work differently in the corporate world with its clearly demarcated job profiles and associated qualifications; however, we can take a leaf out of this and relook at how we can assign work beyond qualifications. Align teams to a short-term common goal, clearly define how they’re contributing to it individually and collectively, and acknowledge that effort and result.

The Key Takeout: Working collaboratively by its very nature takes away the sense of ‘it’s not my job’ and builds a system where each one is aware and thus appreciative of the work the others are doing.

Time: Too much of a good thing?

Humans are creatures of habit which is why when faced with what seemed like infinite time, we used it exactly the way we are accustomed to spending it. The workaholics worked, the fitness freaks worked out, TV addicts binged and almost everyone learned to bake! But at some point we got a sense of too much, even if it was something we enjoyed, we started missing the office, the routine. How does this apply in the corporate world? If you let people chill and do what they love for some time, you’ll get them more refreshed and charged up to work rather than restricting them to strictly work during work hours. By forbidding things, we make them more appealing. This is not a carte blanche to slack off but a more lenient work style where half an hour on YouTube or a game of Scrabble is acceptable and doesn’t have to be done behind the boss’ back.

The Key Takeout: If work is no more restricted from 9 to 5, why should fun have set timings? Set boundaries but don’t make work and life mutually exclusive.

Focusing vs flexibility?

The easily distracted, and that’s pretty much all of us, will find a distraction worth their time. Pets and children replaced colleagues, chores replaced coffee breaks and SOs replaced bosses. On the other hand, we were saved from focusing on what to wear, what is she wearing, where to go after work, the meeting that should’ve been an email etc. The lockdown brought home the truth on how much time and energy is wasted on things of little or no significance. Despite the increase in daily chores, the lack of an office environment, and distractions at home; most people reported being more productive while working from home. Should this mean an end to office as we know it? Yes and no. The office as we knew it – singular location, fixed timings, everyone & everyday reporting – needs to give way to a more flexible, work from home and work near home approach. The flexibility may differ between industries, organisations but the core approach needs to evolve.

The Key Takeout: Focus on what’s essential and become a more outcome/goal-oriented workplace. Does it really matter if the person delivers an exceptional presentation wearing trousers or pyjamas?

When the lines between office and home are getting increasingly blurred, there’s merit to introspect and apply learnings from home and family to help teams work better.   The lockdown tested and demonstrated our potential to trust, collaborate and handle a crisis; and it would be a shame to not carry some of this back with us as we head back to office.