ShopUp’s journey initiated with a simple intention- the need to serve enterprises that make up more than 90% of the business population, globally – SMEs, the bloodline of Bangladesh’s economy providing a livelihood for 31.2 million, and creating direct employment for 7.8 million people.
This need was a result to protect the heritage long business of a small village in Potuakhali where potters and craftsmen made a living out of clay-based crockeries. During the rise in demand for plastic-based crockeries and utensils, these craftsmen, who can otherwise be called small entrepreneurs, from villages were at risk of losing their means of income.
According to Co-founder and CEO of ShopUp, Afeef Zaman’s observation most of these pottery businesses are family-owned businesses. However, when you combine the revenue that is generated in each of these families from within one village/area – the percentage can cross the revenue generated by a rather medium-sized FMCG organization.
ShopUp introduces itself as a full-stack B2B commerce platform for small businesses. When mentioning small businesses, ShopUp covers SMEs, MSMEs, F-commerce entrepreneurs, and what may look like a unique addition is the neighborhood mom and pop stores that are locally known as – mudir dokaan.
With the fast-paced growth of Bangladesh’s economy, the acceptance of technology has been also made available even in the most remote areas. This, in turn, has allowed the majority of the population, including people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, to have access to various digital platforms easing their everyday life.
ShopUp is a tech-first platform, utilised this momentum and acceptance of technology to introduce its services that target small businesses and their adaptation of technology. As a full-stack platform, or what is commonly known as a one-stop solution, ShopUp provides easy access to B2B Commerce, last-mile logistics, digital credit, and business management solutions. These services are specifically aimed to solve barriers of small businesses in Bangladesh, all under one umbrella.
This is what makes ShopUp stand out as a problem-solving startup/platform.
In the early years of its launch, ShopUp’s initial target was to provide a means of support to small Facebook based businesses. Starting from helping to catalog the products of these business owners, also known as merchants, ShopUp assisted in ensuring smooth facilitation of the entire business via the Facebook page itself.
For a number of merchants, the hurdles to run their business varied; some of these hurdles included the delivery of end product to their customers, while other hurdles included the unavailability of capital/financial support to expand the business. While ShopUp made its way towards becoming the center of solutions for their merchants using technology, it also tapped into the fragmented retail market of Bangladesh which accounts for 98% of the country’s retail industry and is known to be Asia’s largest unorganized retail sector.
This unorganized retail market is made up of the neighborhood mom and pop stores- again, what we know as Mudir Dokan.
ShopUp in its unique approach to including these mudir dokans in its tech-first move created a simple B2B Commerce solution, and included its last-mile logistics service, RedX, alongside the support of embedded finance.
This solution is aimed to erase barriers/blockers for these shopkeepers (also known as merchants/retailers), that they otherwise face in a traditional supply chain system. The majority of these small retailers face constant challenges in procuring goods from multiple distributors and wholesalers. The unavailability of products from various brands, in addition to other challenges such as the lack of transparent pricing and inefficient delivery systems, create serious obstacles for the retailers in running their day-to-day business.
The adaptation of technology across various socioeconomic classes in Bangladesh has relatively made it easier for a platform like ShopUp to empower these retailers as well. With the help of ShopUp’s services in its app, these neighborhood mom and pop sellers achieve more profit with less effort, allowing them to focus more on engaging with customers and business expansion. The facility also allows these retailers to procure regular groceries without having to travel directly to the wholesalers which also saves their time. In addition to these, they can now provide doorstep delivery of products to their end customers.
Currently, ShopUp is serving over 6,55,000 small businesses via its platform. What it means for a growing economy like Bangladesh is that ShopUp is playing a vital role in advocating for the growth of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.