About this episode

Archit Anand is the founder and CEO of Omnirio, a plug-and-play platform that allows bringing the retail ecosystem in SEA together on one platform, providing an Amazon-like experience to customers. Archit works with some of the biggest publicly listed companies as well as MSMEs, helping them survive and grow in the new normal. Archit’s background as a Software Engineer enables him to understand the technology and position it to the market needs.

The conversation covers a wide range of topics:

  • Unpacking the e-commerce stack and what layers are broken or inefficient;
  • Regional e-commerce differences between Southeast Asia and India and why India seems to be years ahead of SEA!
  • What e-commerce opportunities lie ahead for entrepreneurs, from data interoperability and data intelligence to brand rollups and simplified e-commerce UX experiences for low-income demographics;
  • How e-commerce brands are built by traditional players and new age folks coming online, and the build-to-exit approach many smaller brands are starting to adopt;
  • What a serious SEA e-commerce venture builder may look like: 60% segment focus in B2C/D2C, 30% tech enablement, 10% Web2-to-Web3.

Archit’s LinkedIn: https://sg.linkedin.com/in/archit-anand

Episode Transcript

Andries De Vos: Unlike venture building, e-commerce can seem like a jungle. How do you unbundle the e-commerce stack end to end?

Archit Anand: It’s part of why I enjoy the e-commerce ecosystem – it is like a jungle. When I first joined it, we didn’t know how to sell things online, and now the system has reached the level of NFTs. It’s crazy! I like to keep things simple. It purely depends on the type of business. If you’re selling something you need to operate or manufacture, you need to think about ERP. But if you’re in the dropshipping business, you can outsource to many FBA replicas, you can outsource even operations. There are so many options now for outsourcing, payment, marketing tools, data analytics tools. Data is now a big part of every D2C player’s strategy.

Andries De Vos: One of the challenges in e-commerce is hybrid marketplaces – things like Shopify don’t quite work. What are the extra layers that have been addressed and how do e-commerce and marketplace work together?

Archit Anand: I think there are 2 common strategies in the market when it comes to D2C, two schools of players. One was players who focused on building a brand on an e-commerce store and then eventually going on Amazon. These players wanted to build a brand for the first 3 years, even if revenue didn’t pick up much, with the prospect that Amazon will come to them. The other school of thought was that building a profitable business and using marketplaces to then set up an e-commerce store.

Something that is getting more successful and what we are seeing more now is that a lot of D2C players go e-commerce stores first. They want to build a brand, a community, a legacy. They will go to marketplaces if they have to and get preferential treatment.

In terms of stack, in order to manage e-commerce across marketplaces, there is technology in the market to manage everything at once. At Omnirio, we built the technology ourselves. It’s becoming common, we see many players managing multiple stores and marketplaces in one place. I assume that in 2-3 years, everyone in the market will be doing this.

Andries De Vos: The market has been almost intermediated by massive global and regional marketplaces. They’re driving traffic, providing tools, integration. Do you think that makes independent marketplaces dead?

Archit Anand: We already see marketplaces for services coming up big time in Southeast Asia, and it’s only going to go up. What we’ll see next will be niche marketplaces, e.g. for sneakers – there are a lot of possibilities. In Thailand, for instance, there is a boom of mom-and-baby marketplaces. A lot of trends are coming out of India and being replicated in Southeast Asia, India is 3-5 years ahead. As these niche marketplaces go, I think consolidation will happen.

Andries De Vos: It’s interesting that India is a few years ahead of Southeast Asia in e-commerce. Would you say it’s across the board?

Archit Anand: Yes, I would say so. I’ve seen so much happening in India that isn’t there yet in Southeast Asia, so many crazy ideas coming up. India is a marketplace of 1.5 billion people and huge diversity: 25+ provinces that are 25+ big markets with different languages and ways of life, so working in India means tackling all those markets.

Andries De Vos: What’s the influence of Amazon on the markets in Asia? How do regional big and small players think of competing with it?

Archit Anand: I think in India, everyone accepted it’s the market leader; even though Walmart acquired Flipkart in India it’s still behind Amazon. Looking at Southeast Asia, Amazon has a B2B play, but not B2C much yet and they seem comfortable where they are. Local players are learning from Amazon.

Andries De Vos: As a venture builder, where would I have to put my resources if I want to build a venture for e-commerce? What should the model be?

Archit Anand: I would say there is no particular area not to get into it. I have gathered a lot of data in India, and while traditionally brands are built with B2B2C models, the new-age folks are coming online and directly with D2C models. What’s happening in the market is that rollups are buying smaller ones and selling them to big corporations.

In the goods market, there is a lot of space if you know how to build a brand and pick a niche, understand the data, and segment the market that is served. I would say invest 60% in the goods segment. This is the right time to invest in B2C/D2C products in Southeast Asia, it’s the flavor of the month there.

Next, the space is changing so I’d say invest 30% in tech enablement and 10% in Web 2 to Web3. Traditional brands are not able to cater for the folks on Web3, there’s a need for a dedicated strategy for metaverse and bigger bands are starting to do that now. Overall, there are hundreds of opportunities to pick and choose.

Andries De Vos
Venture Builder
Andries is a serial entrepreneur. He built 3 companies as CEO/Founder, and sold 1 enterprise payment solution to a Global MNC. His latest venture, Slash (www.slash.co), is a venture studio with 2 activities. Slash builds cross-functional engineering squads and provides software consultancy for top brands and multi-lateral organizations in Europe and Asia. Slash works include designing and engineering practical AI, GIS and Blockchain solutions. Slash also invests in and co-founds startups with experienced corporate executives who turn to entrepreneurs to solve their B2B industry problems. Slash has hubs in Singapore, Cambodia, Bali and Armenia, and a global team spread out across Asia and Europe. Andries has co-founded 7 SaaS startups and invested in many more. Previously, Andries founded 2 consumer internet businesses, including Clubvivre, the #1 Uber for Chef in Singapore. Prior to starting his internet businesses, Andries was a principal at a strategy consultancy where he advised Fortune 500 clients on strategy.
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