Manju Dhawan is one of the four founder members of Ecom Express Private Limited. Her stepping stone in the logistics industry was Blue Dart when in 1988, she started as counter staff in their Delhi office. After spending 26 years and heading the largest customer-service team of the company, she left them to build her own company.
SheThePeople.TV met Manju Dhawan to know her story. And talked about how she met her current business partners T A Krishnan, Sanjeev Saxena and K Satyanarayana, at Blue Dart, and collectively they realised the industry’s need for an independent organisation to handle the unique requirements of the e-commerce industry. Also what prompted them to leave their comfortable jobs and take a shot at entrepreneurship.
Read on to know what she has to say:
What’s the concept of ‘Ecom Express’ and what is your vision behind it?
Ecom Express Private Limited is an end-to-end logistics solutions provider to the e-commerce industry. The idea behind Ecom Express was to set up a dedicated logistics firm to take care of the diverse shipping and delivery needs of the e-commerce sector which was largely catered to by the traditional courier service providers.
“Ideas may fail, yet one has to be on the lookout for why it failed and be willing to take corrective actions, which at times may also mean a change in the chosen course of action.”
With a vision ‘to be the best logistics solutions provider for the e-commerce industry’, the company focused on e-retail delivery fulfilment to provide a focused, differentiated and innovative approach to delivery. Ecom provides shipment pick-up, network movement, delivery and return solutions for e-commerce players. Our extensive network panning across various towns allows us to serve the growing needs of customers by providing fulfilment services and facilitating their e-commerce business.
What is your core passion in the e-commerce logistics space?
We are passionate about delivering consistency, reliability and excellence, resulting in customer delight. Being Operations-friendly was our main focus. And now for 4 years, we have the strength of operations built on reach, network and capability without compromising on the transit time at any point.
What does ‘digital evolution’ offer you and how does it help you grow as an entrepreneur?
Digital evolution and entrepreneurship are intertwined. Our country is digitally evolving and this is, in turn, developing the entrepreneurship ecosystem. Today, more and more people are connected as a result of technological advancements which is transforming every aspect of the way people live. Similarly, the digital entrepreneurial system, with its many different business models, is at the heart of the Indian economy.
What were the initial days like – what kind of challenges you’ve faced and still facing as an entrepreneur?
The process of establishing ourselves in the market was not easy. The first challenge was that we were a new venture and hence did not have any existing customers base or portfolio of products. We started operations with only one customer, our work was appreciated and the market accepted us pretty well. The kind of services we were able to give differentiated us from what other players offered and we soon became the preferred partners. The second challenge was around handling large volumes. Once we got the confidence in our operations and were financially stable, there was no looking back. Our current list of customers is multi-fold compared to what we had when we started in 2013.
“An idea comes with problems, we need to continue tweaking and transforming it. At the risk of sounding cliché, ‘Change is the only constant in the path of a start-up.’”
What market gap you are trying to address through your venture?
We invested in technology, deployed advanced parcel sortation systems, and strengthened network reliability and infrastructure, among others. These initiatives helped Ecom Express deliver superior customer experience and build a highly competent and scalable business.
What makes you different from your competitors?
In the e-commerce industry, the speed of delivery is as important as the service quality for a customer. In order to facilitate faster and accurate service to customers, we have deployed automation solutions at the first and last mile. This combined with our scalable technology led solutions at the backend help us offer differentiated and seamless solutions across the supply-chain system.
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How did you manage the funding for the base operations initially?
We started with US$1 million of capital, with most of it coming from Oliphans and the rest of the amount from the four founders. The plan was to launch our services simultaneously in multiple locations so that customers did not perceive Ecom Express to be a niche firm operating only out of Delhi-NCR. Before we hit the market for our next round of funding, we wanted to have a proven track record in the business.
In 2014, Ecom Express had secured a fund of over Rs 100 Crore from Peepul Capital. With this round of funding, the Company strengthened its reach, expanded operations, invested in technology and automation, attracted key talent and build a healthy flow of working capital. The fund infusion provided the early impetus to achieve the company’s vision and drive growth plans in a focused manner.
What are the particular traits a logistics entrepreneur should have?
Logistics is a service industry where one needs to come with high functionality and domain skills. Also, one should have an open mind and focus on being a long-term player. With this mindset, one can find the growth path faster and more rewarding than other sectors.
“The success of any organisation is derived from its people and when the two go hand-in-hand, it is truly a touching moment for an entrepreneur.”
How does digital India empower women?
The opportunities are endless: Digital India has catalysed the process of women’s empowerment by opening up avenues; they can freely articulate and share their experiences, concerns and knowledge. It has provided women with multiple opportunities to bring to life their aspirations and dreams, by shrinking and connecting the world through a device in their palm.
How social media helped your company get the boost in the market?
We use our Facebook page to engage with members and share information that they may require about our services, order tracking and queries related to our network, reach and hiring.
“We are technologically savvy. Beside the traditional courier process, we also offer solutions tailored for online retailers. This focus has helped us gain and sustain market share in the industry.”
The rise of the women entrepreneurs – Do you think the term shaped up because of the digital boom in India?
The digital boom has certainly helped women become independent and goal oriented. Today, women are embracing entrepreneurship and there are many inspiring stories around us. From selling handicrafts, clothes, jewellery and so on, it is all about networking and leveraging digital channels to connect and enhance business.
What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into something similar as yours?
To become an entrepreneur, one should listen to his/her heart. We may take the first step, but it becomes difficult to take subsequent steps; however, one should continue to believe in their dreams and listen to their heart. Learn how one can power-up the nuances of business. It also provides you with windows of opportunity to address the existing gaps in the market.
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