Traditional Sarees & Personal Care – How EZAssist helps businesses grow even in a pandemic-stricken world. News Desk June 30, 2021 News 0 Comments RJ Shantu: Welcome back to Go Digital With EZAssist, it’s the 8th episode today, Thursday, 11AM on Dhaka FM 90.4, and we are also live on Facebook right now at facebook.com/ilovedhakafm. We have two entrepreneurs with us today who will be talking about their struggles from the beginning and how EZAssist has been able to help them in their journey. If you’ve joined us on Facebook live and you’re an entrepreneur yourself, please comment down below the struggles that you’ve faced and we’ll respond. Let’s invite our guests onto the screen now. We have with us today one of my favorite people, Irin Parveen, Senior Manager, Customer Success, Loosely Coupled Technology. We have MD Abu Hanif, owner of Neelabh Hues of Blues and Nazmul Haque, owner, founder & CEO of Gorgeous & Beautiful. Welcome everyone. Let’s start with Irin apu, Irin apu you’re looking so good today. We are on a journey right now to a digital era, it’s become a lifestyle and something that we’re very used to right now. What we had to do before with precious time and energy, now we can accomplish digitally. So, please tell us a little about how important this digital transformation is right now. Irin: Thank you for the question. At one time we used to think that digitalization was pricey, or something luxurious. But nowadays, especially since the pandemic started, digitalization has become a daily necessity, similar to how we need electricity and gas to run a household, digitalization is needed to run a business. Since the pandemic started, many SMEs have utilized this time to develop businesses and go digital. And I think people are starting to understand and adapt to the change, they’re starting to take full advantage of the uses they can get out of just making a few clicks. So, it’s no longer a luxury, as I’ve always been saying. It’s a daily necessity. RJ Shantu: Good explanation. Abu Hanif bhaiya, what do you think about what Irin apu said, even 2 years ago before COVID started we were not as used to digitalization but now we’re progressing ahead to a digital era at a fast rate. What is your opinion on this? Abu Hanif: What Irin apu said, I absolutely agree with that. In the time since COVID started, the way that e-commerce has developed in Bangladesh, I don’t think it would’ve happened this fast had it not been for COVID. Since most of us cannot go out and have restrictions due to the pandemic, we’ve had to source out daily necessities online. So people are getting used to this digitalization now. RJ Shantu: Nazmul Haque bhai, please tell us a bit about your online sales and also first tell us a bit about the products that you sell. Nazmul: It’s been almost 5 years since I started my business. I work with cosmetics and hair care products. Recently, I’ve been trying to work with some traditional products as well. When working online, there are many challenges that we have to face, but until COVID arrived customers weren’t very used to making purchases online and often they wouldn’t trust the process. We would have to clarify the payment issues a lot, people had this idea that this business is online so how would we trust them. But things accelerated when COVID arrived and people have become far more trusting and gotten used to the process and we’re now able to give more services online than we could before. RJ Shantu: Irin apu, I myself am someone who frequently makes online purchases. So these digital products are what I rely on. But sometimes I am so disappointed by these very platforms. For example, recently I ordered a bag online that looked completely different from the pictures upon delivery. So I sent it back. Now, for you guys, what kind of queries or problems do you guys face? And also regarding making people understand the services that you provide. Irin: For the merchants enlisted with us, we always insist that the merchants send us the original photos, the real photos, and not some product advertisement photos. Even I ask this on pages or websites before ordering something online, I want to see the original photo. We try our best to ensure that customers never have to face a situation where the product that they get is not what they thought it would be, or they want to return it once received. We try to ensure that customers are able to learn everything about a product, look at all pictures, read proper descriptions, and in our EZAssist webshops everything is well organized for the ease of customers. People have real concerns about the product not looking like its description and photos, that has happened to me too. But the pages that have been working for a long time, with good reviews, I started buying from them. And for our vendors too, let me just speak of Neelabh by Abu Hanif bhai here, he works with sarees, and the pictures that he posts on his page and that we post on the platform, a customer will be able to see proper details and get a proper idea what the fabric of the saree is, the colours available, the combinations available, everything. In this case the buyers do not feel any hesitation regarding what the product might actually look like. Even for Nazmul bhai, who works with hair care products, he provides us with authentic images as well. And the product descriptions include the quantity in mL, the colors, the usage guidelines, everything is included. So merchants have this role in working with and conveying the proper images and descriptions of authentic products so that customers don’t have trust issues, and they agree to buy products more and more. RJ Shantu: Alright. Hanif bhai, the Neelabh page that you have, first of all I’d like to mention that I bought a saree from that page about 2 years ago. I haven’t worn it yet, but I will if I ever get married. But, the thing that makes your product unique is that you use vegetable dye for the sarees, which makes the product a bit pricier. Your sarees are in the premium sector, they are of wonderful quality. So this pricing, is it just because of the quality? Abu Hanif: Our pricing actually increases because of the vegetable dye itself, it is costlier than other dyes available in the market. And then comes the materials that we use as well as the design itself that factor into the pricing. The vegetable dyeing process costs more than an entire block dyed saree. So because of this we cannot set a more affordable price, unfortunately. RJ Shantu: The name of your page, Neelabh, is that because of the colour blue? Do you work with the colour blue a lot? Abu Hanif: It is because of the color blue, yes. Blue is one of the best vegetable dye colours. There are a few specific colours that vegetable dye can form, there aren’t too many variations like chemical dyes. “Neel” is something we use in most of the colours, not just the sarees that you see are blue. Since we work with vegetable dye, we named ourselves something related to “Neel”, that’s how Neelabh came to be. RJ Shantu: How many years have you been operating for? Abu Hanif: We started our online page in 2016. But we’ve been in production for far longer than that. RJ Shantu: How is the customer response now? Abu Hanif: Our customer base has grown a lot from when we started, in the last 3 or 4 years. We’re getting good response from our customers now. Our product quality, design, and delivery is probably satisfying our customers, so they come back for more purchases. It didn’t happen in one day. I can say with honesty and pride that 98% of our customers give us good reviews, of course some people sometimes send us returns because one problem with vegetable dye is that after a product goes out of stock and we have to make them again, the colour doesn’t come out exactly the same, that’s natural. We let our customers know about that but sometimes they’re not satisfied. It’s not possible for us to do photoshoots with models and photographers for all the different types of design, it’s inevitable. We try our best to ensure that the colours shown in the photos are as close to reality as possible. But it’s not possible to go through the same process when we reproduce a product. But we let customers know that the colours might be slightly varied in the new lot. When we let them know, I think our relationship with them is honest and it grows too. It happens very rarely that we ever get complaints, but that is a challenge we deal with. RJ Shantu: Thank you so much Hanif bhai. Now, Nazmul bhai, your products are imported from abroad and you don’t really have to do photoshoots and demonstrations, nor do you face trouble with production. But what are the challenges that you face for your business? Nazmul: Thank you for the great question. When I contact sellers abroad, they’re usually very prompt and within 3 to 4 days the products reach the shipping agents. I source my products from different Chinese sellers, sometimes from Alibaba. I also source some products from the UK through contacts. The main problem lies when the products reach Customs in Bangladesh, when entering Bangladesh. When I personally import products, let’s say 100kg, it takes a lot of time to get customs clearance on it. I mean, I can’t really blame them either because thousands of people like me are importing products and the manpower at customs can’t always handle it. So sometimes, I post on Facebook that these products have been restocked, but then something at customs happens and it may take 5 or 6 more days for me to actually receive the products. So, it sometimes becomes difficult for me to serve my customers. Another thing is, as a man working in the beauty and hair care industry, I have not always been met with kind eyes as there is the gender stereotype that it’s a woman’s field. But I have also had a lot of support. I’d like to give a shoutout to my friend Araf who has supported me throughout and encouraged me that I should continue with my business. For the first 6 months of my business, I was in constant doubt that maybe I should quit. But with the amazing response and customer support that I received, I held on and decided to stop thinking negatively about this. I realized that if I can provide my customers with quality products and build a relationship with them, then my business will grow and customers will trust me and keep coming back. I have loyal customers who started buying from me 5 years ago and are still continuously coming back for more purchases. I have built a loyal base. From the beginning, my sales have grown every year at a 20% rate. But since COVID started, my sales actually went up by 40% in 2020. So overall, I am very grateful. RJ Shantu: I visited your page and checked it out. For cosmetics, in my experience if I want to buy a lipstick and see that one page is selling it for 350 but another is selling it for 300, I go to the cheaper option. The price varies from page to page, so why does this happen? Is it because the product might be a replica, or someone’s cost is higher so the price needs to be set that way? Nazmul: That’s a very interesting question. Now, as we source our products internationally, as you know the dollar conversion rate fluctuates almost everyday and that’s one of the reasons. And about replica products, people think that if something is expensive then it’s good. Sometimes pages rely on that and price their replica products very close to the original so that people end up thinking that maybe one page is just asking for more profit while the other is not. Another matter is that the shipping cost on weight also fluctuates sometimes. Moreover, Facebook itself has changed its algorithm and unless you sponsor ads, you don’t have the same level of reach as you did before. So businesses need to boost their pages, otherwise you just cannot reach people. That’s also something that you have to factor into the price. However, just as the customers evaluate the prices at different pages, we do the same. We evaluate our competitor’s pricing and then set a price for our products. RJ Shantu: I agree with what you said, but I have a follow up question. If the cost of your product becomes high, then you sell it at a higher price to the customers. So customers have to pay an even higher price. In case they don’t want to, do you sacrifice your own profits sometimes to retain customers? On one hand, that is a financial loss for you, but on the other hand you might be retaining a customer. Nazmul: I believe that a customer who buys products from me will always come back for more, I plan for the long term with my business. I don’t sell a product at a loss ever but sometimes I do discount products for customers if they have valid requests. I try to understand the needs of my customers and adjust, I market my products in that way too, the customer needs come first. When a customer comes to me and says they’ve seen this product for cheaper at a different page, I may discount it for them, but I try to sell more products to them so that it covers up that discount for me. Sometimes we have promotional offers on our page, sometimes if a customer buys a lot of products from us then we give them a discount on the total price, or give free delivery. So like this we conduct many promotional activities. RJ Shantu: Alright. I have a question here from the comments, Irin apu, this is for you, “If I order a product through EZAssist, how long will it take for it to be delivered? Delivery is something that’s sometimes a hassle for online shopping, people might have urgent needs for a product. So in that case, how soon do you deliver?” Irin: EZAssist is not a marketplace on its own, it belongs to the merchants. We want customers to come and make purchases from the merchants. But we provide the merchants with payment, delivery, and other services. We have some delivery companies with us, as you know from guests on previous episodes. When an order is confirmed, people from EZAssist get mailed, the customer gets mailed, the merchant gets mailed as well as the delivery company gets a mail. The delivery company gets mailed about where and when to pick up the product, and it’s not just an automated `notification, someone from our end also calls to make a confirmation. And once they pick up the product, it gets delivered to the customer’s address. There is a time allocated, within Dhaka it may be 2 to 3 days, but outside Dhaka it’s 3 to 4 days. Outside Dhaka, it really isn’t possible to deliver urgently, it takes at least a day to collect and ship the product and then at least one more for it to travel outside Dhaka. Inside Dhaka, we do try our best to give urgent deliveries. Sometimes the delivery does get delayed for multiple reasons, but we try to ensure it is an infrequent occurrence. The customers here also have a responsibility. Sometimes the delivery man reaches out to us saying that the customer never answered their phone and no one received the parcel, and sometimes the parcel gets delayed if the merchant is late in preparing the products to be picked up. Sometimes the merchant has different locations where the inventory is stored. For example, for Neelabh, they have a factory and they source the products from there to be delivered to various places. Sometimes customers can be very impatient, placing an order at 8pm one night and expecting the delivery at 10am the very next morning, or sometimes they even expect that they’d get a product within 30 minutes as if this were similar to ordering food. As a customer, I want to request that people be a bit considerate too. There are people working on sourcing the product, getting it prepared to be picked up, and then finally being delivered. It will always take a certain amount of time. But things are speeding up day by day, we have many merchants and many different delivery partners, even ones who promise to deliver a product on the same day within 4 to 6 hours. And we’re providing this benefit to the merchants, merchants can focus on only their business or on developing their products and leave the rest to us. I hope that answers your question. RJ Shantu: I hope someday we do develop digitalization enough that ordering products also becomes as fast as ordering food. On that note, Hanif bhai, please tell us a bit about how EZAssist helps your business. Hanif: As merchants, when we start a business, there are many challenges that we face and we just have to push through them. But in the market, when there is EZAssist and some other platforms, working through them helps our businesses grow and they give us support in many areas, starting from online boosting and online payment to delivery services. And working with them is always fun. RJ Shantu: Alright. Nazmul bhai, what about your experience? Nazmul: I’ve worked with EZAssist for about 7 to 8 months now, and I think of all the similar platforms they are the best out there. I feel like I can build a one to one relationship with them, there have been times when I called them regarding orders at 3 o’clock in the morning, and I’ve received responses from them. Another thing I’ve noticed is that if we make a sale through their payment method, they take very little time to transfer that amount to us. But in my experience, some other platforms have taken months to do that, and I’m very happy about how fast EZAssist does this. But I think the best part is that they have very good service. They’ll call to check up every 2 weeks or so, ask about sales, discuss how we can increase it, and their marketing team is also very good for our business. And sometimes I feel like they care more about my profit and want the best for my business even more than I do. And another thing for the buyers out there, we always try to send out our parcels as soon as possible, it’s a headache for us if something isn’t getting there on time because we want to provide the best service possible. Because as soon as I can deliver my product, I gain my profit from it. I don’t get anything from delivering it late. Now, EZAssist helps so much in that process itself. And if there are any entrepreneurs viewing this, I would like to invite you to try out EZAssist. Disclaimer, EZAssist did not ask me to say this at all. These are my own thoughts. RJ Shantu: You’re doing a wonderful job, Irin apu. It feels good to be a part of this when I hear how much the customers appreciate the service you give. For our audience, if you visit neelabhhouse.ezassist.me and buy any products there, you will receive a discount of 25% on all purchases. For beauty products, visit gorgeousandbeautiful.ezassist.me and get 15% off of purchases. We’re at the end of the episode right now. Now, Irin apu, there are merchants who have some responsibilities and they take some advance payments before the delivery. What’s your opinion on that? Irin: I’m sure that our merchants here can answer this better, but from me, sometimes if a customer places an order and then for some reason wants to return or exchange it, they refuse to pay the delivery charge for it. And then, sometimes, customers place an order and don’t even receive it or want to receive it, and a delivery person travels all the way to the address and has to come back. So having this advanced payment can sometimes prevent these from happening, and also help with a backup. Now, about cash on delivery, we want to promote moving to the online payment system. We’re speaking so much about digitalization here. There are certain downsides to cash on delivery, a delivery person has to carry this cash from place to place, there is sometimes the hassle of getting the right amount of change, and there is so much to consider. But online payment is generally hassle free. RJ Shantu: We have a follow-up question from a viewer here, “If I pay an advance but upon receiving the product I don’t like it and want to return, sometimes pages refuse to refund me. What about those cases?” Irin: Okay, in our case this has almost never happened before. Even for Nazmul bhai’s business, if a customer ordered something knowing it’s 200ml and then decided that 200ml is not the preferred quantity, we have gone out of our way to replace the product for them. Now, in this case I would urge the customers to also make sure that the page is authentic, and learn the returns policy of the customer before placing an order with them. Moreover, the merchants enlisted with EZAssist go through a screening process and most of us try and test their products before enlisting them with us. So, whoever wants to purchase products online, please check that the page is authentic and has good reviews and can be trusted. RJ Shantu: We’re near the very end of the episode now. Nazmul bhai, I’m someone who has purchased your product and knows how good your vegetable dyed sarees are, how soft and beautiful they look in person, what do you have to say? Hanif: Whenever we develop a new product, we have the needs of our customer in mind. Sometimes it does happen that a new batch has a slightly different hue than the first, but we let the customers know about that beforehand. Most of our customers have been buying from us for years now, and I think the only reason they do so is because the product quality is great. We cannot maintain a business for the long-term if we cannot maintain a steady stream of customers. We cannot maintain a business with customers who come to us once then forget about us. So we try our best to make a place for us in the customer’s mind by satisfying them to the best of our capabilities. We obviously have a goal in mind of where we want the business to grow, and so we try our best to achieve that by providing the best product as well as customer service. And we hope that our customers will continue standing by us. RJ Shantu: Customer relationship is very important for you. Thank you so much. Nazmul bhai, some short words please. Nazmul: We also prioritize customer relationships. We correspond with customers even after they’ve received a product and the sale is done. We take feedback from them on their experience with using it, and sometimes recommend how to use the product because customers often might be using the skincare or hair care product not as it’s meant. And we’re always here for our customers. We’ve been providing our customers services for 5 years now and we hope to continue doing so for many more to come. RJ Shantu: Irin apu? Irin: Thank you Hanif bhai, thank you Nazmul bhai. I myself am a customer of Neelabh, I liked their products so much that I approached him to do business with us on EZAssist. For the merchants listening, if you have an offline store then please come online and take the benefits that digitalization provides. Come on to EZAssist. RJ Shantu: Thank you everyone for joining, I have to end the episode now, please tune in with us again next week. Related Posts News Desk April 17, 2021 Empowering the Artisans through Digitalization – Nurturing our heritage on Go Digital With EZAssist RJ Shantu: Ramadan Mubarak to everyone and Shubho Noboborsho, you’re here with Dhaka FM 90.4, .. News Desk August 2, 2021 The Future of E-Commerce: The Gaps to be Filled and Upcoming Changes Exploring ideas regarding “The Future of E-Commerce”, Firoze M Zahidur Rahman, CEO & Ch .. 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