After completing engineering education from Kurukshetra University in India, Sangam Singh returned to Nepal with a dream to start an e-commerce company in Kathmandu.
But, seeing the problems of logistics segment in the business, and all the e-commerce ventures going through this problem, Sangam instead planned to start a logistics service providing company.
“There was no such company in Nepal to provide logistics services to e-commerce companies. The international and renowned courier companies didn’t care about the e-commerce segment then, and the e-commerce businesses were in dire need of logistics services. Thus, NepXpress was started with an aim to providing such services to e-commerce businesses of Nepal,” shares Singh.
With his friend Hari Kattel, whom he met while at the Pre-Accelerator Programme run by Microsoft Innovation Center Nepal, who had also just returned Nepal after completing bachelor’s degree in Management from Delhi University, NepXpress was formally started on January 24, 2016.
“At abroad, the big e-commerce companies have their own in-house logistics service department. But, in the case of Nepal, third party logistics service providers handle the segment. So, NepXpress was born to cater the dynamic needs of e-commerce industry of Nepal,” shares Singh.
The business was started from a small rented room, with an initial investment of 3.5 lakhs.
As the logistics service was really in short shortage, just after they shared their plans of starting the company, the e-commerce vendors had coerced them to start the service soon. And, strangely, they had numerous clients waiting for their service even before they first opened their door.
Though the company was started with much enthusiasm, it didn’t take long for the challenging days to start.
“In the beginning, we did every order-processing and every other work manually, but as the business volume increased, we got hard time to handle it. As almost all of the e-commerce companies work on cash-on-delivery services, collecting the cash and managing it are left on the part of logistics providers. And, we had to stay till the midnight to manage the cash. We found handling everything challenging to such an extent, and dealing with clients such difficult that we even thought of closing-down the business,” shares Singh remembering the tough days.
Though the company was in profit in its early days, it went in loss after the business grew-up as they had to add few more staffs causing the increase in over-head costs.
But, later on, they automated the service and adopted technology to manage their activities, which has now made the operation smooth.
“As ours is a service industry, operation break for a single day gives chaos in all sides. There used to be blames from the companies for not delivering goods on time. We co-founders ourselves went on to deliver the orders. But, still, we couldn’t make it. So, some of the clients left us,” he said. “As logistics service-providing company is a third party dependent business, our business was directly proportional to the business of e-commerce sites. Our business used to be in profit while their business increased. Likewise, if their sales were down, our revenue also used to be down,” Singh added.
The business of logistics in Nepal
“In other countries, running logistics company was a proven business already. But, in our case, it was hard to sustain. So, we went in search for investors and convinced them, and they came with much excitement. Now, the company is on break-even point. The company will grow, and move forward even if it’ll get into loss for the next few years,” shares Singh.
After things came in place, even the companies that had left started taking the service again.
Since this January, they have started delivering goods to a total of 15 cities across Nepal, which was earlier limited to Kathmandu valley only.
They have also recently collaborated with United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) for the international delivery of goods.
How’s it like working at NepXpress?
“Since the day one, I’ve been working at the company day in, and day out. And, when the clients come searching for our services and praise our work, it gives me satisfaction. It happens often,” Singh shares.
They train the delivery staffs, and conduct meetings on a regular basis. Thus, the way their delivery-boys deal and treat with the end-customers is also helping them to get new clients for the business, says Singh.
So far, they have client-base of about 35 businesses, including Kaymu, Threadpaints, and various other online stores.
Logistics industry of Nepal
“When we started, there was not a single player in this industry. Though there were big companies working in the sector, none was catering to e-commerce sites. Now, many companies have started similar operations, and the competition is good. But, as it’s a niche market, it’s equally challenging and tough as we have to bear all the difficult works of e-commerce sites,” shares Singh.
“As we are also representatives of the 35 clients and e-commerce businesses, and deal with the end clients, we work as a bridge. We are literally a catalyst for the growth of e-commerce. The way we groom e-commerce industry depends upon the way our delivery boys behave and carry out service,” says Singh about the role of logistics companies in Nepal.
Customer satisfaction, and role of technology in their operation
“We are very conscious on this part to make the customers satisfied. The system itself sends SMS alerts to the clients before their orders are about to be delivered, where it’s coming from, who will be delivering, and requesting to cooperate. After a purchase, a thank you SMS is sent. We do have our own system to track clients side, to the agents, and to the staffs. It helps make our works transparent. We use a cloud platform. Technology is the pillar to our operation,” says Sing about the use of technology to carry out the services, and give the best experience to the clients.
Being an entrepreneur
“The biggest thing about being an entrepreneur is the passion for working. Passion and patience is extremely needed to be an entrepreneur. After starting the company, I have been through countless sleepless nights. I start at 9 in the morning. Our operations run till 8 in the evening. I usually return home only at 9 or 10 in the night. Sometimes, when some problem arises, I stay till 3-4 in the morning. So, I am more like a person who can digest his sleeplessness and hunger,” shares Singh from his experience of being an entrepreneur.
“I have never thought that I would be a normal 10-5 worker. I never felt that I would be working for others,” he shares how he came to be an entrepreneur.
“Having played leadership roles since childhood, I had to start something on my own because all of my friends had expectations from me,” he shares, adding, “That might have also helped me. But, tech-students are taught in such a way that we are job-creators, not job-seekers. It made me start an enterprise on my own.”
“What determines a person is the amount of hard work he has input. If he doesn’t do much hard work even after starting a company, it’s just useless. Goals and vision of the company should also be clearly defined. Job-holders can also progress in a much better than the company-owners,” he shares further.
Journey so far
The journey of NepXpress so far is almost like a roller-coaster ride.
“In the beginning, it was wonderful, and had even made a profit. But, I didn’t enjoy that small cake, instead wanted to have a pie from a bigger cake. So, I had to grow up the company. Our dream and goals are still too far away. We have set a dream to be the pioneer in the logistics industry of Nepal. So, it’s still a long way to go,” he says.
They are soon starting sorting center for logistics in Narayangarh, which is now limited only in Kathmandu.
“Now, we are working in such a way that, in the next 5 years, we’ll be in a position where people can count us as one of the renowned business. We would develop a remarkable space of NepXpress. It will grow to be a big company, as e-commerce industry of Nepal will also rapidly expand by then,” Singh shares about their future plans.
The most memorable day so far
“We were about crack a deal with a big client. And, had to deposit a certain amount of cash for that purpose, but didn’t have a single rupee by then. So, one of my friends sold his bike to avail me the money. I really can’t let go of that moment,” reminisces Singh the most memorable day into his entrepreneurial journey so far.
To the aspiring entrepreneurs
“You need to have passion and patience. Hard work and team-work is very necessary to make a company successful. The business won’t start generating money the next day you start a company. So, you also need to have patience,” he shares to the budding entrepreneurs on what they need to consider before starting anything.
“You also need to make a mind that you’ll go into a loss for a certain time, and have burning capital. You need to plan and have a way to recover the loss. You shouldn’t give up even if the company is at a loss as you might be very close to reaching your goal just at the time you think of giving up. You need to make strategies and plans on how to bear the loss and take the company ahead. You need to have the problem-solving capacity. There are numerous of IT companies in Nepal that were at loss for years, and have started making money just recently,” he shares the importance of how to sustain a company that is in loss. “But, if you are at loss for a really long time, there is either a fault in your idea or on execution. In such a case, you need to correct your mistakes, and move ahead,” he adds.
Startups for a better Nepal!
Presentation: Basanta Kumar Dhakal