If there’s one thing as diverse and multi-faceted as Asian culture it would probably be the region’s e-commerce landscape.
There’s no single dominant player — like Amazon or eBay in the West — and things are very different from country to country. Alibaba and JD dominate China, Rakuten owns Japan, Coupang is Korea. Things get particularly segmented in emerging markets like Southeast Asia, where Rocket Internet has invested nearly a billion dollars in building services from scratch, or India, where domestic unicorns Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm battle with Amazon.
Choice and competition is good for consumers, but it sure makes things tricky for merchants. Assuming that you want to reach shoppers through as many touchpoints as possible (you do), then you’re going to be using a handful of e-commerce sites to sell your stuff in Asia. Beyond just spending time on different sites and dashboards, that means you’ll be managing tricky issues — like inventory, demand, outbound packages and more — manually across a range of different (competing) websites. That’s basically a whole separate job in itself.
Indeed, that’s what the founders of one new startup, Branch8, believe. With their service, they are aiming to make a difference and make selling across many sites something that any merchant can do with ease.
Founded by a team with experience from across the e-commerce ecosystem — CEO Elton Chan led electronics at Rocket Internet’s Lazada, his CTO was formerly with Facebook and Microsoft, while his COO and CPO were “top” retailers on marketplace services — Branch8 wants to be a one-stop shop for selling on marketplaces.
The idea for the service came to Chan during his time with Lazada, when he would work closely with selling partners. “Looking at their accounts, I saw the issues they had listing and managing marketplaces and country sites,” he said.
Branch8, which is based in Hong Kong, is part of Y Combinator‘s current Summer 2015 class. It opened the doors to its service on an invite-only basis back in May, but today it is now publicly available to all merchants. Chan told TechCrunch that, right now, Branch8 has nearly 1,000 sellers (and over 600,000 products) who are processing over $1 million in sales per month on its platform.
Beyond consolidating the basic processes beyond selling via multiple services — Amazon, Lazada, Rakuten, eBay and Jumia are among the initial platforms supported — Branch8 also provides analytics to track traffic, it automates price checking and product migration, and connects to third-party logistics services. Those value-adds, Chan said, are where it believes it can really stand out for merchants.
“Our differentiator is analytics,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. “Few tools track traffic via SKU. While our price tracking tool and the convenience of migrating to new platforms, this process is very manual, are specifically designed to meet merchants’ pain-points.”
The service is initially free to use for three months, after which a subscription-based pricing model kicks in. Packages begin at $315 per month, rising to $715 for merchants with larger product ranges and more intensive customer service requirements.
YC has been keen to increase the diversity of its batches, but that can be a tricky thing to do when non-U.S. startups (and the core of their businesses) are in parts of the world where the accelerator program has less experience and knowledge. Yet, Chan told us, the program has been hugely influential particularly around product development strategy.
“We’re quite open [to new ideas] and heard a lot of good things about YC, the network and way to develop the product is very powerful. The mentorship has been very valuable for us, it’s opened our eyes to certain ways of thinking,” he said.