When Anuj Kumar’s wife was offered a position in the United States as a physician in the clinical research domain, he decided to make a life change. Using his long experience in “the banking side of ecommerce” in India, he founded eKnous Technology Solutions, where he could apply his skills in a different domain.
In India he worked for almost four years with HDFC Bank in Mumbai on the technology side and another seven years with American Express on the business side helping merchants set up the “banking payment gateways” that enabled their customers to use different types of cards to pay stores like Target and Walmart.
Instead of seeking another job in the banking realm, where he had spent his whole career, Kumar says, “I started a different company.” EKnous operates in three realms: designing, building, and optimizing websites; “managing the complete lifecycle or ecosystem of ecommerce solutions” for customers getting started in ecommerce; and providing operations support for larger merchants with about a million dollars in sales. Today eKnous has two offices, one in Plainsboro, where Kumar runs the business, and one in India whose six employees do major development.
Kumar’s clients range from the owner of a Florida 7-11 who aims to import jewelry as a “side gig” and earn $30,000 to $100,000 in yearly sales revenue to an individual who sells doormats on sites like Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Overstock, and Bed Bath & Beyond, earning $15 to $20 million in yearly sales.
Kumar will speak on “Succeeding with eCommerce and Selling Online” on Tuesday, December 3, at 6 p.m. at Plainsboro Public Library, 9 Van Doren Street. He will examine the components of starting an e-commerce store as well as the platforms available in the market. Register for the free event at princeton.score.org. For more information, call 609-393-0505 or email email@example.com.
From his experiences with budding ecommerce entrepreneurs, Kumar suggests three mistakes that should be avoided early on:
Focusing on products and websites instead of research. Instead of doing research on product information, likely demand, potential sales, and profit margins, finding a reliable manufacturer “who can grow with you,” and investing in marketing, Kumar says, “they sell what they feel is going to sell, but that’s not the way it works.”
One of his customers decided handcrafted jewelry would be a good sell. Based on this hunch, he invested almost $15,000 in product and another $15,000 in building an individual website. “But he didn’t know where to sell and how to sell,” Kumar says. He has observed that newbie entrepreneurs often work on the assumption that they “will set up the business and people will come.” But that doesn’t happen.
Not investing heavily in marketing and sales early on. Returning to his previous example, Kumar suggests that much of the money he spent on product and website should have gone to marketing. “They should be focusing on building marketing channels, investing heavily in marketing and digital advertising,” he says.
“You don’t need the most beautiful website in the whole world to get started with,” he says. He suggests his customer should have started by selling his product on a big marketplace like Amazon. “The margins are less, but you build a lot of foot traffic and will have made some money,” he says.
During this initial product introduction period, Kumar suggests, “If you have $100 in your pocket, you should spend $65 on marketing, $25 on product, and the rest on a website.”
Only after these early efforts to develop a customer base, he says, is it time to develop an individual website and start building a brand, although he adds that with a “product that is very niche,” an entrepreneur will need to start building the brand earlier.
Running an ecommerce venture as a part-time job. “It’s a business where people have to run it like a business,” Kumar says. “It has its own set of responsibilities and of managing sales; it needs time and effort.
Often Kumar has seen an ecommerce entrepreneur’s fulltime job get in the way. “If at the end of the day you have deadline, that becomes the priority instead of the three orders that have come in and have to go out tomorrow,” he says. If the head honcho is not available to process those orders, someone else must allocated to do so, he says.
Kumar was born and brought up in New Delhi, but also lived in Mumbai and Chennai. He graduated from a university in New Delhi with a bachelor of commerce, then completed a master’s in information technology as well as an advanced diploma in business management. His father, now retired, was a businessman in garment manufacturing and his mother has been a housewife.
Kumar got his start in the banking sector in 1995 as a senior software engineer for Diebold HMA, where he customized ATM software applications for various banks. On the payment side, he worked with credit, debit, and prepaid cards in internet banking and in internet and mobile commerce. His move to American Express in 2004 was also a switch from technology to the business side; he was responsible for card acceptance in several countries close to India.
EKnous develops, sets up, and customizes ecommerce shops for clients and advises them on overall strategy. If they want to get started in ecommerce, he can help them find a product, do research on its potential market, and decide on an appropriate selling platform. Finally, they provide operations support, including doing purchase order fulfillment by downloading orders from multiple portals, creating shipping labels, shipping, following up with customers; and catering to customer queries and feedback and processing any returns.
EKnous can help out a budding entrepreneur, but Kumar warns, “You should only get into it if you are willing to invest the time and effort.”